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Why Won't Yahoo! Let Employees Work From Home?

Yahoo!’s recent decree stokes the debate: Where do people do their best work?
Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.Photograph by Chip Chipman/Bloomberg

On Feb. 22 a leaked memo sent from Jacqueline Reses, Yahoo!’s executive vice president of people and development (that’s code for HR), announced that Yahoo employees would no longer be able to work from home. Even on the days that employees had family obligations or had to “stay home for the cable guy,” Reses urged them to “use your best judgment.” Yahoo is bucking the national trend: According to the Telework Research Network, an independent employment research firm, the number of people who work remotely rose 73 percent from 2005 to 2011. Today, 20 million to 30 million Americans work from home at least once a week.

Yet Yahoo isn’t the only company forcing its remote workers into the office. In December, Bank of America scaled back My Work, its work-from-home program that began in 2005—and by 2010 included more than 15,000 employees. To cut costs and improve efficiency, each bank department now assesses telecommuting on an individual basis. Both Twitter and Google—where Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer was employee No. 20—encourage staffers to work at the office because it generates a more collaborative atmosphere. While Google has no official policy, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said last week, “Working from the office is really important.” So how many people telecommute at Google? “As few as possible,” he said.