As the debate continues over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent decision that all employees stop working from home, let’s momentarily sidestep personal opinions and knee-jerk reactions. Mayer is leading one of Silicon Valley’s biggest and most-challenging turnarounds and her dictum sends a strong message to Yahoo employees: To regain competitiveness, to once again be a company that innovates, Yahoo needs to change more than its homepage. It needs to change how people work. I don’t doubt that and I admire Mayer’s determination.
But revoking work-from-home opportunities altogether is a mistake. People work differently now. Those lucky enough to have a job today are tethered to work—at home, on the road, at all hours of the day, on weekends, on vacation. Some get their best work done at odd hours. Others consider their home office their most-productive workplace. What really is the right choice for small businesses looking to get the best work?
Fact #1: Remote online workers are hugely productive.
In Yahoo’s memo announcing that telecommuting just got the pink slip, the company’s HR department notes that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” I could not disagree more, and all research suggests just the opposite. At Elance, for example, we regularly poll online workers, and 79 percent report that they’re more productive at home.
Many businesses agree wholeheartedly. Our most recent survey of clients who hire remote workers shows that 85 percent note that they gain a competitive advantage from working with teams who are offsite. Also of note: Those queried report that within five years, 54 percent of their workforce will be exclusively working online.
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Fact #2: Remote online workers are more satisfied.
So exactly why are businesses getting better work from their online teams? Our research shows that smiling workers do a better job. Bottom line: More than 69 percent of those we asked report that they’re happier working online and telecommuting. And virtually all research on the subject shows that happier workers perform at a higher level.
Dig a little deeper into our survey, and you’ll see what remote online workers consider “Very Important”: Seventy percent answer “Control over my own schedule,” 64 percent answer “Following my passion,” 60 percent answer “No commute,” 33 percent answer “No cubicles” and 31 percent answer “No office dress code.”
Fact #3: A Yahoo board member agrees about online work.
As an interesting side note to this entire flap: Maynard Webb, the eBay and LiveOps executive who sits on the Yahoo Board of Directors, has just authored a new book, Rebooting Work. The book argues that today’s workplace is changing and that the world is quickly moving to remote online work. Businesses must embrace this new work model in order to succeed. I doubt if anyone would disagree that the best way to reboot Yahoo is to reboot how it works.
Read why some people think Marissa Mayer is right.
Fabio Rosati is president and CEO of Elance, a platform for online employment that helps businesses hire workers on a project or hourly basis and provides the tools to manage work online instead of onsite.
Editor's Note: Changes have been made to this article since it was originally published.