In an effort to increase collaborative creativity, Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer at Internet portal company Yahoo ended the work-at-home policy of that company in February. Shortly after, retailer Best Buy ended its flexible workplace policy. These moves ignited a national debate about creativity, productivity and the need for flexibility in the workplace.
Both Yahoo and Best Buy are troubled companies. Ms. Mayer, hired from Internet giant Google last July, is undoubtedly hoping to rescue Yahoo and the jobs of the 11,000 people who currently work there.
But at what cost? American companies are clearly struggling with the changeable nature of worksite dynamics. Despite recognizing flexibility is key to attracting and retaining talented personnel, companies like Bank of America are ordering certain workers back to the office on the basis that face time is essential to innovation and a greater competitive edge.
While a dwindling profit margin is reason for major shifts in organizational thinking, convincing workers to enjoy decreased workplace flexibility is a tough sell.
Many work-at-home adults are parents or caregivers for their own elderly parents. Growing concern for discrimination against employees who have family responsibilities shows in the 400 percent increase in lawsuits brought in recent years by caregivers against companies who discriminate against them in various ways.
When the factual base exists, employees prevail in family responsibility discrimination cases almost half the time for complaints that rise from every size and form of business.
Research suggests responsible at-home workers are more productive than office-bound colleagues and that collaborative efforts can suffer with telecommuting. Will ending flexible workplace policies improve the bottom line at Yahoo? Time will tell.
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