An interesting piece in the news today about Yahoo stopping its staff from working remotely.   They are initiating a drive to bring their staff back into the office to aid collaboration and the sharing of ideas.

Having worked in an office environment  for 20 years, then spent the last year working for myself from home, there are pros and cons of both home and office working.  The advent of broadband and mobile computing have made remote working plausible from a technical perspective, but this is only part of the story.

Certainly it is true in some organisations that there is a “presence” culture, which is at odds with flexible working, even though the business may be well aware of the benefits and potential cost savings.   We are very ingrained in this culture, and I have often heard criticism levelled at remote workers who are supposedly not pulling their weight compared to their office-based colleagues   At times of crisis, there is certainly a perception that you are in control of a situation if you are present – even if everything you are doing to address matters could be done from any location.

I have also found working alone at home can be isolating and not productive at times.  Some of the old clichés hold true when working from home – as well as being isolated there are too many other domestic distractions to take your mind off work.  I have found that  working in a cafe where there are other people about (and yes – I am sitting in one as I write this!)  creates enough of a buzz and removes distractions to make me more productive.

Of course there are the many pros to remote working, many in the flexibility it gives.  Many of these are mundane – being able to wait in for the gas man, or take your children to school – but life is made easer for not having to make alternative arrangements.

As is often the case, I suspect the best approach is to be found somewhere in the middle ground.  Giving staff the flexibility to work away from the office can do wonders for morale, loyalty and engagement.  However working in isolation from colleagues and peers can impair the flow of ideas and the building of working relationships in teams.  Yahoo may be trying to stimulate creativity and ideas, but it would be a shame if this came at the expense of ignoring the technological innovations that no longer tie us to the office every day.

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