Kathy Kram on Changing Trends in Work-at-Home Policies
Controversy surrounds Best Buy’s and Yahoo’s decisions to abolish working at home
Excerpts from BU Today:
Last week, Best Buy became the second Fortune 500 Company to announce recently that employees would no longer be allowed to work from home.
Best Buy’s decision came on the heels of an announcement by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that employees of the struggling internet company could no longer work remotely.
Yahoo—and now Best Buy—are bucking the corporate trend toward more workplace flexibility. A recent Census Bureau report found that 13 million people, or 9.4 percent of U.S. employees, worked at home at least one day per week in 2010, compared with 9.2 million people, or 7 percent of workers, in 1997.
BU Today spoke with Kathy Kram, Richard C. Shipley Professor in Management and a School of Management professor of organizational behavior, about the potential benefits and negative consequences of a work-from-home ban for a company like Yahoo and its employees.
BU Today: First Yahoo and now Best Buy have generated enormous controversy over their decision to no longer allow employees to work from home. Do you think other CEOs will follow?
Kram: It sounded like an unusual move, and the reactions to it, although it’s early, have been mixed. I think other CEOs will wait to see what the impact and unintended consequences are of such a policy.
What are some of the negative effects Yahoo might face by requiring all employees to work on site?
My prediction is it could have a negative effect on retention, hiring, and morale. I don’t know if the new policy would have enough benefits in terms of fostering innovation to outweigh those costs.
Younger people are much more inclined to want an integrated life, where being at the workplace doesn’t dominate their existence, and so the option to work at home is highly valued. The most negative effects would be in the early stages of people’s careers, when they are having families. Potential hires might see Yahoo as a less desirable employer.