Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman recently announced that she wants everyone to work at the office saying, “During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck”. Although it’s not an outright ban, like the one Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced back in February, she is still sending a very clear message to employees.
The critics of these bans on telecommuting argue that they are inflexible, hurting long commuters and working single parents, among others. The supporter of the ban on the other hand argues that people working from home lack the collaborative environment of being in an office surrounded by their colleagues.
Knowing I am a strong advocate of creating highly collaborative work environments, you might think I support the two CEO’s decision to ban or semi-ban working from home. I do agree that a lot of innovative new ideas are often generated from people getting in a room together. Trying to do the same via video, conference calls etc. just doesn’t work as well. The bandwidth of the current technology is just too limited.
However I do not support company wide bans of working from home or other restrictions on teams possibilities to self-organize. It limits atonomy and thereby people’s engagement and there is a real risk, that It will not result in the productivity gains expected. In my recent post “Why is my boss so happy?” I argued that bosses are happy because they have greater possibilities of directing their own lives.
I truly believe Meg and Marissa, and their respective companies, whould have been better off spending their time on more important issues than where employees do their job. What do you think? Is a ban on working from home a smart decision?