Don’t kiss the office good-bye yet

 

Workplace flexibility? Good.

Workplaces with rows of empty spaces? Not so good.

At a time when American business needs to become more innovative and productive, the issue of working remotely versus working in the office is grabbing more attention.

It had to happen. As the ability to work over the Internet made it easier to justify staying home, more and more businesses and employees jumped on the bandwagon. But like any trend, it can be taken too far.

This week, the Internet pioneer Yahoo! abolished its work-at-home policy and ordered everyone back to the office. Old-school boss? Hardly. Chief executive Marissa Mayer came from Google, a company in the vanguard of the hip workplace culture.

But after arriving at Yahoo! she noticed too many empty spaces in the parking lot, too little human interaction in the office, too little (or no) camaraderie among co-workers.

Modern business requires higher productivity, and some studies show working from home increases this critical factor. But it also requires innovation, and that requires interaction, according to some workplace experts.

When too many opt to stay home instead of schlepping into the office, something vital is lost. You can’t create or sustain a unique company culture by e-mail.

Does this mean the utopian ideal of having everyone work from a place of their own choosing is dead? Not completely.

Some workers may need to work at home from time to time. Workers with medical or physical infirmities should get understanding and dispensation, as well.

Flexibility is better for some companies than for others, depending on the type of business. But don’t kiss the traditional office good-bye yet. Besides, what you save on wardrobe by working from home you lose by not getting all that juicy gossip around the water cooler.

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