3 Things Job Seekers Should Know About the Work-From-Home Debate

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It is fast becoming the memo heard round the corporate world — and it’s sending shockwaves through basement offices and Wi-Fi-wired coffee shops everywhere.

The memo, of course, is the one sanctioned by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and signed by the company’s HR head Jackie Reses, which told “Yahoos” that their days of working at home were numbered. Literally. The company stated that by June 1 every employee needs to be reporting to a Yahoo office.

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side…” the memo states. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

The edict has launched an impassioned debate over working remotely that has quickly spread well beyond the soon-to-be-crowded halls of Yahoo. While the controversy simmers, here are a three things job seekers and employees should keep in mind.

1. Remote working is not going away: Just because Yahoo put the kibosh on work at home, doesn’t mean other companies are going to follow suit. In fact, many pundits point out that Yahoo is facing unique challenges that required Mayer to take drastic action. The fact is, remote working is here to stay. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, nearly 25 percent of full-time workers did some work at home in 2010, and the amount of Americans allowed to work remotely is projected to steadily increase. Telecommuting saves companies money in terms of office space and other expenses, it provides them access to talent that isn’t local, and it can serve as a competitive advantage when trying to attract good people who value the flexibility. Organizations will continue to weigh the pros and cons of workplace flexibility and develop policies accordingly.

2. Like it or not, many employers view work-at-home as a privilege: Any employee who has worked at home has had this thought on more than one occasion – it’s easier when I go to the office. Working at home, while often convenient and economical, is not always easy. Remote workers often need to alter their approach to work, as evidenced by these 10 tips for boosting productivity recently published in Adecco’s blog.  Still, despite sound evidence that working remotely can indeed boost productivity, most employers still view the option as a privilege and the recent flap will likely only reinforce that belief. As such, focusing too much on an organization’s work-from-home policy during a job interview might be a red flag to a hiring manager, particularly in this time of heightened awareness about the issue.

3. Don’t make workplace flexibility the only reason you take a job: When listing the pros and cons of a potential job opportunity, think twice if telecommuting is one of only a few upsides to a position. As Yahoo’s recent actions make clear,  companies can and will implement and revise policies on an ongoing basis. When times turn tough, often leadership’s instinct is to cut back on remote working arrangements. And even if remote policies don’t change, if you are not passionate about the job you are taking, odds are your ability to focus on your work, at home or in the office, will suffer considerably.

No doubt, the work-from-home debate will remain in the spotlight for the foreseeable future. Workers and job-seekers need to remain flexible, aware, and focused on adding value to their company or organization. That’s what builds a strong career, regardless of where the work gets done.

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