A cool breeze rises from the depths of Silicon Valley and heralds a challenge to the idea of the home office. The fact that many of the world’s leading enterprises have not adopted the idea of the home office appears to be strong evidence against it. Indeed, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, has stridently ordered all employees back to the search engine provider’s headquarters. She stated that working for Yahoo is more than just a job that can be completed in isolation from day to day. Instead, Mayer considers working at Yahoo a collective endeavour, and that this collectivity has made Yahoo so successful. It is noteworthy the innovations of Marissa Mayer’s company were largely responsible for enabling programmers, journalists and other professionals to work from home.
The advances in the field of broadband internet and associated software have paved the way for the home office. Professionals can work from home without direct customer contact on either a part time or full time basis. The limits of the traditional ‘home’ office have also expanded. Creative employers, technology start-ups and programmers now live in a kind of working wonderland: young, hip bosses of countless start-ups let their employers work in places that inspire their creativity, including trendy cafes, beaches and even mountain peaks.
However, you do not have to be the head of a radical start-up to support the idea of the home office. Its advantages—even for large companies—are often associated with the steady rise in global rental prices. If a company has a reliable contingent of home office workers, it will not need to construct or hire new office space even during the busiest times of the working year. Companies will sometimes be able to save on the cost of new company branches. The home office also allows experienced employees suffering from temporary or permanent injury, for example, to continue to be integrated as part of the company in a meaningful way.
Employees also reap rewards from a home office environment. First, there are the little things, such as the pleasure of spending a workday at your own desk. Then there are more tangible benefits: parents who work at home are better able to take care of sick children, for example. Home office workers also do not need to give up a day off when the electrician comes by or when it’s time to take the car to get serviced. And of course, the home office saves both time and money because home office workers no longer have to commute to work.
However, after a few years of video conferences rather than meeting rooms, distances of metres rather than kilometres of rush hour traffic and working in socks rather than shoes, most people know whether or not the home office is really for them. They come to realise that the home office is only an improvement under certain conditions. Apart from Marissa Mayer’s concerns about teamwork, there are a lot of things that can go wrong in the home office if you are not careful.
How ‘dangerous’ a home office is depends on your profession. Aside from this, there is a big difference in the purpose of each home office: is your home office there to enable you to catch up on a few hours of work after eight hours at the company office? Or is it a permanent set-up that allows you to connect to work only through the occasional videoconference? It is another question entirely if you are the owner of a small business (i.e. a self-employed) who conducts all business from home.