Over the past few years, large corporations have been encouraging employees to work from home. The weak economy and poor job market forced many workers to embrace self-employment, swelling the ranks of consultants and freelancers. As we noted in a recent post, freelancers are predicted to comprise 40% of the U.S. workforce by the end of the decade.
Interestingly, instead of moving back into 9-to-5 corporate jobs as the economy has improved and the job market has strengthened, freelancers and consultants are choosing to remain self-employed. The freedom to be your own boss and chart your own course is a powerful lure that resonates with American workers. Once workers taste that freedom, as they do when they work from home, they are unwilling to return to the status quo.
It was no wonder that Yahoo workers rebelled when new CEO Marissa Mayer decided to curtail working from home and force all Yahoo employees to show up at the office 9 to 5. Having achieved a certain level of autonomy in how they structured their daily lives, managed their work loads and balanced work and family; few were willing to return to working under the boss’ thumb.
What was surprising was the firestorm of debate that Yahoo’s move sparked in the media. On one side the decision was vilified as being anti-family and anti-feminist; on the other side it was praised as an effort to build a sense of corporate identity and community. We think Oliver Burkeman of Britain’s The Guardian hit the nail on the head when he pointed out in a commentary on Business Insider (click the link to read his full post):
“Both sides have a point, but the real reason I suspect the policy will prove wrong-headed is more elemental. Deep down, people crave few things so desperately as a feeling of autonomy, and at Yahoo that just got squelched.”
It will be interesting to see how long it takes Ms. Mayer to see the error of her ways and appease her disgruntled workers by returning their autonomy and ability to work from home.