An edict from new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that orders all employees to work from the office underscores the notion that despite a trend toward more flexible work schedules, telecommuting remains the exceptions for most industries—including public relations.
In her announcement, which came Friday in a confidential email
that was promptly released to the media, Mayer said the decision is intended to increase productivity and create a more connected culture. The note says, in part:
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. 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 new policy, which takes effect in June, may have backfired for a company trying to regain its edge, at least with some workers and media. According to reports, Yahoo employees said they appreciate flexible work arrangements, noting that there has been an overall workplace trend to allow telecommuting and flexible schedules. Media also noted that Mayer only took two weeks off after having a baby last October.
Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother Media, told Forbes.com
that the decision to ban working from home was disappointing. “It’s a step backwards—a mindset from the days when Yahoo was launched,” she said. In fact, some media pointed out that the new policy only affects several hundred of the 14,000-strong workforce.
Telecommuting in the PR field
Despite the varied nature of public relations, most people in the industry work do not work from home, according to findings in the PR Daily Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey
A mere 22 percent of people working in the PR field telecommute, the survey found. That jibes with a 2012 report in Monthly Labor Review
that said 24 percent of working Americans log hours from home to some degree. A Reuters/Ipsos poll
from last year found that roughly one-fifth of workers worldwide telecommute frequently.
Among the 22 percent of PR professional who telecommute, nearly half (47 percent) say they do so once a week; 27 percent telecommute five days a week, according to the PR Daily
PR professionals most likely to telecommute are those with high paychecks and experience.
Forty-two percent of those making more than $250,000 say they telecommute, while only 22 percent of people earning less than $35,000 say they do. Meanwhile, 28 percent of those with 10 to 20 years of experience are telecommuting, as do 23 percent of those with more than 20 years. Only 15 percent of those in the business for less than a year are telecommuting.
Not surprisingly, self-employed PR professionals are the most frequent telecommuters—66 percent do so compared with 25 percent of public company employees, and 24 percent of private company employees. Those working at nonprofits and government agencies were least likely to work from home, according to the survey.
The PR Daily Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey included responses from 2,787 people working in the public relations field.
Based on comments from those who participated in the survey, people enjoy telecommuting as an option, but they rarely take advantage of it. Plus, there’s still a stigma that working from home means not really working.
“We are allowed to telecommute,” said one respondent. “However, most of the time I'm looked down upon if I do.”
A 2009 story in The Washington Post
said that a number of workers in the U.S. were foregoing their flexible schedules out of fear that it might make them more susceptible to a layoff.
Trend is towards working from home
Yahoo’s new no working from home mandate is unlikely to become a trend since most agree that increased flexibility is the trend.
In fact, the results of the Reuters/Ipsos poll indicated that the trend of telecommuting will likely continue to grow.
The culture of a company is key to whether telecommuting is embraced, according Rose Stanley, of WorldatWork
, a nonprofit human resources association.
“When it comes to workplace flexibility programs, culture trumps policy,” she said. “It’s not about the quantity or formality of programs offered; it’s about how well supported and implemented the programs are across the organization.”
Gil Rudawsky heads the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. He is a former reporter and editor. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.