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First, it was Yahoo that surprised many as the company decided to end its work-from-home privileges for employees and ask remote workers to report to the office or quit. I see two reasons why this decision from Yahoo came as a shock for many. One is that when Marissa Mayer was hired as Yahoo’s new chief executive, many thought she would be championing telecommuting and work-life balance as that she was pregnant at the time. I guess they think the memo proves their initial perceptions wrong. Second, telecommuting has grown tremendously popular over the years, especially in today’s age of smartphones and tablets, and to cut telecommuting privileges for employees seem like a ridiculous idea. Or is it?

Best Buy Follows Yahoo’s Lead

Apparently, Best Buy doesn’t think so. In fact, the retailing giant has followed Yahoo’s lead when the company also reduced its telecommuting privileges a week after Yahoo cascaded its now famous memo. Just last Monday, March 4, Best Buy announced that it got rid of its flexible work program. The program called Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) started in 2005. It allowed corporate employees to work wherever and whenever they choose to as long as they did quality work. But with the elimination of the said program, Best Buy employees are now required to render a 40-hour work week and, as much as possible, report to the office.

Reasons for Ditching Telecommuting

When Yahoo cascaded its no-telecommuting policy, it explained the reason behind the decision.

“We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” It also added that, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
Although Best Buy is only reducing its employees’ work from home privileges and not completely getting rid of it, the company was gracious enough to sort of admit that with sluggish sales as just one of the challenges it faces, telecommuting just isn’t in line with their resolutions.

Matt Furman, spokesman for Best Buy, said that “When you’re in a turnaround situation, it truly is all hands on deck.” He also added that “It is critical to have employees in the office to collaborate and communicate.”

No Telecommuting Means Cost-Cutting?

It’s no secret that Yahoo and Best Buy have been struggling financially. And when both decided to ditch telecommuting, it’s as if both companies were somehow telling that allowing employees to work in a virtual office, despite the availability of technology, isn’t entirely helpful during times of financial woes.

Others, however, are saying that implementing such policy, wherein remote workers are either forced to comply or quit, comes across as ploy to lay people off without having to fire them. In short, Best Buy and Yahoo are said to be cost-cutting by implementing a strategy that would eventually force remote workers to just resign.

Maybe such presumptions are right; maybe they aren’t. The bottom line is that there will always be collateral damage in trying to save a struggling company. If such drastic measures aren’t taken, more people will suffer. So even if the decision to reduce remote work privileges may cause some frustration or even uproar in employees, Best Buy and Yahoo must still think of the “bigger picture”. And everyone will have no choice but to tighten his or her belt.