Does Ya­hoo!’s edict spell the end for the home worker?

The Herald Business - - Front Page -

MARISSA Mayer must have caused a panic among the mak­ers of one­sies when she is­sued the now in­fa­mous edict that home work­ers at Ya­hoo! should get off the sofa, put the pizza back in the fridge and make their way into the of­fice, sharpish.

The un­ex­pected in­struc­tion from the former Google ex­ec­u­tive not only put the cat among the pi­geons for tele­work­ers, it also drove a coach and horses through the cur­rent re­ceived wis­dom about fu­ture trends in the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. For years now, it has been a given that the of­fice is so last cen­tury; t hat t ech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have re­moved the need for the mis­ery and waste­ful­ness of the daily com­mute; and that em­ploy­ees should have some say in where they earn their daily bread.

Richard Bran­son, who does a lot of his home work­ing from Necker Is­land, was among the first of the white knights to weigh in on the side of home­work­ers, de­nounc­ing Mayer’s move as “a back­ward step”. Oth­ers ques­tioned her mo­tives and ra­tio­nale. How­ever, the Ya­hoo! boss had done her home­work. Un­usu­ally for a top level CEO, Mayer had checked the vir­tual pri­vate net­work logs –lead­ing some tech an­a­lysts to com­ment that most CEOs don’t even know what a VPN is.

The logs showed that some em­ploy­ees weren’t us­ing it enough – the im­pli­ca­tion be­ing that th­ese were the ones trim­ming their bon­sais in­stead of be­ing fully ded­i­cated to the greater glory of Ya­hoo!. So sev­eral hun­dred re­mote work­ers will be back un­der the man­age­ment gaze from June.

What does this mean for the grow­ing army of re­mote work­ers who cur­rently stay in touch through we­b­cams, fast broad­band and smart­phones – and for em­ploy­ers, a to­tal of 59% of whom were of­fer­ing tele­work­ing in 2011, up from 13% in 2006?

One sec­tor in which there has been a huge up­surge in in­ter­est in the con­cept has been the con­tact cen­tre in­dus­try. A re­cent sur­vey sug­gested that 84% of man­agers in charge of large con­tact cen­tres see the em­ploy­ment of re­mote agents as the next big trend, paving the way to lower fixed costs and a new and more qual­i­fied pool of can­di­dates.

Anne Marie Forsyth is chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Glas­gow-based, Cus­tomer Con­tact As­so­ci­a­tion, a UK-wide body of more than 850 mem­bers that in­cludes ma­jors such as Tesco, RBS, NHS24, Bank of Amer­ica, Serco and Capita.

She said: “Peo­ple have been talk­ing about it for a long time in the con­tact cen­tre sec­tor. Some have suc­cess­fully tried it, such as BT’s di­rec­tory en­quiries, but so far they have been mostly niche ap­pli­ca­tions. There are two models: bring­ing in self-em­ployed peo­ple who are mo­ti­vated and want the hours; and, like Tesco, di­rectly em­ploy­ing hun­dreds of home work­ers who have the same con­di­tions as peo­ple who are work­ing cen­trally. With re­cent ad­vances in se­cu­rity fail­safes, it is really go­ing to take off over the next few years.”

Forsyth was re­luc­tant to praise or crit­i­cise Mayer’s de­ci­sion. She said: “She is in charge of Ya­hoo! and she has to make the best busi­ness de­ci­sion for her com­pany.

“Pro­vid­ing peo­ple don’t feel they are miss­ing some­thing and pro­vid­ing that she doesn’t lose good staff – and she will have done the anal­y­sis on it – then she’s en­ti­tled to

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