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No more working at home for Hewlett-Packard employees?

Current HP CEO Meg Whitman speaks during a debate in October 12, 2010 at Dominican University of California in San Rafael, Calif.

In the early days of the digital revolution, the idea that anyone could work anywhere was enough to entice workers everywhere to request telecommuting options. But when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a ban on working from home in February, it ruffled feathers in the corporate world. Critics slammed the decision saying it was inflexible, hurting long commuters and working mothers, among others. 

Now Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is following in a similar fashion. Although she hasn't put into place a outright ban, she announced that she wants everyone to work at the office saying, "During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck."

Nancy Koehn, who teaches at the Harvard Business School, says there's a strong case for the flexibility to be able to work from home.

"But that doesn't necessarily translate into across the board, stamp of approval on telecommuting, at every moment, in every industry, for every company," she says.

Supporters of the ban on telecommuting would be happy to know that since Mayer's annoucement, Yahoo's stock has shot up. Koehn says that although it's hard to demonstrate an exact correlation, there are some positive changes at Yahoo that are hard to ignore. 

"Not all work is meant to be done alone," she says. "A lot of work -- the best work, often -- is done with others in serious pursuit, and often in a place where everyone meets to do it."

About the author

Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School.
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Sounds like you aren't involved with software development, or you don't do any Agile work, OR your managers aren't introducing Agile correctly. The "opinionated people trying to impress some higher-ups" are always tempered in Agile, and the daily development meetings can be quick and extremely useful.

when you fire that many people there is plenty of office space freethat they cant get out of the lease on ......so make people come back as it will make even more people leave ( the onbes they enticed to join or stay last few years by work at home options .....these people are arseoles

Actually, technologies like tele-presence already exist for providing real-time collaborative experience. However, the focus has so far been on dedicated, high-cost tele-presence facilities which are only affordable by the bigger corporations. Since internet bandwidth to the home has improved significantly, low-cost tele-presence tools can now be developed to run on laptops. Once that happens, it will be possible to have face-to-face type of experience from home and tele-commuting should come back into vogue.

If you think that any "tele" interface is equal to face to face then you miss my entire point.

Chris - dont you have work to do? Seriously, you should know all about OPSEC. Having your picture plastered on a message board isn't the smartest idea.

Decisions and rationale like these actually are reflective of poor processes within the company. HP, clearly has fallen from excellence to mediocrity. In that sense, Meg may be right to revamp it, just like Yahoo is trying to do. However, it is surprising that the professor from Harvard calls it a 'trend'. No, it is not a trend .. but just a well-known sign of a company's erosion of its shine. The trend actually is just the opposite.

Decisions and rationale like these actually are reflective of poor processes within the company. HP, clearly has fallen from excellence to mediocrity. In that sense, Meg may be right to revamp, just like Yahoo is trying to do. However, it is surprising that the professor from Harvard calls it a 'trend'. No, it is not a trend .. but just a well-known sign of a company's erosion of its shine. The trend actually is just the opposite. Please go and see the thousands of companies who today virtually work without even an self-owned office space. This is the limitation of academia who jump to conclusions based on limited statistical data without qualifying and relating it to today's reality.

Obviously you've never worked in any sort of software development on a larger scale.

And anecdotally, all the major software players (Microsoft/Apple/Google/Facebook) started in basements/apartments/dorms where almost the entire 'team' was colocated. This wasn't due to a limitation of technology but because physically having everyone together fosters far more successful collaboration than telecommuting.

Wouldn't be great if an item was invented that could allow people to work together over long distances, thereby working off-site, by talking with their colleagues. Maybe we could call it a telephone. And then, maybe a system that transmits data over long distances could be invented. We could call that the internet. And, you might think that those companies that manage and create new things based on these wonderful ideas might be the first to embrace the idea of collaboration over distances. Oh, if only.

I think it's about time someone made this move. Telecommuting is a symbol of how we have regressed as a society and expected more and more for doing less and less. If you can do your job over the phone or internet from the comfort of your home in your underwear then guess what? Yep, you are easily replaceable with a droid (robot). People like and need to deal with people, face to face and if you can't handle an environment where you need to be "present", collaborate and network then you probably don't deserve a job. IMHO

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