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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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