Branson: Yahoo’s Mayer is wrong

by Caitlin Nobes06 Mar 2013

The discussion around remote workers kicked up a notch last week, following the news that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer would no longer allow the company’s 27,000 employees to work from home.

Now another business great has chimed in, suggesting Mayer is behind the times. Virgin founder Richard Branson said he disagreed completely with Mayer.

“Many employees who work from home are extremely diligent, get their job done, and get to spend more time with their families,” Branson wrote. “They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance. To force everybody to work in offices is old school thinking.”

Yet other high profile names, such as  former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, support Mayer’s decision. Bloomberg even commented that  he thought working from home was “one of the dumber ideas I’ve heard.”

Branson added that in 30 years from now he expected offices to be a thing of the past, and said future workers will wonder why they ever existed. The Virgin boss doesn't believe it's “effective or productive” to force employees to follow one way of working: “Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce.”

His opinion echoes a recent report into telework in Canada. The 2012 report from WorkShift Canada estimated the country could save $1.8bn in turnover costs by maximizing telework – and the desire for these kinds of opportunities is also great draw card for candidates.

“Almost 90% of people would work at home part of the time if they could,” report author Kate Lister said. “It’s a way companies can differentiate themselves from the competition. Canada is having more retention and attraction problems than the US or the UK, so companies need to pay attention to what people want and what they can offer.”

What’s more, it opens up the talent pool by offering more opportunities for disabled workers, or for those who are caring for elderly parents.

Lister emphasised that this didn’t mean workers would be at home all the time. The ideal working arrangement was two to three days away from the office each week, according to her research.

Does your company offer remote working options? Does it work for employees and employer?


  • by D Green 6/03/2013 3:40:49 PM

    I fully agree with Richard Branson - expecting people to commute to an office every single day when their role doesn't require it is outdated thinking. I understand that collaboration is important, but this can be achieved by either working in the office at certain times, or via online collaboration. There may be some people who will slack off when working at home, but I think that's the exception rather than the rule - most people (well, me anyway!) enjoy the comfort of their own home and environment and are more productive than in the office. If employers set project or task targets and employees meet them, I don't see how it matters where they are working.

  • by N Read 6/03/2013 3:47:37 PM

    We are a not for profit organisation and are now looking at extending the teleworking options to our people particularily as we work in regional and remote areas that have significant travel elements. I have been following this discussion over the last week with interest and am keen to hear of organisations who think they have 'got it right' in this area. I would imagine, as with most things it isn't 'what' you do it's 'how' that makes all the difference. Has anyone had any great experiences they would be willing to share?

  • by Sharon Ferrier 6/03/2013 3:53:17 PM

    Love to see his pilots and flight crew work from home!

    I do work from home - but I also recognise the benefits of face to face collaboration. Not just for rapport development, but also for problem solving.

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