Government // Mobile & Wireless
Commentary
2/28/2013
10:51 AM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point

New CEO Marissa Mayer wants all company employees to work in the office. This isn't about exercising control; it's about setting a tone for change.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is under fire for doing the unthinkable: She's requiring company employees to actually work at the workplace.

That's right. In an era when just about everyone but coal miners and longshoremen thinks telecommuting is their birthright, Mayer is ordering all of Yahoo's 11,500 employees to show up at the office every day, starting in June.

The rationale: Employees become more creative and innovative when they work together face to face rather than over email, IM, video chats, wikis and other virtual means. "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings," Yahoo HR director Jackie Reses wrote in a memo to employees, obtained and posted by All Things D. "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together."

Besides collaboration, there's another "c" word in play here: culture. It can be tough to build and maintain a strong, cohesive one when a good number of employees (it's at least several hundred in the case of Yahoo) rarely make their way to campus. Perhaps Mayer, a former Google executive on the job at Yahoo for only seven months, found the collegial energy lacking during her early tours of the company's offices.

Or maybe she just decided to shake up the status quo. Clearly, the old way of doing things wasn't paying rich dividends for the Internet company, given its stagnant revenue and earnings. Yahoo's stock price has popped of late -- closing at $21.16 Wednesday, near its four-year high -- only because Mayer has refreshed the company's email, photo-sharing and other products while a revamped board considers acquisitions (mobile, anyone?) as well as divestitures of non-core assets in Asia and elsewhere.

By requiring all employees to work in the office, Mayer is making a statement: We're all in this together. If Yahoo doesn't have your full attention, seek employment elsewhere.

While critics complain that Mayer is being less than hospitable to working parents, especially mothers (Mayer herself gave birth to her first child last fall), she didn't take the job to break glass ceilings or champion work-life balance. Her job is to turn Yahoo around, and she's taking her best shot. This isn't about exercising control; it's about setting a tone for change.

Global CIO
Global CIOs: A Site Just For You
Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

This situation reminds me of my own experience with new corporate management a bunch of years ago. The CEO of our new parent company observed at the time that our offices felt more like a stodgy bank than a vibrant media company, so he ordered a wholesale remodeling, to an open floor plan. No more rat's nest of offices, but a wide open environment where everyone could see -- and collaborate with -- everyone else with relative ease.

I didn't like the idea. I told our business unit CEO at the time that it wouldn't work: not enough privacy, not enough space for our supplies, too much intermingling of church and state disciplines, too many blasted distractions.

And I was dead wrong (and later admitted as much to our CEO). Yeah, the open office can be loud and distracting at times. But that's part of the beauty. There's a new energy about the place. We collaborate more. We grab people for ad hoc conversations, when before we would have huddled over our computers in solitude. We get to know people we used to just nod at in the hallway.

We needed a shake-up, and most of us couldn't see that at the time. We do in hindsight.

Give Marissa Mayer a little slack. All companies and cultures are different. Mayer has more insight into what Yahoo needs than the work-at-home true believers. Telecommuting policies might serve Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Aetna and myriad other companies (including my own) quite well, but they might not work for Yahoo at this point in its transformation. As the company said in a statement on Tuesday, amid the backlash: "This isn't a broad industry view on working from home -- this is about what is right for Yahoo, right now."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
NickSmith109
50%
50%
NickSmith109,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 6:10:30 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Wow, so the editor-in-chief of a business technology magazine doesn't think that collaboration systems are worth a bucket of warm spit. One has to wonder, do you believe in any of the technologies your publications write about?

Culture can be good or bad, and just because people are in an office doesn't mean that culture will improve. It can also facilitate group think and waste resources as people spend more time chatting in their open environment rather than actually hunkering down and doing work. Take a look at who offers up original, out of the box ideas in your organization - I'll bet a disproportionate fraction of good original ideas come from those who can actually spend some uninterrupted time thinking about issues and solutions. That's painfully hard to do in an open office environment. If you need meetings, have them. If you can't make a teleconference productive, it's not the fault of the medium or the culture, it's the fault of the leader, because others manage it just fine.

If you insist people work from an office, you are closing yourself off to a wealth of talent and diversity. The vast majority of people don't live anywhere near your or Yahoo's offices. Are you really willing to write them off? If original thinking is what you really value, then you should be open to the diversity that home workers can bring. Would you seriously not hire an ideal candidate just because they don't happen to live where you have offices?

And it terms of productivity, I'll bet if you look at your home workers and compare their output with their in-office colleagues you'll find that their output is as good or better. Offices, particularly the new fad toward open offices are distracting. There's always something to look at or talk about besides your work.

Those who distrust the value of home workers tend toward micromanagement. If the boss can't see you, how does he know you're really working at home? Measuring output and using data to judge both in-office and out-of-office workers rarely occurs to these people. How do you judge your direct reports, Rob?

Perhaps you long for the days of typewriters and rotary phones, but most of us have moved on and are better for it.
ekwang917
50%
50%
ekwang917,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 6:21:52 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I think Mayer simply bring Google culture over to Yahoo. Googlers don't telecommute. They did a lot of internal study showing telecommute has more negatives than positives. But there are many studies out there indicating telecommuters are actually more productive. So which is true?

I think the key issue is measurement. Can managers measure a telecommuter's output without seeing face to face everyday? It is a shame tech giant like Google and Yahoo can't figure this out to allow their employees telecommuting. There are plenty of productivity measurement solutions out there on the market to address this issue. MySammy http://www.mysammy.com is one. Rescuetime is another.
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2013 | 6:33:07 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Nick, did you forget to take your meds this morning? Please reread the column--or have someone read it to you. Never did I say that collaboration systems aren't useful; I certainly didn't say or suggest they're "worth a bucket of warm spit." I said that Yahoo's situation is unique, and if the CEO of Yahoo wants to pull people into the office as part of the company's turnaround efforts, she shouldn't be second guessed for giving that a try. And did you know that people who work in offices also use collaboration systems? I certainly do. All the time.
NickSmith109
50%
50%
NickSmith109,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 6:51:29 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Ah, an ad hominem attack,nice. But me thinks m' editor protests too much. I'm sure you are a great user of collaboration systems, just as you say. Any of the other arguments you'd like refute? Didn't think so.

Yahoo is finding ways to trim its workforce without the expense of a layoff. It's pathetic and you should have seen through it. The good of remote workers at least balances the bad.So yes, the CEO should be second guessed. Her motives are less than honorable. And when top management of large companies do stupid and in this case evil things, it's just fine that they get questioned. They aren't Popes, they're CEOs.

If you think insisting that folks show up in an office will help Yahoo's plight, you're wrong. It's troubles shouldn't be laid at the feet of disconnected employees. Leadership screwed it up plain and simple. Changing policies on workers won't fix that, it'll just demoralize them more than they already are.
edyang
50%
50%
edyang,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 5:47:08 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Nick, putting words in the writer's mouth is not very honorable either. If you're going to quote Rob, at least do it accurately.
MyW0r1d
50%
50%
MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
3/1/2013 | 4:01:21 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I stopped counting long along the number of times you call or leave messages or email others with which you are obliged to collaborate and then have to run them down in their cubicle, hallway, or other place and fain an apology for interrupting their discussion on last night's game or the problem with clogging of certain maschera brands to get answers. Teleworking, for some and I would even say a noteable percentage, enables less true social interaction and distances the employee from others. Kind of like watching a table full of friends in a bar where no verbal interaction is occurring but everyone is engulfed in their smartphones responding to tweets, SMS, or FB posts of those not present. Teleworking is not the silver bullet for popularism, group think, or whatever label we care to assign to arriving at a group consensus on best course of action. Open office environments are certainly challenging and can be offensive (I get tired of hearing the constant belching of my cubemate on the other side of the partition or listening to his selection of videos) but there are ways to mitigate these issues. Telecommuting must based on an informed decision considering the individual, type of work, and not as a birthright as the article's author indicates it has become. A critical component of it should also be accountability methology which is oftentimes absent.
thinkingaloud
50%
50%
thinkingaloud,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 6:58:22 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Hi Rob G«Ű I read with great interest your commentary on this issue. My reaction was exactly the same as yours. Ms. Mayer is sending a message about culture. It is about getting folks together to work as a company. Years ago I had an employee who wanted to take every Friday off in the summer because she had G«£a child and a boyfriend who goes to Cape Cod for the entire summerG«•, and this would permit her to meet him on weekends. She seemed insulted when I said no because it prevented anyone else from taking a long weekend and railed at me because, G«£you simply donG«÷t care because you do not have a child,G«• as if that justified her needs impacting everyone else in the department.

The work at home and casual attitude toward work has also filtered into dress codes. Casual Friday is one thing G«Ű down and out Friday something entirely different. I had a long time mentor who told me, G«£when you dress for school or work as if you are going to the beach, you are demonstrating a lack of respect for your professors, your employer and your peers.G«•

Aside from the camaraderie and brainstorming that takes place when folks work together, the absence or detachment of an employee can affect many others in the chain. I doubt that anyone would deny an employee additional time to attend to a sick child or spouse, but when you are paid for a job, you need to do that job. Ms. Mayer is not, as you pointed out, G«£being less than hospitable to working parents.G«• She is managing the company. How you manage the rest of your life is up to you.

DonG«÷t agree, however, with the cubicle or open office concept though
lgarey@techweb.com
50%
50%
lgarey@techweb.com,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 7:17:05 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
It sounds like your business is (or was) a small one with minimum staffing requirements, if having one person out every Friday would result in no else being able to take a long weekend. It also sounds like that employee didn't do a very good job making her case. Years ago at my previous employer I negotiated leaving early several days a week to meet a school bus, but I structured it in a way that benefited my boss by working extended hours on our busiest day. Not all businesses are the same, and Mayer succeeded in one thing: We're all talking about Yahoo. Lorna Garey, IW Reports
dreiner941
50%
50%
dreiner941,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 7:02:52 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Rob, I agree with you and I very much agree with Marissa MayerG«÷s decision. I have seen the creative and collaborative drain at companies where telecommuting is rampant. People not only lose track of what the company is doing but not being able to respond quickly to market changes is a killer in today's environment. I have worked with large companies who can change on dime and the one thing they all have in common is that they are able to communicate changes to their staff quickly and they then move in unison understanding the company's vision. Those that don't have this structure, move with less deliberation and rely on process and proceedures to get things done.

At a company that is all about the user experience, collaboration and anticipating the rapid changes in the market and being able to move nimbly is vitally important. Marissa knows what matters from her experiences at Google and is trying to resurrect a culture that needs attention at Yahoo. I think she is going to be very successful.
lgarey@techweb.com
50%
50%
lgarey@techweb.com,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 7:09:01 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I'd love to know how many Yahoo employees, believing telecommuting would not be rolled back, moved to more affordable areas and are now stuck with a hard decision. Of course, we'll never know. This seems like a back door way of thinning the ranks without a big layoff that would reflect poorly on the company. It also seems like an opportunity for Google and others to poach any top talent still at Yahoo.
Lorna Garey, IW Reports
GAProgrammer
50%
50%
GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
2/28/2013 | 7:56:22 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Your argument is detrimental to itself. If Google and others recruited them, they would still have to move to the "more expensive" areas. Just because you CAN work from home doesn't mean you should. Telecommuters, by definition, are selfish. They aren't doing it to make the company better - they want to work from home so they don't have additional travel expense, they don't have to dress professionally, etc etc. No one should be surprised that a bunch of selfish workers are crying when they don't get their way. Mayer is doing what she thinks is best for the company, not for herself. Bravo, Marissa!
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2013 | 11:26:13 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Don't we all take our jobs for selfish reasons? Are people who accept raises selfish because they aren't doing it for the good of the company? Telecommuting is part of the employee package -- in the same way salary, bonuses, office space, or parking spot allocation are. And all those parts of the package affect the culture and need to be managed, and they can be used well or poorly in building a culture.
lgarey@techweb.com
50%
50%
lgarey@techweb.com,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 2:32:41 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Right Chris -- While I truly enjoy my job and coworkers, let's face it, I'd rather be on a beach somewhere! GA, some people are significantly more productive at home, some aren't. Some work at home to join companies that are not close by. Some do it because of their children. Some want to have time to build startups. It's not fair to lump all telecommuters into one pile.
Lorna GArey, IW Reports
GAProgrammer
50%
50%
GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
3/14/2013 | 1:15:31 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I don't disagree with either of you. My point is that the expectation of being able to telecommute is selfish. Just because it is possible doesn't mean that the company HAS to allow it. Lorna even proves my point - I can work from home and start my own company, at which point I will leave the current one. Sounds like a good reason to NOT allow it. Especially if I am enabling a new competitor LOL.
Melanie Rodier
50%
50%
Melanie Rodier,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 3:26:33 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Surely there are other reasons to telecommute. By eliminating commute time, a lot of telecommuters actually work longer hours - they start earlier and finish their work day a lot later than the classic office work day. People who work from home also don't typically tend to take a lunch break - or at least don't take the time to trek out to buy their lunch but can just pop into the kitchen to make it, thereby having even less time away from their computer. Ultimately, a lot of people who work from home feel that they need to be on call all the time. So it can be argued that telecommuters are more efficient than employees who work in the office full-time. That's not to say that Marissa Mayer doesn't have a right to ask all her employees to work full-time in the office. It's now up to her employees to decide whether that's the environment they want to be in, or not. And whether that's the CEO they want to work for, or not.
Tom LaSusa
50%
50%
Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 8:12:40 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
(I posted this in an article posted by Laurie McLaughlin as well, but seems appropriate to repost)

The problem is that Mayer is looking alot less like a strong female fighting to juggle both work and personal life and more like an out-of-touch CEO.

The reason? Two words: Private Nursery.

Mayer had one built (admittedly out of her own personal expenses) right next to her office. In doing this, she's basically told both working moms (and dads) at Yahoo that while everyone now has to report to work in a physical building, dropping their kids off at a babysitter's or daycare center, she still gets to enjoy the benefits of having her newborn a few feet away from her.

As I understand it, Yahoo does offer in some of their locations on-site daycare. Mayer could have taken advantage of a real opportunity here, showing up to work and dropping off her baby at the daycare center. Instead all she's done is remind folks that she's the boss, and being the boss has perks.

If any regular Yahoo employee walked in and announced that they were going to rent the empty cube next to them and turn it into their own private romper room for their child, they'd be out the door faster than a Yahoo Yodel.

Yes, the 'no more working from home' is a controversial decision and bound to have detractors. And only time will tell whether it proves to be the right more or not (more to come obviously in say, six months?) But the fact that she's made this decree while at the same time allotting herself such a special entitlement -- it's not surprising that she's gone from being lauded by many to criticized in a year's time.

Doesn't seem to me like the makings of a positive culture.

Tom LaSusa
InformationWeek Community Manager
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2013 | 10:01:31 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Let's not get nurseries and work at home policies confused here.The nursery, while an unusual item, is a whole other issue from what Rob is discussing.

I will have a follow up column tomorrow. Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! Work at home flexibility is a discussion worth having.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
royatkinson
50%
50%
royatkinson,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 11:03:54 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I disagree that this is a separate issue. One of the reasons people like to telecommute is to monitor or be near their children. Mayer has solved this problem for herself, but reintroduced the problem for others. The two are not disconnected.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/1/2013 | 12:42:30 AM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I'm inclined to agree. It's not that Mayer doesn't have the right to do what she did. It's that she did so in a tone-deaf way, particularly given her personal arrangements. A more targeted dictum to bring innovators, particularly engineers, together instead of most of the company would have been a better approach.
Tom LaSusa
50%
50%
Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 4:49:39 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
That was sort of my thinking here.

Rob mentioned 'Culture.' Within the realm of a company culture resides employee motivation/morale. I obviously have no fly on the wall of Yahoo's offices, but I would find it hard to imagine that either hasn't been impacted in some way by all this.

Tom LaSusa
InformationWeek Community Manager
jessicalevenson
50%
50%
jessicalevenson,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 5:12:19 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Agreed, Tom. I think there are ways to change culture without employing what appears to be a hypocritical policy. Not everyone has the funds or personnel at their disposal as Mayer does and it appears that she has either forgotten that or she's just permanently out of touch with the common worker.
Stratocaster
50%
50%
Stratocaster,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 7:04:42 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I would like to see the evidence that the private nursery was and will be funded "out of her own personal expenses". Even so, what is that square footage worth to the company? Does she pay rent on the space? And utilities like water, heat, and lights -- and security accommodations for her nanny? (I presume her child is not with her all the time.)
Tom LaSusa
50%
50%
Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 8:56:16 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Hey there Stratocaster,

There's a reference in this Time.com article:

"Her stand is even more egregious considering sheG«÷s apparently built herself a set-up most moms can only dream of: a nursery G«Ų paid for out of her own pocket G«Ų adjacent to her company office."

http://healthland.time.com/201...

Regards
Tom LaSusa
InformationWeek Community Manager
MyW0r1d
50%
50%
MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
3/1/2013 | 9:44:28 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I read the referenced Time article and the implication from the husband of a Yahoo employee indicates the nursery is within the Yahoo complex and "a cubical nearby". Nothing indicates a separate facility, on private property nearby, or line item accounting for space/facilities as indicated by Stratocaster. Your specific reference of adjacent to her company office could certainly imply on company grounds. Stratocaster's questions are legitimate and not answered by the article.
royatkinson
50%
50%
royatkinson,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 11:10:24 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
In more than one organization, I've seen "open, collaborative spaces" become open spaces populated by people with headphones on. It is not about the space; it is not about productivity. It is about culture and how the culture promotes collaborative work.

The most interesting input I've heard on this issue had to do with the number of Yahoo! employees who have allegedly been using work time to build startups. If that's the problem, it's a management issue, not a question of location.

Remote work must be based on trust. Mayer has fired a shot across the bow, indicating that a new Yahoo! culture will have less trust. I think that is unfortunate.
jessicalevenson
50%
50%
jessicalevenson,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 4:56:31 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
This is exactly my thinking as well. Location isn't the issue. Management and culture is. And product. That last one may be a chicken or egg issue, but still.
NJ Mike
50%
50%
NJ Mike,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 2:07:46 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
If Yahoo! employees have been using work time to start build-ups, they have violated the trust that is required to work at home. If that is the case, don't blame Mayer for firing the shot across the bow, can she be blamed for not trusting employees who shouldn't be trusted?
mmoore629
50%
50%
mmoore629,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 4:51:53 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
It's little more than the Hawthorne Effect. Bringing people back into a central workplace will initially show progress. In 10 or 15 years, some other paradigm will present and that will again be the panacea for the lassitude that has set in.
Much ado about nothing.
BrentKillough
50%
50%
BrentKillough,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 5:07:17 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
This article just proves that the new disguise being worn by Theory X'ers (check factual human behavioral Theory X & Y research that is guaranteed to cause certain results when applied). These Theory X'ers just believe in their core that people do not want to do their best work, and do not want to do what is best for their employer and work team. Of course, basic research that has been around for decades proves that creative, high performance individuals who want what is best for their employer, and thus their own career will not function well at all in a Theory X environment. I happen to believe that a balanced approach (some face-to-face with some quiet working at home or elsewhere) is the best where teams collaborate at scheduled times with the proper tools & supplies to support collaboration (of which my organization has nearly none). There is no way to argue that I get way more, and better, documentation, models, analysis, creative architectural ideas, etc. created in peace & quiet in my home office than I do in a loud environment where people DE-PRIORITIZE the work into what THEY want to get done when they come by and stand at my cube to interrupt me, use up my time on non-priority items, distract the people all around, and waste our budget and resources. If you really truly believe in collaboration, like I actually do, and truly are NOT Theory X, which I am not, then actually promote collaboration, lean prioritization, empowered teams, etc. and provide that environment (which is NOT an open phone bank environment). Create policies that promote these concepts that actually cause creative talented people to produce more, spread their knowledge, and grow a better environment. For example: tell people to schedule and meet for regular, organized, prepared collaboration with documented outputs and not just G«£wordsG«•, G«£tribal knowledgeG«•, and chaos. Theory X people can't do anything else but fall back on their core belief that people must all sit at the same desk, hear the same conversations, and be watched all day so that they will work. If these types of people actually exist in your organization, get rid of them and practice real management - because research shows you surely won't attract, grow, or create talented creative people in a cesspool of chaos.
PaulCooley53
50%
50%
PaulCooley53,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 7:06:56 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
This particular topic has always been an issue since the 1200baud modem was invented. As a young programmer years ago I carried a acoustic coupled keyboard with a roll of print paper home on weekends. After doing IT for 35 years I've learned that this is a 24x7x365 job. One could argue that my typical day starts at 5:00am when I wake up and look at my iPhone for overnight emails... and ends at 10:15pmCT (after the first 1/2 of The Daily Show) when I check my iPhone before going to sleep. For at least 1/2 of the past 35 years I've managed staff and have come to this position. First, we have to treat our IT resources (valuable!) as human beings and adults. No one in my group who wants to work from home on some particular day (or days) will hear "no' from me unless there is a VERY GOOD REASON.... such as a major upgrade or "all hands on deck" item at hand. Second, as I occasionally remind my folks, they actually CHOSE to do this IT stuff as a profession, and their expectations regarding work schedules, 'on call' time, emergency situations and outages should be equally human and adult. Now, for my core position: all the remote tools, concalls, video calls, texts, emails et al DO NOT REPLACE and DO NOT APPROACH the value of 1x1, face to face, and team time. It is fundamental to building an effective team and really knowing your staffG«™ and work satisfaction, and productivity, and learning, and on and on and on.
Thus sayeth The Paul!
kmajors660
50%
50%
kmajors660,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 7:34:06 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I think the idea of shaking up the status quo is more likely. The VPN logs showed that there was not enough work being done from home, I have worked in many different environments and requiring employees to spend at least some time each week in the office has been a good thing. Regardless of pop culture, actually going to work does improve productivity and creativity.
stevyrino
50%
50%
stevyrino,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 11:03:51 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Apparently Mayer doesn't understand the term "time management". Reportedly she has a bad habit of not being on time for meetings, etc. and keeping people hanging around waiting for her arrival. Of course she would want people to be at the office so at least she knows they are wasting their time waiting for her to arrive for a meeting instead of "wasting" their time at home doing useful work. Yahoo people have seen many CEOs come and go. What is one more? Mayer trying to force fit the Google culture onto Yahoo is going to cause problems. Been thru several corporate cultural dna re-programming myself and it is never pleasant.
moarsauce123
50%
50%
moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2013 | 12:01:55 AM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
It is all about quality of product, not just productivity. You can be very productive and just create a lot of junk. Quality comes when committed people bounce ideas off each other and quickly decide which way to go. That is easier and more effectively done with everyone in the same room rather than being distributed and hiding behind IM and chat windows.
Andrew Hornback
50%
50%
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 3:35:27 AM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
One thing that I'd like to point out here, that I have first hand knowledge of, is that Yahoo (at one point in the past) used to cater heavily to their employees.

For example, the Seattle campus too far for you to commute to? No problem, we'll purchase the rights to a building on a corporate campus closer to your home, build it out and you can move your office there instead of commuting the hour (wish my current commute was that short) to Seattle, you can drive 5 minutes to Bellevue. Then, the economy dropped like a stone and after building the building, it was never occupied. So, Yahoo then owned a building that was fully ready to go but never occupied because the people that would have been staffing that building were either let go or never hired in the first place. How much did keeping that building cost Yahoo? Not privy to that information, but hanging onto it for a few years (unoccupied) couldn't have been cheap. Honestly, I'd love to have that kind of perk - an office in Queens to go to instead of commuting "down to the waterline" in Manhattan. But, how many organizations have the capability to do something like that (building an office closer to their employees homes) and how many would actually do it? Perhaps that's what ran Yahoo into the ground economically.

Let's go to the other end of the spectrum for a minute - let's say that Yahoo decides to collapse all of its remote locations into one huge campus. The rationale is there, since it's better for collaboration and culture. What happens then? Move all of your employees from around the world into one campus? Yeah, I don't see that happening.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
(known to telecommute during hurricanes, blizzards and the occasional flu outbreak)
dissi201
50%
50%
dissi201,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 4:52:52 AM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
AND G«™ of course there's the consultant's argument (from a wise-old sage) that if all you have is a hammer, everything begins looking like a nail. Nothing like lining up a bunch of folks and saying, "OK G«™ now that you're all here (in the chicken coup) begin being innovative and creative!" Yep G«™ that ALWAYS gets them going! Sort of like being on a Navy ship for 6 months at sea and saying, "No one gets to take "liberty" (that's Navy for going ashore) until morale improves!" Nope G«™ ain't-a-gonna-get-it done and I'll begin taking wagers that she's wearing out her Prada leather looking for another Exec position within a year!
edyang
50%
50%
edyang,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2013 | 5:57:45 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
It's very difficult to take away what employees consider "entitlements" as opposed to them not having had it at all in the first place. The problems at Yahoo! seem to go much deeper. Some other article I read said that Mayer was displeased with how late employees arrived and how early they left. That's an issue of culture and less so about telecommuting. I believe that, yes, this may further damage morale in a company where it is dangerously low already. Agreed that Mayer has the right and ability to try and import the "Google culture" to Yahoo! but that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea.

Even back in 2003 I was working with director and VP level executives at Microsoft and HP who not only telecommuted, they worked full time virtually from locales far from Redmond and Cupertino. How much easier is it to do now with widespread tools like Skype, Google Docs, Google Hangout, Dropbox, YouSendIt, productivity measurement software MySammy, time card iPhone apps, GotomyPC and on and on?

One good thing to come out of this supposed flap is a massive increase in dialogue about working arrangements in companies. But I fear that this may give others the excuse to eliminate telecommuting for their workers as well. I hope this is not the case.
ANON1237925156805
50%
50%
ANON1237925156805,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 4:42:01 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I find this article to be spot on. From the outside it has certainly felt as though one cause?/consequences? of Yahoo's floundering over the past few years has been the lack of a clear identity. You can't just shoot a dart at a dartboard and say OK, this is how we'll react to the new reality. You have to say this is who we are and this is what we do in the new reality.

That can't come from the top down. No matter what course senior management adopts, there has to be a cohesive underlying corporate culture to back up the promises and slogans with enthusiastic and effective execution. I can understand why Yahoo mgmt may feel that for now that means that employess need to be in the office for that to happen..

No disputing that social media, networking applications and the ability to telecommute effectively are wondrous things. Everyone benefits when commute time goes away and when that trip to the pediatrician can be a long lunch instead of a full day off. Still it shouldn't even need to be stated that an IM, a Webex, a Skype conference call, even a corporate social network-none of these are replacements for actual human contact.

My current experience is illustrative. I've happily worked from home 2-3 days a week for several years. I've always gone into the office when it mattered and I've always been allowed to be at home when it mattered. When I'm at home, I work more not less. When I'm in the office I network more effectively. Win-win.

For the past six months I've been forced to work at home full time. A temporary family situation was immediately followed by superstorm Sandy-which severely damaged my office building. I've got all the tools I need at my disposal and on the surface things are going smoothly. But I'm feeling more and more out of the swim, disconnected. It's getting harder and harder to motivate myself to perform optimally. I'm looking forward to our reopening in two weeks.

I can imagine the drift that's been happening in a company that didn't have effective controls with hundreds of employees who never came in at all, some of them apparently logged in for foreshortened hours. I can fully understand why it may be necessary for now to take away this privilege to get things in order.

One hopes that they'll take advantage of this new policy to consciously work to break down silos, to improve networking and communication among employees. One also hopes that they'll evaluate the child care issue sooner than later. Finally one hoeps that as soon as it makes sense they'll evolve to a more flexible strategy that supports telecommuting on a part-time basis at least for those whose job descriptions, personal situations and work ethic warrant it.
cbabcock
50%
50%
cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
3/4/2013 | 7:34:27 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Many comments assume reassembly will work, or social networking for telecommuters will work. For what purpose? What culture is being fostered in place of the old Yahoo culture? I don't know exactly because I'm not in the CEO's office or close to responsible employees, but I know I support measures that will revitalize Yahoo as a competitor, and those measures may need to be drastic. The private nursery issue is a morale issue, for sure, in the eyes of affected Yahoo employees, but judgments on it suppose that the CEO needs to be treated or act like every other employee. Much as I dislike the deification of the CEO, he or she is not just another employee; some acknowledgement of that at a distressed company may be in order.
mstock4941
50%
50%
mstock4941,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 8:00:56 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I find this article quite hypocritical. These pages are typically supporting such up-to-date ideas as virtual meetings and electronic collaboration. I find such unquestionable support from you for a Back-To-The-Office policy from a tech-leader extremely distasteful. Next week I will expect you to extol the virtues of steam engines and the fax machine.

I think we all get the idea of hallway meetings and ad hoc idea-gatherings as potentially useful - there are times when face-to-face is very valuable, even critical. But contributing to the culture? It would seem that this policy just set the culture back to the 1970s.

I could see having office time once or twice a week. You get the benefit of the culture and whatever face time you consciously make time for - the rest is heads-down work time. You can find all the studies you want that show the results you need to make your case either way.

Regardless of the reasons, the message this policy sends to her workforce - and to the rest of us is that Yahoo, tech leader and innovator, just went back in time. Perhaps the CEO felt this was necessary as a management decision, but it doesn't send a very promising message in terms of vision, innovation or technology. It actually weakens the Yahoo brand in my eyes. I trust the company less today because of it. But there wasn't a word of caution from you.

What will you condone in your next article? Leaving your work phone on your boss' desk when you go home? Company-sanctioned stations on Sirius XM in your company car?

Waving the flag so high for this policy is the same as pining for the days of print-only editions of newspapers and magazines. Of course, in that case you didn't have to get feedback like this!
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
3/4/2013 | 9:04:05 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
Come on now. I never, ever said collaborative technology tools can't be highly effective and productive. And I never said work-at-home policies are a bad idea--I noted that my own company and lots of others have very successful ones, made possible by the latest tech tools. But my company and likely your company isn't Yahoo. What's good for us isn't necessarily good for them. Yahoo is in trouble and the CEO is trying to shake things up and remold the culture. Her move may work; it may not. We'll see.
mstock4941
50%
50%
mstock4941,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 3:18:32 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
It's true: you never said in your article that collaborative tools can't be highly effective or that work at home policies are a bad idea. But I would expect from these pages a more balanced view. For a company like Yahoo image is as equally important - in certain ways - as keeping morale and hopefully employees. A sudden edict which contradicts what the company supposedly stands for is a bit startling and should be called out as such. It's true as well that I wouldn't want anyone to simply harangue the CEO for a decision you (or me personally) wouldn't agree with since we're not in that role. I just hope that her decision produces results, enhances the brand, increases morale and doesn't send good people to other places, like Google or Microsoft.

Thanks for reading and responding to my post!
Johnnythegeek
50%
50%
Johnnythegeek,
User Rank: Strategist
3/21/2013 | 1:49:30 PM
re: Yahoo Flap Misses The Bigger Point
I imagine she looked at the results and login information and realized many are not properly communicating with the rest of their teams. Some people are good managing time on their own and know how to work from home. Some simply find the temptation to put things off or become introverted a side effect of working outside the office. Mayer to me simply wants to reset this issues and possibly weed out those who have developed a distaste for working as a team.
Its very possible that down the road those that show they can be productive as a BYOD would possibly be given some more freedom to not have to go to the office everyday?
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A UBM Tech Radio episode on the changing economics of Flash storage used in data tiering -- sponsored by Dell.
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.