On Marissa Mayer stopping Work From Home at Yahoo!

For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading with increasing incredulity the opposition (here and here) to Marrisa Mayer’s policy of stopping Work from Home (WFH) at Yahoo! . I think her diktat was – “Start come to office or the Exit door is open” or something to that effect. Now some bloggers and writers seem to completely disagree with this – and honestly, I am confused because the logic seems pretty irrefutable to me.

A clarification first – her policy was applicable only for employees who PERMANENTLY worked from home! If your kid is sick or you have urgent work at home – you can still work from home. But Yahoo was a company where there were employees in all divisions – from marketing to engineering who worked from home – ALL the time! Remember, this was a company that was bloated and unproductive – I am not saying that all of this can be attributed to WFH but I think that was definitely part of the problem. We might be using Facebook to stay in touch with our college buddies, but I don’t think we are at a stage where interaction through email/chat can completely replace actually meeting/collaborating with people in person. In an organization as large as Yahoo!, how easy it must have been to ‘hide’ by permanently working from home.

Yahoo! is a company that is trying to ‘find’ itself – web consumption habits have changed so much that they definitely cannot be a portal, they are virtually invisible in mobile space, they are not a service provider or even content aggregation. For a company that is sure to go through a complete overhaul – you need all your employees to work together, meet, collaborate, brainstorm, establish sense of common belonging and even celebrate together. During this re-invention, you can’t have a bunch of people sitting at home cut off from that process. And that’s really the key – a Google can maybe allow people to permanently work from home (and they don’t as a wide organization wide policy) but they are making money – really good money, Yahoo! is not! I also can’t t hink of anyone who permanently needs to work from home.

I do think it works well for customer support staff or journalist or basically anyone who job is ‘standalone’. But I really don’t think it is for an organization that is fighting for it’s survival. I am of course not opposed to having a Work from Home policy – in my current organization, we allow our employees to work from home. But I will almost never recruit for a permanent work from home position. We have a developer in our office who travels 94 KM for office – he works from home twice a week but even he is in office the remaining three days!!And he wants to – not because he is forced.

The bottom line is that Work From Home is a perk – not an entitlement! By the way, the business press loves Marrisa Meyer’s policy change!

5 Responses

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  3. I completely agree – changing organisational culture (which Yahoo! clearly needs) is difficult as it is. With many people working from home, it becomes unattainable challenge. Was it an unpopular move? Yes, but sometimes a bitter pill is what doctor ordered. Hopefully proximity with others will help foster more innovation and team bonding…but if she is looking to recreate another Google campus here, that may be unrealistic.

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