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!