Should all staff members work in the office? Yahoo thinks so

Should all staff members work in the office? Yahoo thinks so

Summary: Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, recently sent out a memo to Yahoo staff members telling them that by June they'll be required to work at a Yahoo office rather than from home. Will the law of unintended consequences hurt Yahoo because of this move? I think so.

TOPICS: Telework

During my morning news scan, I came across an article, "Yahoo Ban on Employees Working From Home a Risky Move: Analysts," authored by a long-time friend, Todd Weiss and thought it was a good analysis of Marissa Mayer's, Yahoo CEO, recent move to make all Yahoo staff work from one of Yahoo's offices. Her memo told Yahoo staff that working from home will no longer be allowed after June.

While this rather extreme, counter tech culture move might be a seen as a tool for forcing staff to work together, I think that law of unintended consequences will come into play and high-performing staff will move elsewhere rather than moving to San Francisco to work in a Yahoo corporate office.

I've been a telecommuter for nearly two decades. While at IDC and the 451 Group, many of my coworkers worked remotely and visited the office only when needed. We often won awards for productivity and, yet, were available to support sales, customers and other staff members when needed. Some of my colleagues chose to relocate to places that were close to family or to places they loved.

The physical distance between members of my staff seldom got in the way of collaboration because tools where put in place.  Staff meetings were conducted regularly using audio and video conferencing. Collaborative applications allowed staff to share documents, spreadsheets and presentation decks. Physical meetings where scheduled when we were all attending the same event or conference. If anything, staff appeared to work more hours and were more productive because they were able to focus on accomplishing their goals rather than spending hours fighting traffic and finding parking spaces.

Let's look at a few of the unintended consequences of Ms Mayer's move:

  • It may become difficult for Yahoo to attract the very best employees because these people may not wish to work in San Francisco or other cities in which Yahoo has an office. If that is an issue for a potential staff member, they'll simply find positions elsewhere at companies that are more flexible.
  • Staff who work from home to care for elderly or ill family members may find that impossible when forced to move away to be in a Yahoo office. They may be unwilling or unable to make that move.
  • Remote employees may not wish to spend a measurable part of their day commuting. Traffic in the greater San Francisco area or other large cities can become quite a problem to those used to a 15-step commute.
  • Remote employees may be facing the sale of a home in a low-cost area and then the pain of finding similar accommodations in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country. When they see that their standard of living is going to decline dramatically, they may simply choose not to go. Furthermore, unless Yahoo is going to help with moving expenses and expenses related to the sale of a home, remote staff members are going to experience negative consequences of Yahoo's move.

While I understand the desire to make teams work together in a more cohesive fashion, just telling people who already work elsewhere that they're going to have to pick up and move to keep their job is not likely to build the harmony Ms. Mayer is seeking.

I guess we're all going to get to see the impact of this "grand social experiment" Yahoo has undertaken. 

Topic: Telework


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • Talking about CEO...

    The previous one and founder Jerry Yang screwed up and now its Marissa Mayer's turn to accelerate that effort. Yahoo should have been in Google position now if they made the right decisions.

    I also foresee HP circling the drain in the near future.
  • for decades people did not work from home

    Except for slaves working in their "walled garden", but i digress...

    "Work from home" allows the potential for abuse... lawn mowing and sun bathing being more important to some than working in the virtual cube...
    • I dont know what type of you know

      but the people i know have real work to do real call to join and real reports that needs to be submitted. so if i join the calls you know i am there if i submit my reports and love it you know i am working and am just that good and if the tickets are being closed and escalation being handled with care than what the heck are you try to insinuate.
      • Completely agree

        I have 6 employees that work remote for me. They are assigned tasks that consume an 8-10 hour day and they complete those tasks on time and on budget with very high quality - no re-work at all! They are great contributors to our team and are great contributors to our Company. If any of these 6 can complete tasks that normally would take the "average person" 8-10 hours to complete in say 5-6 hours, I get the same quality product in less time and I even get additional tasks and accomplishments done in that short amount of time as well and they then have 5 hours to "mow the lawn", "sun bath", "whatever", then you know what, that's pefectly fine with me. They deserve it for doing their jobs (and more) in half the time it would normally take. As for "meeting face to face". Come on people, this is 2013, anyone ever hear of web conferencing? Yahoo is a dead Company, meaning Marissa Mayer is an insignificant CEO and like most CEO's, she is under-qualified to be in the position she is in. Most CEO's these days have no idea of what vertical business markets they are competing in. For the most part, they are glorified (overpaid) salesmen and saleswomen, just like Ms. Mayer. If she wants to set her Company back 10 years, I say, let her. It won't make any difference. Their done.
    • What's wrong with Sun bathing if you got nothing to do?

      Why waste time sitting in the office when you have done the job for the day.
    • If managers are measuring RESULTS not their location...

      HypnoToad72, I'm not sure what organization you're thinking about. Most staff members have to produce measurable results on time and on budget. While highly productive staff members might be able to mow the lawn or get a tan on company time, it is also likely that they started earlier and left later than their in-office counterparts.

      The key is that management must measure results rather than a staff member's location or clothing.

      Dan K
  • It's good to be the queen

    Marissa used company funds to build a nursery adjacent to her office:

    This way her office can be like a home for her. For the rest of the staff, you get nothing--except blame for why Yahoo is in the mess it is in.

    But this is typical of most business leaders, blame the peons and ignore all of the leadership failures. And then, just before things collapse, you load the bags of money on to your helicopter and fly off to your next assignment.
    • Marissa did not use company funds

      The article you link to states that Marissa Mayer paid for the nursery with her own funds. That being said, I disagree completely with her decision to ban remote working. My wife and I have worked remotely for years and are very productive. I do agree with you that there is a middle and executive management problem and that the ban is going to hurt company moral even more so. Maybe Marissa Mayer will pay for nurseries or even day care for all her employees with children.
  • Time will tell

    This could have been a real concern of hers to get people collaborating in the office to steer Yahoo on the right track. It can also be an effective HR stunt that she pulled, most CEO's today only know of one way to cut costs and that is with retrenchments and lay-offs. If this is her aim, she will have a large number of resignations soon and she doesn't have to go through all the legalities of laying people off.

    The problem at this stage is that Yahoo is not disruptive. They only focussing on improving what they have, a new email interface, great, I will use it with my Google and Outlook accounts. They don't have search anymore as they are now using Bing, some of their API's are really very good, but that is where they stay.

    I've expected her, being the 20th employee at Google and living through the real disruptive days at Google where they took over the market, to display more of that behaviour. Sadly, they are not innovative anymore, and therefore I think this "working from office" is nothing more than a discounted HR move to save money.
  • Yahoo Employees - Stop Yer Whinin'

    I think it’s great to get these slackers back into the office. Yahoo has been passed by by so many technology companies. This is not entirely the fault of the employees; management made major blunders too. But in my opinion, the Yahoo workforce is complacent. I personally know 11 or 12 people that work for Yahoo that are currently FULL TIME employees at other companies and start-ups. I'm not jealous of them by any means. The issue really comes down to FOCUS. If you are working for someone else or working at home, there is no one there to ensure you are focused on the tasks you are responsible for. Yes, I know we are in 2013 and slackers abound and want to say they get more work done at home than at work. That, my friend, is a personal issue. I get as much done at work as I do when I work remotely. Why? Because my personal work ethic demands it; has nothing to do with the company. Its also because I am focused and I get done what I am supposed to get done; and give no lame excuses. Lastly, I agree Yahoo employees should get back to work because any company that is languishing in its portfolio performance (both technologically and in the stock market) needs to "step it up". If you don't like working in the office, "take your talents elsewhere". But here is the catch (said in a hushed voice) - you will still have to go into the office. LOL !!! The reason Yahoo can't be a top producer and competitor is because "some" (not all) of their employees (and some management) are slackers and complacent and bring absolutely no value to the company; they are dead weight that need to leave.

    If Yahoo is to ever get any form of a swagger back, these slackers have to step up or step off.
    • Hmmm, sounds like a management problem

      Managers who dont keep track of what their employees are doing.

      And senior managers who are afraid to make tough decisions, like laying off unproductive workers.
  • You do what the boss says

    and thats that.
    I Am Galactus