Why Yahoo's 'no home working' rule will lead us back into the office

Yahoo wants its staff to work in the office, innovating and collaborating face to face instead of working from home. What's wrong with that?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

This week, the news surfaced that Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer wants the staff to come into the office and stop working from home. The news has not gone down well with workers at Yahoo.

Image: Ragesoss

AllThingsD published the text of the memo a few days ago:

Yahoo proprietary and confidential information — do not forward


Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productive, efficient, and fun. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals, and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we're asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn't just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

Thanks to all of you, we've already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to come.


I often work from home and see nothing wrong with the memo. If a company is paying me for my time, then it should be able to see me in the office on a regular basis. Yahoo wants its workers to collaborate face to face. There is nothing wrong with that

I get energised and fired up with ideas and new ways to do things when I am working in a team environment. It is much better than trying to innovate whilst being isolated from the rest of the group.

Google has advocated working face to face at its offices for a long time — and with free food for staff and their guests, laundry service, comfy seating areas, games, and other amenities, Googlers are often reluctant to go home.

Yahoo ex- employees have said that the work-from-home culture led to people "slacking off like crazy". And Yahoo will know who these people are.

Yahoo's internal IT team will have a really good view on what workers are doing on a day-to-day basis. Internal IT will have logs detailing what internet activities employees are doing, what sites they visit, and how long they spend on each site, such as Facebook or Google.

Sophisticated monitoring might even show what search terms are being used for searches on Bing or Google, and how much time is spent on each search engine, as well as which locations prefer which search engines.

If you are angry about this "intrusion" into your private life, go and read your terms of employment.

If you are accessing the internet from a company-owned machine, through the company proxy servers, then the company has a right to check your activities.

Remote working — once in a while — can be productive. But it can lead to a sense of isolation and feeling excluded from daily goings on.

Working in an office brings a much stronger sense of "belonging" and community than working remotely — even for one day a week. It can significantly increase the development of new ideas and innovation.

I have done both types of working, and much prefer the face-to-face bonding I get from working in an office with my team.

If Mayer wants to turn around the fortunes of Yahoo and become "the absolute best place to work", then Yahoos need to collaborate with each other — in person. Andrew Nusca, my ZDNet colleague, is right when he says that Mayer's goal is to "crush complacency in an 18-year-old internet company without an identity".

If you are working from home today, can you honestly say that you have not been complacent at some point during the day?

Are you sitting in your slouchy clothes, wandering away from the computer more often than you should to do home chores?

Or are you positively contributing to the company's success? If more companies looked at their internet activity logs, would we see more edicts to return to face-to-face, more productive working?

Perhaps the workers who are complaining the loudest are the ones who should take a long, hard look at just how much work they actually do.

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