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My Thoughts on Yahoo’s Decision to Ban Telecommuting

My thoughts on the Yahoo! CEO’s decision to ban telecommuting –

Marissa Mayer’s perspective that building a strong culture of communication and collaboration is something that happens much more effectively when team members are physically in the same location is something I know from experience to be true.  “Water cooler” conversations have a big impact on the collaborative culture of a company. It’s a place where random conversations can generally turn into productive, problem-solving sessions; especially when working on a high-functioning team.  If the team is dysfunctional in this area it takes hard work to overturn the current culture in order to establish a new culture.

For several understandable reasons Mayer has issued a strict ban on telecommuting effective June 1, 2013. But, I do Telecommuter Malehope in time she will relax the strictness of the policy a little as Yahoo! begins to see the outcomes needed to remain competitive. Personally, I’m a Yahoo! fan; I prefer it’s interface, intuitiveness, and productive use much more than I do Google’s; but I cannot deny that Google is much more creative and innovative than Yahoo!.  These are traits you see in highly collaborative work teams. Perhaps this change will help Yahoo! in this area.

Considering all of Yahoo’s current product failures and it’s inability to hire and manage the talent needed to remain competitive, we’re short-sighted when we choose to see this ban as an all out attack on telecommuting. Clearly the rampant abuse and overall lack of oversight and performance management is a systemic issue at Yahoo. It’s killing the company at large. Someone with strong leadership had to step up and tighten the reins, to weed out problem employees and rebuild a functional workforce. Sometimes in the weeding-out process you lose valuable team-members. But to continue on the path to corporate self-destruction would be more devastating in the long run. They have many performance and management issues at Yahoo; this is just one step in cleaning up shop. I believe the ban will be lifted in time.

On the flip side, this move will cause a hardship on families. Anyone caring for children and/or aging parents have some difficult decisions to make. Most public education organizations and elder care facilities are working with tighter budgets, therefore requiring parents and caregivers to do more than ever. You have to wonder how much of our workforce even has the option of returning to an inflexible work schedule.

Perhaps Yahoo! will lose some of it’s top talent with this change. But perhaps it will also create a great pool of talent for the smaller, less known companies who are in a better position to offer telecommuting and home-life balance.  Seeing the challenges Yahoo! is currently facing is a clear indication that it’s time to manage talent more closely.

Now, without siting any sources, here are a few comments others have made.  I’m adding them here just to give a more well-rounded perspective on this hot topic.

  • I think it’s probably a wimpy way of making what the CEO claims are necessary staff cutbacks, since I’m sure many people will now have no other choice but to resign. However, as much as I want to disagree completely and say it was an insane decision, some of the CEO’s comments made sense to me in the context of the company’s history and the major reasons for its difficulties.
  • My question is, “What is the exact problem that led to this ban? And how can they address the exact problem without a complete ban on telecommuting?” It may be necessary in some instances but a blanket ban seems excessive.
  • It is a well known fact that there is a “un tapped” market of skilled professionals that are no longer in the job market because of the lack of telecommuting and remote work opportunities. I too had to leave a position that I loved when my daughter was born because of a new corporate initiative that required for all personnel to be on-site 5 days a week.
  • More and more studies and employees, CEO’s, and consultants are finding that when you recruit top talent and take care of your employees and don’t get in their way of being human (having lives, homes, needing to wait for the cable guy sometimes), then you win, period.
  • I’ve read several articles on this and have concluded that Yahoo had no better alternative. True, it’s not a great decision, but the alternatives (including leaving the current telework program in place) must have been worse.
  • If they had employees who were not trustworthy or not towing the line, I wish they could have addressed those individuals. Maybe they tried. It brings to mind the teacher who criticizes and disciplines the whole class because a handful of students are not doing what they are supposed to do. Maybe she felt that the issue was an epidemic sweeping through the telecommuting employees at Yahoo, and once again, I am not in her shoes.
  • I’ve been in situations before where a blanket approach, such as this, was used, and rather than weeding out the untrustworthy employees or developing them into better employees, it just brought everyone down, including the top performers, who quickly started finding work elsewhere. And any hope for new collaborating turned into employees collaborating about their complaints and their desires to work elsewhere…
  • There’s clearly some people at Yahoo! who have been able to hide their lack of productivity at home. Those are the real targets here. It won’t surprise me if the policy is reversed at some point, but they have to change the culture first. The culture has been the target of most of her moves up to this point, so I applaud her efforts.
  • …That is why Marissa is the CEO of Yahoo and not you. If everything in the world was run on basis of just books, anyone can run the companies, they would not need a person like Marissa and pay her millions. Let’s face it, Marissa brought in changes like iPhones to all staff, and we now know that change is working. The condition Yahoo is currently in, Marissa sees Yahoo has two choices – employees can come in to change the culture she likes to see OR employees can stay at home (as Yahoo will go down the drain, like many other before it).

So, what are your thoughts?

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