Marissa Mayer’s latest business decision to revamp Yahoo has thrown the entire mobile workforce into frenzy. With no clear explanation given, employees of the Internet behemoth were informed that mobile working was no longer the approved status quo and everyone was expected to report to work. That is, at the office premises.
In this intelligent article, Farhad Manjoo argues that Ms. Mayer may have jumped the gun without taking into consideration her employees’, and by extension, the company’s work culture. The ban reveals her apparent cluelessness about how creative work occurs.
One theory behind Yahoo’s office-only policy is that it’s an effort to tackle those workers who are unproductive. The corporate giant’s HR memo also defends its working-from-home ban by pointing to the improvement in “collaboration and communication” that stems from being in the office—when people from different disciplines interact with one another, they come up with brilliant ideas together.
Ms. Mayer, the CEO, is apparently a devoted office worker and a workaholic who’s gotten ahead not just through talent but also by working longer hours than most other people. Yahoo is a web and media company, a firm teeming with engineers, designers, writers, and editors—people whose work not only can be accomplished remotely, but also people who may find working at home to be a better way to get things done. This decision suggests that Mayer doesn’t understand one of the most basic ideas about managing workers—that different people work in different ways, and that some kinds of pursuits are inhibited, rather than improved, by time in the office.
The working-from-home ban also reveals that Mayer doesn’t know how to measure her workers’ performance. Yahoo’s new rule will force remote workers to alter their work lives in a way that will lower their productivity. It will also put Yahoo at odds with just about every other tech company in Silicon Valley—firms that don’t impose such rules on working from home, and with whom Yahoo competes for talent.
Working at home isn’t for everyone. But if you can make it work for yourself, then working at home can be more productive, as office distractions will be at a minimum and no time will be wasted commuting to work. Studies have proven that people can be more productive when they’re allowed to work away from the office. Any organization whose success depends on maximizing its workers’ productivity ought to allow their employees some degree of flexibility. Plus, by allowing workers to work from anywhere managers must look at more important measurements of productivity.
Mr. Manjoo suggests, “Yahoo’s memo seems to suggest there’s a tension between the productivity gains to be had from remote working and the collaborative spirit fostered by people in close proximity to one another. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Companies with flexible policies can allow people to work at home a few days a week and from the office on other days. Modern communications technologies can also help.”