Yahoo’s Work From Home Controversy – Thoughts and Your Opinions

by Darwin on February 26, 2013

This past week, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer announced a ban on employees working from home.  This, in a culture where many, many employees were used to doing this for years.  Here are a few thoughts on this particular announcement, implications for businesses elsewhere and then I’ll share a few thoughts on my personal experience with working from home flexibility in my role:

Yahoo’s Announcement:

  • Going Backward?  It seems kind of odd for a company that was once at the forefront of the web/tech movement to be moving in the opposite direction of US companies in general.  Many companies are moving MORE toward remote work whereas this one-time beacon of lavish benefits and perks is now going back to 1990.  However, consider that Facebook, Google and many other “competitors” don’t actually have widespread remote work.  Yahoo’s leadership cites that they’re in a very collaborative space so it doesn’t work.  At the end of the day, I can’t judge them.  If they sense that they’re not getting as much collaboration and productivity out of their workforce, they have to do what they have to do.
  • Changing the Rules – This is surely going to piss off a lot of existing employees that were hired under a set of rules which was probably a key determinant in taking the job, compensation and possibly, over the years, passing on other opportunities.  That leads me to my next point…
  • Saves on Severance -The moment I saw the headline, I’d tweeted that this will surely have a hidden benefit of saving on severance costs.  I’m seeing this in my company.  When you have more employees than you need, you either lay off or force them out by making them unhappy.  We’ve seen all kinds of cuts to bonuses, annual raises, increasing workloads and other factors that are slowly forcing employees out the door to “greener pastures”.  That’s saving millions each year in severance packages!  Surely, Yahoo will experience the same “benefit”.

 

My Experience With Work from Home

  • The Hours are Blurred – I’ve written in the past about being a Project Manager, but essentially, it’s a very self-directed, matrix-reporting structure job where there’s really not much difference whether I’m in the office or in my home.  The reason is, most of my team members are in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.  So, I end up on the phone at home or on the phone at work.  If all my team members were local, I could see going in each day, but since most of my work is over the phone, the only benefit I derive by going into work a few days a week is collaboration with my other peer project managers to see what they’re experiencing or the occasional meeting with a higher up.  But the key issue that drives work from home also is the crazy hours due to time zone differences.  I’ve had some calls at 6AM and sometimes have calls at 9PM or 10PM.  Surely you would agree it would be unreasonable to expect people to be in their offices at those times, so I’d argue if it’s OK to do those calls from home, why not do a 9AM or 1PM call from home?  It’s the same work.   Additionally, since the hours are so blurred, there’s no real scrutiny or poor perception if you run to the gym over lunch or even run an errand during the day since you’re often working at night or before normal work hours.  They know they’re getting well over 40 hours per week out of us, so the hours are a bit blurred.  The expectation is you’re normally reachable and online during normal business hours but if you’re not occasionally, it’s understood that your off-hours work is making up for it.
  • Prove Yourself and Make it Work – Our group of Project Managers likes to work from home usually 1-2 days per week.  Nobody does it everyday so as to not give the impression it’s being abused, but at the same time, we all make it work.  If our output or results were lacking, it might cause our management to rethink their position.  By continuously turning in strong results and meeting all requirements (being online most of the day, executing projects well, etc.), this perk continues.
  • HUGE Retention Benefit – I’ve been in the same role for 4 years now.  I’ve usually jumped around to new roles every 2-3 years but I have to admit I’ll hate losing this perk since most other jobs at my company don’t have the same capability.  I’ve been looking this year, but at this point, I’m only leaving for a promotion, not a lateral.  I enjoy the work, and being able to work from home once per week lets me get to my kids’ school events, save a few bucks on gas/dry cleaning, get a jog in over lunch and any number of other benefits that I wouldn’t enjoy otherwise.

What Are Your Thoughts on Work From Home Arrangements?

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam@Pennysaverblog March 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I used to think that I wouldn’t enjoy working from home, but when I take into consideration the length of time it takes me to commute and the cost of gas and the inconvenience of driving on winter roads, working from home is becoming more and more appealing to me.

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2 Super Saver March 10, 2013 at 9:38 pm

In case people hadn’t noticed, they are getting a paycheck from the employer. If the employer requires working in the office , that’s part of the requirement to get a paycheck. Working from home is a privelege, not a right.

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3 Meow March 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

I’m doing 25% of my work from home. If my employer pulled something like this I’d be gone in a few months… Working from home is the only chance they have at keeping me. I lower than market pay specifically because I get to work some hours from home.

I imagine many people will leave yahoo over this… This is regressive thinking, from an increasingly less relevant tech company.

@Super Saver: Both “privilege” and “right” are loaded emotional words, irrelevant to this discussion. Employment is a business contract, your using words more suited for discussions pertaining to a juicebox day care.

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4 S. B. March 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I feel like this is a complicated issue with a lot of pros and cons. I’ve worked on projects where everyone worked from home, where everyone came to the office, and where projects were distributed across the country at sites. Working from home saves employee time as relates to commuting and daycare issues, which generally makes employees happier and more willing to stay with the company. It also works better for people who have trouble blocking out the office noise.

Now some of the people I’ve worked with would kill me for saying this, but since I’m anonymous here, I’ll just come out and say there can be problems. I’ve seen it abused, and I’ve seen projects suffer from a lack of face to face meetings and the ability to poke your head around the corner and ask a quick question and get immediate feedback with body language.

So while I understand what Mayer was trying to do, I feel this is a very big gamble for Yahoo. It may help in some cases, but they may have good people quit or lose motivation. Generally, blanket policies of all sorts are shortsighted. My opinion is they should have tried to achieve the whiteboard stuff they are after without a blanket ban on WFH.

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5 Amy @ JobCred CV Builder March 25, 2013 at 5:20 am

I guess every worker has a different work arrangement advantage. Some may only be effective under the usual work environment, others at home. Company regulation is crucial in this case in terms of assessing the nature of jobs that are ideally fixed per quantity of work.

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6 Modest Money November 24, 2013 at 9:08 am

When this news came out, many people were dismayed. We thought Marissa had “leaned in” too much! Few months the line and research and studies come out showing that it might be more beneficial for workers to actually show up. Maybe they were sponsored maybe not. Bottom line is, I think it will be different for each company…some companies collaborate well virtually, others need the physical interaction to work.
Where we are headed though, I think we’ll be seeing more of telecommunting or a hybrid system where employees work some days from home. The technology is there to smoothly facilitate this.

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