Work-Life Detours: Reflections on Yahoo’s Remote Work Policy Change

English: Yahoo! headquarters

English: Yahoo! headquarters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now many of you have heard the news about Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, requiring all remote workers, regardless of where they live, to become onsite office workers or else quit. Even those who telecommute one or two days a week will no longer be able to do so. If you haven’t heard about this, here’s the story in a nutshell:

I don’t know, of course, the details of the situation and, much less, Mayer’s decision-making process when she chose to steer things in this direction. However I will say that, from an outsider’s perspective, moves like this one will damage the trust and faith of productive remote workers towards organizations that can’t take steps to resolve problems without yanking employees back and forth with changes in policy. Organizational leaders do have the prerogative to change their minds and take things in another direction. However extreme policies requiring hundreds of employees to suddenly uproot their lives and relocate so suddenly will have negative repercussions as a side effect.

Hopefully, the level of attention this news is receiving will open up the necessary discourse to instigate more serious inquiry into how to objectively assess employees’ productivity. As I detailed in a previous post, They need to see you there to know that you are working… Not!, serious investigation has not been happening! Visual confirmation of people arriving and leaving the office at certain, appointed times does not constitute objective assessment of productivity. Visual confirmation that people have spent nearly 8 hours at their workstation does not constitute objective assessment of productivity. Tracking and measuring results however, is the way to objectively assess productivity.

So you think that having employees work side-by-side and interacting face-to-face will enhance collaboration? Yes, a certain amount of that may help some come up with new ideas, although many writers and artists do this very well on their own. Moreover, anyone who’s ever been in a relationship before knows that too much time spent together can also cause friction, fallout, and unnecessary drama. Being forced to share the same physical space for 40 hours a week is a recipe for magnifying all the little, irritating traits and behaviors you find in your fellow coworkers. I’m going to go out on a limb by saying that more studies should be conducted on the impact of forced “togetherness” (according to time duration) on the quality of relationships with coworkers.

Often I have stated that the only way to guarantee that you can dictate when, where, and how you work is through self-employment, tough though it is to become established. I had been a huge supporter for clients who’re trying to launch their small business but, alas, I watched as some of them had to eventually give up and return to the 9-to-5 world. This news comes at a time when I’m also compelled by extenuating circumstances, for the time being, to focus less on self-employment and take up an employment opportunity beginning next week. It’s a good opportunity though, somewhere further down the line, I expect to keep chipping away at establishing a situation in which I can dictate the manner by which I work. I just figure this way I won’t have to be at the mercy of situations such as the one Yahoo’s remote workers are currently facing. For the movement towards accepting remote work options however, I hope that the overwhelming responses to Yahoo’s policy change will help turn this into a case of “one step back, two steps forward.”

Note to readers:

I’ll continue to contribute content 2 or 3 times per week and will soon make available a list of source materials that are readily accessible online. Also, look forward to future posts by guest blogger, Frederick Pilot, on the subject of work system transitional strategy and infrastructure.

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