Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, recently made some big news. It wasn’t so much about Yahoo’s next potential innovation or financial situation. By now, most folks know it was her new corporate policy to ban any Yahoo employee from working at home.
The Internet seemed to catch fire afterward with both sides chiming in. “It’s a bad idea and Mayer should own up to her mistake, apologize and reinstate work-from-home.” Or, “it’s a good idea – Yahoo’s in a bad situation and all hands should be on deck.”
I remember years ago when I proposed the idea to my then colleagues that I was considering starting a consulting business from home. I probably spoke with 20 people about it. All 20 people said it was a bad idea. Feedback ranged all over the place such as, “you’re too young” or “it is plain old too risky.” But, what was interesting was the feedback from the few people that had previous experience working from home. They all said it’s not possible because I wouldn’t work. They told me they caught themselves watching TV too much or running extra long errands they’d never run if they were in an office, etc., etc.
Years later, they were all wrong. I found working from home was far more productive. Compared to working in the office, I was instantly completing twice to three times the number of “work” tasks daily. This was because of the elimination of all that office extracurricular activity, from gossip and politics to just plain wasteful meetings all the time. But, this was just my experience and results and, probably the experience of many just the same as the many that experience otherwise.
I’m not here to say working from home does work or it doesn’t. I really believe it’s a case-by-case basis. And, this seems to make it difficult for corporate leaders to ensure 100% of remote employees are being 100% productive the way they would be in the office. Some argue remote work also stifles collaboration. I can see their point. But, I can also easily see a point about office workers being far less productive. Either way, it’s an easier task to remedy any productivity and collaboration issues in an office setting. I can see that too. For remote workers, would corporations monitor them – maybe setup cameras and microphones in their homes? Maybe alarms would sound each time an employee left their designated work room and when they came back? Sounds ridiculous but, I can also see at some point that some corporation makes such a PR blunder, if someone already hasn’t.
Speaking of PR, I believe Mayer’s new policy is more of a PR play than anything. On the one hand, she may honestly believe that Yahoo’s employees right now are needed in their offices. She might be on the side of the fence that collaboration toward innovation can only be achieved this way. Whatever beliefs she has, I believe the new policy sends a key message to the media and the market that Yahoo is serious about changing their ways, whether intended or not. I know I’m glad to have heard that Yahoo is looking to become a tech player again over a media and entertainment portal. It’s a suggested path made before – one I believe is good for consumers – and this new policy establishes a perception of seriousness in Yahoo working toward this.