By February 26, 2013 Read More →

Yahoo bans working from home

No working from home for Yahoo employees from June

Marissa Mayer at ChirpSo yesterday the net was buzzing with the news that Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has banned employees from working from home. Everyone is asking whether this is the end of the home and flexible working ‘honeymoon’ or a flatfooted step back into the employment dark ages.

I’ve struggled to make any sense of the development. But then I’m a self-employed home worker writing mainly for other freelancers and small business owners working from home, so I see things rather differently from the head of a large organisation, and from an employee.

Obviously Yahoo has some fundamental problems that need to be addressed. I have to admit my first cynical response was to suspect Ms Mayer is trying to cut costs without expensive redundancies and is expecting many of those affected to vote with their feet.

But that would mean losing some of her best people, wouldn’t it? When I researched my book, I was struck by how privileged people felt to work from home and how they felt they wanted to somehow repay that by putting in extra time and/or effort. Working from home is generally seen as a big perk if you’re employed.

I can relate to part of the Yahoo memo, that ‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings’. Those are the bits you miss when you’re working from home, and the reason I got involved in Jelly and use a coworking space.

But mainly I struggle to understand where Mayer is coming from – ‘Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home’. Really? I haven’t worked in an office for a corporate employer for over 20 years so maybe I’m missing something.

It shouldn’t be any big shock that Mayer isn’t a champion of flexible working. The last time she was in the news it was for taking just two weeks maternity leave when her first child was born last year and then for saying she was surprised how easy the baby was.

Time will tell what Mayer is trying to achieve and how well she does it, but let’s end on a more positive note. Tina Ross, a home working archaeological illustrator, sent me the link to an article containing this quote from Matt Mullenweg, head of Automattic and one of the primary developers of WordPress –

“The center of gravity for an organization should be as close to what they make as possible. If you make cars, you need people in the factory. If you breed horses, be in the stable. If you make the Internet, live on the Internet, and use all the freedom and power it gives you.”

I like that and it makes sense. What do you think?

Photo credit: jolieodell

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2 Comments on "Yahoo bans working from home"

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  1. Alan says:

    Like you I’ve struggled to understand the rationale behind the decision, I feel there’s a part of the puzzle that’s not apparent at the moment.

    That said, on the face of it, it does appear to be a massive backward step. A persons work should be measured on outcomes, this is no different for an office, flexible or home worker.

    In my “day job” I manage a team of 22, all have the opportunity to work flexibly. None do so everyday, but most a day or two a week. The nature of the work is that they can do that very effectively, but there are times when they need to be in the office. On that basis I understand the “hallway and cafeteria” comment, but seriously; everyday? I think not.

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but one of Marissa Mayer’s tasks is to improve profit. Obviously growth is one way to achieve this, but so is cutting base costs. Whilst some people may leave, and redundancy payments be avoided, energy costs and related charges will rises, eroding profitability.

    So either there is a piece of the picture missing, or this is an incredible backward step. I’m willing to go with the benefit of the doubt for now.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Alan. My main concern about Yahoo’s decision is that it might have a negative impact on employees who could do themselves and their companies a lot of good by working from home, but whose requests to do so might get slung back at them by managers using this as a reason. I really hope not.

      Like you I think there’s something significant we’re not being told. It will certainly be interesting to observe how this pans out.