Yahoo To Telecommuters: Get Your [Body] Into The Office

by: cassandracarolina

Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 12:57:46 PM EST

Well, happy Monday morning, Yahoo employees. Looks like your telecommuting days have come to an end.

Silicon Valley firms are known for cushy perks: free food, bringing your dog to work and so on. But starting in June, Yahoo employees will lose the benefit of working from home. According to an internal memo leaked on Friday to The Wall Street Journal's by numerous disgruntled Yahoo employees, the new policy calls for workers "physically being together."

"We need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices... Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home," reads the memo from Jacqueline Reses, a private equity veteran brought on board by Mayer in September to be the company's HR boss.

You can always count on those humorless "Human" Resources folks to rain on the parade with their one-size-fits all policies. They don't worry much about the "human" side of things. That's why you hear them referring to "humans" as "talent". They're into "talent acquisition", "talent management", and "talent development". Then, at the end of your "talent life cycle", there's "talent disposal". When your "HR" people aren't even part of your own organization, they're free to do their best work, unconstrained by the possibility of having actually met (or - heaven forbid - become attached to) the employees.

For anyone who thought that CEO Marissa Mayer would continue the generally people-friendly policies of her previous workplace (Google), you can kiss that sh*t goodbye. She's clearly focused on the bottom line, and if you're not riding the profitability bus to the end of the line with her, you'd best get off right now.

Ms. Mayer is clearly a business-first type of person, having returned to work as the CEO within a few weeks of giving birth. Then again, she has the resources to enable her to do so. Most of us don't have a nanny, housekeeper, errand person, personal shopper, dog walker, or other domestic staff on our payroll.

She's also shrewd enough to realize that the best way to make the bottom line look better in the near term is to cut costs. The biggest costs are usually those pesky employees. Laying them off, though, is a costly business, what with severance pay and all that paperwork. However... if you can get them all to quit on their own out of anger, frustration, and resentment, it's a work of pure genious.

As a veteran of 37 years in corporate America, and veteran telecommuter, your intrepid diarist has a few ideas about this misbegotten Yahoo plan. Follow along below for more...

cassandracarolina :: Yahoo To Telecommuters: Get Your [Body] Into The Office
I began telecommuting when my 62-mile-each-way commute was getting to be a major time sink during winter weather in New England. I worked at home one or two days a week in the peace and quiet of my home in the country. I got plenty done, far more, in fact, than I'd get done in a typical day in the office. Without (1) the time lost commuting and (2) the time wasted with interruptions and distractions and (3) time wasted going off site to buy lunch, I gained about three hours a day.

I was still successful. My clients, coworkers, and management could reach me any time of the day (we were banned from using cell phones while driving, so I was now accessible during that time). I invested in a robust printer/copier/scanner and good broadband service. I could listen to classical music and work in the sun-lit breakfast nook, taking calls with no background conversations or office noise. It was all good.

Later, when I had a job with extensive interaction with colleagues around the world, telecommuting made even better sense. My workday adapted to the demands of the job. I took a break for supper and a few hours, then got on calls with folks in Hong Kong, Christchurch, Perth, Shenzhen, Brisbane, and other far off places at 11:00 at night. I'd get up early for calls with London. Going into the office wouldn't have made any difference: these people weren't in my office. With the benefit of video teleconferencing - whether at the office or via web cams - we could achieve what we needed to achieve and feel a real connection to one another.

Maybe Yahoo's different, but I doubt it. Forcing people to traipse to the office every day won't necessarily inspire that serendipitous collaborative spark. It will, however, serve as a loud and uambiguous wake-up call to Ms. Mayer's employees that it's time to leave for more truly collaborative pastures.

Those who heed the call will typically be the more gifted, visionary, entrepreurial folks. They'll have no difficulty landing new jobs where their bright ideas, individuality, and flexibility will be seen as "features" rather than "bugs". They'll be the innovators that help Yahoo's competitors continue to eat Yahoo's lunch. In the near term, Yahoo's stock price - and Ms. Mayer's reputation as a non-nonsense CEO - may do very well. Wall Street will love this "crush the little people" story. Yahoo's employees, customers, and business partners will be the ones paying the price.

Those telecommuters who remain at Yahoo whether by choice or as a result of real or perceived wage-slave indenture will hardly be in a frame of mind to lead the company to new heights. At that point, an infusion of outsiders will likely be the next "fix". Since their new HR czarina has decreed that:

"Hiring, managing and incentivizing talent will be of key importance"

we can look forward to much more rigorous screening, indoctrination, and regimentation of prospective employees. "Incentivizing" employees, though? I'd have to wonder whether telecommuting privileges aren't among the most valued incentives. Personally, I would rather forsake the next paltry salary increase or meaningless change of title and grab for the telecommuting gold.

Whether this is the beginning of the end for Yahoo, or a business coup of the decade by new CEO Marissa Mayer remains to be seen. What is clear - as it has been for a long time - is that having a CEO who's a working mother doesn't ensure that working parents will catch a break. Far from it. They'll have to make difficult and painful choices if they want to keep working at Yahoo. Some will walk away from what they considered good jobs at a great place. Maybe that's exactly what Ms. Mayer is hoping.  

What's your telecommuting experience?
I work from home full time
I work from home part time
I have to go to an office every day
I work in the field and in the office
I'm self-employed and do whatever I want
I'm not currently employed


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Tips for hardworking telecommuters (2.00 / 18)
and hopes for a massive Yahoo brain drain

Brain walking out

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

Man are they going to have a brain drain!!! It might be (2.00 / 12)
humorous to watch......  maybe  

They may be looking for an excuse to offshore some of their coding stuff.  Just a thought.  I can go on a huge rant about that subject...

[ Parent ]
When the brain drain starts, it usually accelerates (2.00 / 10)
once the more senior people land jobs with competitors and come back to raid their old place for the junior and mid-level people who know how to get things done.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
It's a Sign. (2.00 / 6)
Yahoo isn't all that anymore.

It's the "empty onion" syndrome. The key folks start leaving, the folks who were the 2nd generation leave, and so forth. You end up with a large empty shell of process and lifers.

And all this just when remote tools are beginning to get mature.

Yahoo jumped the shark years ago. Now it's making Joanie Loves Chachi spin offs...

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
For an opposing view on telecommuting.... (2.00 / 13)
I'm telecommuting full time and have been since the beginning of November last year, 4 months.  I was allowed to telecommute after having been a contract employee for just short of a year and had been kicking ass on the assignments given.  To be blunt, they wouldn't have gotten as far as they did on the project if I weren't there.

I have been kept out of discussions, decisions and lots of conversations as a result of telecommuting now.  I do have a soft phone on my laptop, instant messaging, and email.  I do use them all.  But, since "they" put the project that I was hired for on hold, the 8.30 teleconferences have stopped - the senior pgmr didn't like them to begin with.  I have found that I've lost a whole lot of human contact that I generally need (for someone as introverted as I am, this was a shock to realize that I do enjoy being with people some of the time).  I hear nothing, even when I ask.

However, that could be because I'm contract and the 'real' employees don't really want to get too close because I could be gone at any time for whatever reason.  The company has no vested interest in me.  I'm the hired help and treated as such.  Those of you old enough will know what that means.  (and people wonder why I'm so anxious about the outcome of the interview I had 3 weeks ago - that seems like forever when I type it, but it also seems like yesterday.)

nchristine, you raise some excellent points (2.00 / 8)
As a telecommuter, I had to ensure that I wasn't left out of the loop on important stuff (while trying to get out of the loop on worthless, time-consuming drivel). Much of the time I was employed, my boss was in another far-off office. Making sure that they knew what I was doing (and keeping other important people briefed, since sometimes they were more supportive than my boss) was an important function.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
Indeed. (2.00 / 8)
[...]while trying to get out of the loop on worthless, time-consuming drivel.

And isn't it characteristic that management types who balk at telecommuting are often so gung-ho about boring and useless meetings at every turn? During my years in the corporate world, meetings were the single biggest waste of time and productivity I ever experienced.

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Meetings were a HUGE waste of time, sklsfca (2.00 / 9)
Usually one person - probably my borderline-personality-disorder boss - would use the meeting to scream and berate one or more of us, as the rest sat in stony silence praying that the meeting would just end. Other meetings were simply self-congratulatory love fests that we managed to meet some already-delayed-six-times deadline.

I much preferred actually working.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
When I worked in cubicle world, I would start weeping when I heard that they were calling a meeting. (2.00 / 9)
It meant that I would fall behind on all my projects and be stuck in a room with people (bosses!!) who had nothing better to do than sit around yammering about something or other.

And then if the meetings were to put in place some absolutely useless management tool like Six Sigma (that basically curtails all productivity and creativity) it was a double whammy.  

As a consultant, I am rarely asked to sit in on meetings because I charge by the hour and my time is not "free" like it may appear to be for an employee's time.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
I can well imagine weeping, JanF! (2.00 / 6)
One time, long ago, someone added up the cost per minute of a large meeting where people had flown in from all over. It was some humongous number. NO MEETING is worth that!

My most recent employer invested a lot in video teleconferencing systems, and all the managers reduced their travel budgets accordingly. Then it turns out that the systems weren't working, and people still needed to have SOME meetings face-to-face, but by then, all overhead travel was banned unless authorized by the Pope a senior VP.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
20 years ago... (2.00 / 11)
...I worked for a very disagreeable man, as the network administrator for his accounting firm. He kept making a lot of noises about wanting to get the office "ready for the 21st century" but one day when I went home for lunch I did some online research on my home computer for something he'd wanted, and emailed him the results (this was through CompuServe). He got all irate and told me never to "telecommute" again. LOLOL!

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

slksfca, as I expected, you have been ahead of your time (2.00 / 8)
for many years!

The savvy companies were investing in telecommuting long ago, and putting in place policies that empowered employees rather than treating them as recently paroled inmates in need of constant monitoring. It's only a lousy economy that allows today's rampant management malfeasance.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
I firmly believe... (2.00 / 9)
...that allowing employees the most possible control over their own schedules and use of time is good both for morale and for business. Best way to get folks to act like grown-ups is to treat them as such. It's the petty, nitpicking monitoring that makes people want to "beat the system" in every little devious way they can.

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
People will rise to the level of expectations (2.00 / 6)
placed on them. I was a line manager for about a third of my career. I found that the people WANT to do well, to excel, to go beyond their comfort zone. They need the tools and encouragement to do so, but it's really the encouragement that makes the difference. I had employees who would take on all kinds of new tasks, even teaching themselves the skills on their own time if necessary, and eager to share their knowledge with others once they became proficients.

I've also been on completely dysfunctional teams where the team sport is backstabbing one's colleagues, hoarding work, and otherwise shortchanging the customers and management as part of some revenge scenario.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
Yes, treat people like the responsible adults they are (2.00 / 4)
the company I work for is good at this in some ways, not so good in others.  We get 'unlimited' sick days, for instance - if you're out like 3 or more days in a row, they'll probably want a doctor's note, but otherwise they don't count how many you've had over the course of the year, etc.  I just wish they'd carry that over to telecommuting.  

They do allow 'work from home', but only in certain circumstances, and HR starts looking at it if you do more than x number of days per year.  You can arrange for a permanent 'flex' schedule that allows you to work from home one or two days a week, but there's all kinds of paperwork and hoops you have to go through to get that approved, and mostly it is only approved for medical reasons or family leave/care situations.  So for someone like me who doesn't have those issues, but who does have a 50+ mile commute (1 way), it's not an option.  

[ Parent ]
Avilyn, companies will have to evolve (2.00 / 3)
before the economy picks up if they want to attract and retain good people and get the best from them. Sometimes they take the simplistic view that people just want more money. I know people - myself included - who've changed jobs for LESS money but better work or quality of life. Companies should ASK employees which things mean the most to them. Flexible schedule? Telecommuting? More vacation or sick time? Often there's a disconnect between what employees want and what company owners imagine.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
Yikes! (2.00 / 12)
Telecommuting is good for the environment and reduces stress. Yes, it can be isolating because you can't roll your desk chair into the next cubicle and chat with a colleague but that is why we have the Internets. When I need human contact, I open my web browser and ... voila ... here all y'alls are!!

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

I retired from Chevron (Kingwood, TX) in 1999. While telecommuting (2.00 / 12)
was pretty much an in the future thing, we did have two options which made for happy employees.  The first option was a compressed work week.  Our pay periods were 10-8 hours days.  We could choose to work those 80 hours in 9 days with the 10th day off.  Voila, a 3-day week-end every two weeks.  The second option was a flexible schedule.  We had to be in our offices between 9am-3 pm but when we started and ended our workdays was up to us.  I generally worked 7am-4pm but some our engineers and chemists worked from 9 am until whenever.  We were all very happy with these arrangements.

"I base most of my fashion sense on whether or not it itches"  -- Gilda Radner

Flexible work weeks and schedules are great, pittiepat (2.00 / 10)
What's super-ironic to me is that in my last stint with my former dysfunctional employer, my boss - who managed a group of about 40 people - took every Friday off. The rest of the time, she was essentially checked out, but showing up to work anyway. After I was laid off, many of the senior people in the group quit, and the boss has been stripped of any line management responsibility, but she is still employed.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
i'm a true believer in a 4 day work week. (2.00 / 6)
i didn't always have that nice option when i was self employed, just too much to do, but when i cooked and now dog walking, i've asked and been given a 4 day week. would much rather work 10+ hour days and have 3 days off. 2 days is just never enough time to recover, at least for me.

'incentivizing talent', man do i despise corporate speak! seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.

[ Parent ]
Yes! (2.00 / 2)
Saturday is recovering from the Monday-Friday rush, then Sunday is doing laundry & stuff to prepare for the coming work week.  There needs to be an extra day in there.  Many people at my company have asked for that, but it won't happen because we're in the financial industry and so long as NYSE & the other exchanges are open, we're open.  Hm, maybe I need to start lobbying the NYSE to only open 4 days a week....  ;-)

[ Parent ]
THANK YOU for diarying this, Cassandra! (2.00 / 10)
When I read this on the "crawl" while watching the first 20 minutes of "Good Morning, Hysteria," today I was PISSED.  Sorry for using terrible language, but that's how I felt.

Wish I could rec your diary 1,000 times.  Telecommuting was my favorite thing in my last job.  We were allowed to do it one or two days a week until the Fiend who took over from the previous manager stopped it. If I'd been allowed to telecommute I might still be working:  as it is, I left on St. Paddy's Day, 2006.  Every day since then has been absolute bliss.

I still work at home, I just don't get paid for it now.  I blog, I write short stories, I write in my (online) journal.  Have an office with a window that looks out into the street ("Wow, I see the Fed Ex truck!  Wow, here's the post office van!  Whoopee, there are the garbage guys!") and LOTS of music. I am happier than a curly-tailed piggy wallowing in mud.

Telecommuting is the most wonderful thing in the world apart from retirement. Not having to put up with time-wasting colleagues--yay!  Not having to put up with idiotic meetings that are nothing but an ego trip for some company biggy--yay again!  Not having to fret and fume through the worst traffic in the nation--hip, hip, hurrah!

Telecommuting doesn't suit everyone's personality (my son, in sales, hates it) nor does it suit every job category.  But those of us who love, or loved it, swear by it.  

Yep, I hope there is a purple-faced tide of employees planning to leave Yahoo in June or sooner.

If I get this job, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll (2.00 / 9)
be asking to telecommute 1-3 days a week after, say 9 months of being there.  I'm fairly certain that I'll be able to telecommute on bad weather days from the get go and on some of the days I don't feel well (not that that's happened for a long time - but if I'm coming down with a cold, you'd rather I worked from home than passed it around).  I know that I'll be able to do 'on call' stuff remotely, should I be hired.

[ Parent ]
Are you sure you're not my lost twin, Diana in NoVa? (2.00 / 8)
I was an adept and happy telecommuter, and a good producer for my employer. Then I got a new boss who felt that everyone needed to be at the office, at least most days. Even if we were all hunkered down in offices with no interaction, that was all fine with her. I shared an office, albeit with a very nice person, but neither of us could really be on the phone or talking to other colleagues in our office without derailing the other. The plan had been to subdivide the large office in two, but the boss vetoed it on cost. Lost productivity eclipsed the cost, but that's not how they "think" (if you can call those random synapses of idiocy "thinking").  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

[ Parent ]
Not at all surprised to hear that Marissa Mayer would do this - (2.00 / 10)
my daughter is a project manager at Google and has stories about her. Unfortunately I don't think she would want me to make them public. I'll just say her actions are not at all surprising.


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