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Thursday, March 7, 2013

We See Both Sides of Work-At-Home Debate

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer probably knew she would be setting off a huge debate within her company when she essentially banned working from home.

But her move also ignited a global controversy about whether this would be a good move for any leader in a day when telecommuting has become established as a regular practice by thousands of companies in a variety of industries, not just in the digital world.

In fact, hard on the heels of Mayer's move at Yahoo, Best Buy made a similar decision to cut back on telecommuting for corporate employees in the Twin Cities. And surely many more companies might be re-examining this issue.

We can't quite agree on the merits of Mayer's move within Inward Strategic Consulting. What do you think? Comment on this blog post and let us know.

Some of us believe that Mayer's decision was the right thing to do, in order to build unity and a common vision of work. The only way for Mayer truly to fix Yahoo is to build a unified culture, which that company has lost over the years.

And rebuilding such a culture requires people interacting -- mixing and mingling and cooperating in the physical, real world, not just virtually.

Or is Mayer's move just a way for her to get rid of dead weight? We doubt she's that mischievous. Instead, she's a technology-oriented leader with a pressing agenda; it's incumbent upon her to improve things at Yahoo, fast; and no one is disputing the fact that a lot of Yahooians simply were playing hooky much of the day at home.

On the other hand, others at Inward, such as Yash Chitre, vice president, believes that Mayer made a mistake in bucking the trend in a world that is moving very rapidly into virtual collaboration. He cited the reaction of Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, who said:

"If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication, and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality."

Yash believes that Mayer has compounded her error in the last couple of weeks by not responding to the broader discussion she has prompted, both within Yahoo and way beyond. Apparently she's hoping the whole thing soon will blow over.

"I have no issues with change," Yash says, "but just explain the why!"

What do you think?

1 comment:

Stuart Gilchriest said...

Personally, I think Mayer has attempted to fix the symptom of the problem at Yahoo! rather than the root cause.

If there is a problem with the productivity of people working from home, it implies there is a much bigger underlying issue of a lack of employee engagement.

If Mayer wants to sustainably dig Yahoo! out of its' current situation, it needs to empower employees to help her do that by treating them like adults.

Of course, employees need to shoulder some of the responsibility for doing this if their burning platform is shrinking rapidly, but trying to impress shareholders at the cost of employee morale is likely to do more damage than good in the long run.

I, for one would not want to work at Yahoo! following this decision. I wonder how many current employees are starting to think the same way.