I don’t blame them!

WFH The first thing (invariably) that I get asked when people hear that I worked for Yahoo is : Why did Marissa Mayer stop work from home? Isn’t that stupid?

I don’t blame them for asking this question. I am sure if the person making this judgment were to be the CEO, they’d do things differently. And that’s the point. A CEO has a specific mandate. The buck stops there. And a good CEO does what she thinks is right for the company – not what’s popular with employees or people outside who have no skin in the game.

I was in Yahoo when this debate was going on in the media – and I completely support Marissa’s decision. Technically speaking no one is policing if a Yahoo employee is working from home or not. If you are not well, work from home. If you need to take care of something, its OK too. What’s not OK is if you make it an unwritten rule that you’ll typically work from home on Fridays – or you have a remote working arrangement that you’d come to office for 3 days and then work remotely for the rest of the week. Those arrangements were gone. Even though occasional WFH is OK, Marissa clarified that she discourages it as a practice. That’s a clear statement.

In my opinion, Yahoo’s environment needs a reboot. WFH is a privilege – not a right. What’s wrong if a company decides to take it away? It only means that employees get to work closer, move faster, deliver better products. Cycle times can be shrunk when people are in the same room. New ideas can be bounced quickly when you are sitting in the same cafe. Problems can be sorted out easily when you are likely to bump into each other more.

Why is this wrong?

In case folks missed it, before taking the WFH away, Marissa also made food free (all 3 meals), gave everyone iPhone 5, upgraded bus shuttles with better seats and wifi, weekly all-hands, free jawbones, full mac refresh, ensured that any issue with 75 votes gets resolved and many more..

I still hear some people mutter: that’s all ok, but why did she take away WFH?

*sigh* I don’t blame them!

PS: This blog talks about the issue of WFH. Obviously its very popular with employees. The article ambles around but finally ends up with a balanced view. You can make the research lean towards any opinion you want, but ultimately we should realize that WFH is not a slam dunk HR lever. It has a cost (and heavy one too) and extreme caution is required before using it. You can’t compare free coffee with WFH and club them under the heading of “employee friendliness”. In today’s knowledge economy and fast shifting industry/competitive landscape, WFH could have disastrous results. Tread with caution.



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