At Yahoo!, Working From Home Is Not The Real Issue

workathomeI feel compelled to weigh in regarding the recent decision by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, dropping the company’s work-from-home option beginning in June. Yahoo will require that employees work in an office location (unless they have a need to work from home such as a visit by the “cable guy”).

Firstly, I have to say that I’ve never worked at Yahoo nor do I know anyone who does. Also, I’m sure that most Yahoo employees work hard and earn their pay. That said, Yahoo has problems — lots of them. The company is in serious trouble. It’s relationship with Microsoft has not gone as well as hoped. The company lacks a clear identity. What is Yahoo’s strength? What is it good at? Why would you use Yahoo rather than another website? I don’t know the answers to those questions and that’s a problem.

According to Business Insider, Mayer made the decision after reviewing VPN (Virtual Private Network) logs. Simply put, many more people claimed to be working from home than were logging into the corporate network via VPN. I have to agree that if you’re working from home, you should be signed into Yahoo servers and collaborating with colleagues. If management oversight was lax, abuses were likely and something needed to be done.

The core issue is poor management.

This is clearly a management problem. Think about it. Employees are “working from home“. Some are not logging in. Work is not getting done. How would you fix that?

I’d hold people accountable. Managers should assign specific tasks or employees might grab them from a task board or a list. Either way, tasks should have due dates and the person working on a task must be held accountable. If impediments arise — and they often do — the employee is responsible for raising awareness of the impediment and seeking assistance. In other words, impediments are not an excuse for failing to deliver by the due date.

Management 101

If this sounds like “management 101“, it is. Will dragging everyone into the office help? Not likely. Poor management will still be the root problem. It will be exacerbated by having disgruntled employees. Things are going to get much worse at Yahoo before they get better.

It’s sad. Yahoo is one of the original and premier Internet companies. I’m sure Mayer is frustrated and stymied. She had to do something significant to get everyone’s attention and force the organization to change. This is a quick and dirty approach — clear and simple.

I wish she had opted for a more complex change such as laying out a company-wide product roadmap and holding everyone accountable for achieving it. It’s not too late. Hopefully this new work-at-the-office policy is merely a stopgap measure.

(BTW: This issue goes far beyond agile software development and collocated teams. Yahoo’s problems run much deeper. This is an attempt to change a stagnant and dying corporate culture.)

photo credit: Britt Selvitelle via photopin cc

Updated: March 3, 2013 — 9:06 pm