This past week, Yahoo’s (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer announced a ban on employees working from home. This, in a culture where many, many employees were used to doing this for years. Here are a few thoughts on this particular announcement, implications for businesses elsewhere and then I’ll share a few thoughts on my personal experience with working from home flexibility in my role:
- Going Backward? It seems kind of odd for a company that was once at the forefront of the web/tech movement to be moving in the opposite direction of US companies in general. Many companies are moving MORE toward remote work whereas this one-time beacon of lavish benefits and perks is now going back to 1990. However, consider that Facebook, Google and many other “competitors” don’t actually have widespread remote work. Yahoo’s leadership cites that they’re in a very collaborative space so it doesn’t work. At the end of the day, I can’t judge them. If they sense that they’re not getting as much collaboration and productivity out of their workforce, they have to do what they have to do.
- Changing the Rules – This is surely going to piss off a lot of existing employees that were hired under a set of rules which was probably a key determinant in taking the job, compensation and possibly, over the years, passing on other opportunities. That leads me to my next point…
- Saves on Severance -The moment I saw the headline, I’d tweeted that this will surely have a hidden benefit of saving on severance costs. I’m seeing this in my company. When you have more employees than you need, you either lay off or force them out by making them unhappy. We’ve seen all kinds of cuts to bonuses, annual raises, increasing workloads and other factors that are slowly forcing employees out the door to “greener pastures”. That’s saving millions each year in severance packages! Surely, Yahoo will experience the same “benefit”.
My Experience With Work from Home
- The Hours are Blurred – I’ve written in the past about being a Project Manager, but essentially, it’s a very self-directed, matrix-reporting structure job where there’s really not much difference whether I’m in the office or in my home. The reason is, most of my team members are in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. So, I end up on the phone at home or on the phone at work. If all my team members were local, I could see going in each day, but since most of my work is over the phone, the only benefit I derive by going into work a few days a week is collaboration with my other peer project managers to see what they’re experiencing or the occasional meeting with a higher up. But the key issue that drives work from home also is the crazy hours due to time zone differences. I’ve had some calls at 6AM and sometimes have calls at 9PM or 10PM. Surely you would agree it would be unreasonable to expect people to be in their offices at those times, so I’d argue if it’s OK to do those calls from home, why not do a 9AM or 1PM call from home? It’s the same work. Additionally, since the hours are so blurred, there’s no real scrutiny or poor perception if you run to the gym over lunch or even run an errand during the day since you’re often working at night or before normal work hours. They know they’re getting well over 40 hours per week out of us, so the hours are a bit blurred. The expectation is you’re normally reachable and online during normal business hours but if you’re not occasionally, it’s understood that your off-hours work is making up for it.
- Prove Yourself and Make it Work – Our group of Project Managers likes to work from home usually 1-2 days per week. Nobody does it everyday so as to not give the impression it’s being abused, but at the same time, we all make it work. If our output or results were lacking, it might cause our management to rethink their position. By continuously turning in strong results and meeting all requirements (being online most of the day, executing projects well, etc.), this perk continues.
- HUGE Retention Benefit – I’ve been in the same role for 4 years now. I’ve usually jumped around to new roles every 2-3 years but I have to admit I’ll hate losing this perk since most other jobs at my company don’t have the same capability. I’ve been looking this year, but at this point, I’m only leaving for a promotion, not a lateral. I enjoy the work, and being able to work from home once per week lets me get to my kids’ school events, save a few bucks on gas/dry cleaning, get a jog in over lunch and any number of other benefits that I wouldn’t enjoy otherwise.