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Yahoo! Inc Forces Employees To Commute To Office Every Day 6

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Office worker in cubicle – Photo courtesy of redteam 

As if to hasten its long demise, Yahoo! Inc has initiated a policy to force all of its employees to commute to the office each day. There is some irony in this policy; perhaps Yahoo! is reminiscing on its former glory days and decided to initiate a policy reminiscent of decades-old-thinking.

This is an unfortunate policy on many levels. The world has changed, and information workers are no longer “9-5” office workers. With technology, people are often connected 24/7 and while working in an office setting might be productive and rewarding for some employees, it is stifling for others.

Lloyd Alter explains on Treehugger:

As studies have shown, some people are more productive at home; others need the office, being around other people. Some companies thrive on “hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings” ; others just want to get their work done. What works for some people doesn’t for the others.

For myself personally, telecommuting enabled me to live in China for four months last year while still working my same job. I can live anywhere in the world and continue earning a living as a technology consultant, as long as I have an Internet connection.

Instead of taking a two week holiday each year, I can take 3 or 4 months of “work vacation” where I visit a new country and work at the same time as I explore.

With this type of working arrangement, my office can take various forms. One day it might be my desk at home, another it might be a picnic table in the park, a patio of a cafe, a client office or a coffee shop. I like the variety, and this motivates me and boosts my performance.

I also enjoy flexibility in my day. If I want to take an hour out of my day to post a blog article or do an interview, I want to be able to do that. Some things can’t wait until the evenings.

But on those days where I do personal things during the day, I’m happy to work at night to make sure my work gets done. Some of my most productive, uninterrupted work happens in the evenings after my daughter goes to bed.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson sums it nicely:

Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.

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.

Working life isn’t 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.

Working from home can also have a significant impact on improving our cities by reducing traffic congestion, pollution, and overcrowding on public transit.

Yahoo!’s lack of flexibility on this matter is a mistake and they risk losing top talent if they aren’t willing to be flexible with those employees who are motivated by hybrid working arrangements.

James D. Schwartz is a Technology Consultant, the Editor of The Urban Country and is based in Toronto, Canada. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/george.pechtol George Pechtol

    or course, the most obvious reaction to this news is that Yahoo is antagonizing its workers. but a more likely and subtle interpretation is that they are encouraging attrition among their workforce to have people leave voluntarily, rather than having to pay out staff through layoffs. it’s a bit of a cheap ploy, but it goes to their bottom line, and in a strictly capitalist perspective, makes perfect sense. i’d probably do the same thing if i were a CEO – it’s a simple and rational policy change that can help to thin the herd.
    once your choose not to be a leader and an innovator, but to be a commodity and a profit margin number, making these kinds of decisions becomes relatively easy. :)
    good analysis though! for companies that WANT to grow or get through the next fiscal year, telecommuting options definitely improve worker satisfaction and retention!
    - g

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Interesting perspective George. I agree that it’s certainly possible that they would use this tactic to achieve low-cost attrition. However, using this approach would most likely result in losing their more talented employees, whereas layoffs would allow them to cut their lower-performing employees, which in the end might cost more up front, but would most likely save them money in the long run by retaining their top performers.

      • Boyan Tsolov

        I agree with George. It is partly a layoff tactic. Here’s a good article about it: http://www.businessinsider.com/ex-yahoos-confess-marissa-mayer-is-right-to-ban-working-from-home-2013-2.

        It’s also likely that the most talented employees don’t want to work there anyway (since they have side-projects going on), but are collecting a Yahoo paycheque because they can. I assume that once many people quit, Yahoo will re-introduce working remotely in some smaller fashion. I can’t fathom an internet company nowadays having zero tolerance for remote working.

  • TKeen

    Working from home works best when people are not on salary or per diem. If your boss is buying your time, you should be at the office. If you want to work from home, find some other method to get paid, either commission or by the project, like I do. In that case, your boss can say “Do X by Monday and I don’t care where you are.”

    • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

      I don’t know what kind of “salary” job you’re thinking about, but my boss gives me deadlines and I’m on salary. I also have many ongoing customer-facing projects, which have to get done by certain deadlines.
      I’m currently writing this from a friend’s bedroom in Calgary, while my office is in Waterloo. I’ve been working all morning, and I’m technically supposed to be on vacation.

      Your move.

  • Richard Johns

    I like the picture of the caged leopard in his cubicle …