So much for the hope that young leaders will revolutionize the workplace!
In case you missed it (The New York Times put it on the front-page, "above the fold"), Yahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer is banning employees from working from home.
Judging from the comments in the blogsphere, Mayer is not getting many brownie points for good management (the exception was Donald Trump, who tweeted his support for Mayer’s action, according to The Wall Street Journal.)
Why is one of the youngest CEOs of a major company (Mayer is 38) taking this retro measure? Here is how Yahoo’s HR department explained it in a memo leaked by "a plethora of very irked Yahoo employees" to tech website AllThingsD:
To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
Are you barfing yet? I can overlook corporate pukisms like "absolute best place to work," "one Yahoo!," and "working side-by-side," but I find it hard to swallow that "speed and quality" suffer when people work from home. (According to a University of Texas study, employees who work remotely put in more hours—sometimes five to seven hours more per week, reports the WSJ.)
As someone who churns out about 3,000 words a week mainly from my dining room table, I know I’m far more productive than I would be if I had to sit in my cubicle listening to my colleagues conducting phone interviews, making doctors’ appointments, or berating their loved ones. What’s more, I start my workday far earlier—about 8:15 in the morning—working virtually nonstop from home until I drag myself into the office in the afternoon (by that time, I’m desperate to see another human being).
Look, I’m not denying that there are benefits to face-to-face interactions. John Sullivan, who teaches management at San Francisco State University, told the Times: “If you want innovation, then you need interaction. If you want productivity, then you want people working from home.”
Arguably, a tech company like Yahoo needs the collective creative juices of its employees in one room to come up with something brilliant. I can accept that premise. That said, Mayer’s ban on all remote working arrangements seems draconian and clumsy. It certainly can’t be good for morale. And if morale is bad, I can’t imagine that will help productivity.
Which brings us to law firms, which are rarely renowned for high morale. Indeed, Mayer’s stance on this issue seems so disdainful of employee autonomy that you’d think she was running a law firm. Ironically, though, law firms might actually be more progressive: So long as you’re billing, who the hell cares where you do it from?
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