Yahoo decides this mobile thing is a fad

According to All Things D, Yahoo has made a change to their company policy on working remotely. The new policy is, in a nutshell, don’t. Employees who currently work remotely will have to either move so they can work in a Yahoo office or resign. This seems to apply to workers who work 100% remotely as well as those who work from home one or two days a week. Does Yahoo really not understand mobile yet? The entire point of the mobile industry is to allow people to do stuff wherever they happen to be – you don’t have to go to your bank to do your banking. You can shop without going to a store. You can send email, surf the web, watch TV and movies, and listen to whatever music you want from anywhere. But Yahoo employees must be physically located in their offices in order to be productive? Really?

The reasoning Yahoo has given for making this decision makes little sense: they had lots of people who worked remotely and weren’t productive. So instead of firing the unproductive workers or making them come into the office, they decide to punish all of the productive remote workers as well.

Many tech companies talk about hiring the brightest and the best. Google is notorious for their hiring conservatism; they’d much rather pass on someone good than hire someone who turns out to be a bad fit. Yahoo is obviously not concerned with this. It sounds like they’d rather hire someone who lives physically close to a Yahoo office (or is willing to move) than someone awesome who doesn’t (and isn’t). Maybe they have great people up the wazoo and have decided they can afford to lose some of them, which they will. Maybe this is a cheap way of getting rid of some employees without having to pay them severance. That strategy would only work if the remote employees are the ones you want to get rid of and you don’t mind having some that you’d rather keep quit.

I work from home at least once a week (and more if there’s nasty weather), and have for ten years. Even though I don’t work for Yahoo, I take it personally when I read stuff like “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”. I obviously can’t speak for everyone who works at home, but it’s quite the contrary for me. I frequently get a fair bit done at home – at least partially to avoid this very stereotype. If my manager decides that I don’t get as much done at home as in the office, he may decide to revoke this privilege, and that’s a privilege I greatly appreciate and don’t take for granted. I certainly have the occasional work at home day where I don’t get much done, but I also have the occasional work in the office day where I don’t get much done. I also have days both at home and in the office where I’m very productive. And this is all ignoring the fact that I work at least two hours longer when I work at home since I’m not driving to Waterloo and back.

I’ve done work in a number of different rooms in my house. I’ve brought my laptop and gotten work done in mechanic’s waiting rooms, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, hotel rooms, friends’ houses, my parents’ and in-laws’ places up north, and even a couple of Tim Horton’s. Every SAP employee worldwide is given a laptop so that they can work remotely if necessary. If I worked for Yahoo, their company policy would ensure that none of that would ever happen again.

Dear SAP/Sybase: I’d advise against this strategy. The goodwill that you’d lose from your employees would vastly outweigh any potential (and purely theoretical) productivity gains. Not only does it limit the people you can hire in the future, but I know of a few people who’d likely quit. In fact, I know of one brilliant engineer who you’d lose because he lives far away from the office and works from home a lot. And trust me, you really don’t want to lose this guy.

Yes, that’s right – you’d lose Ivan. Oh, and I’d probably be outta there too.

Disclaimer: I am not speaking for Ivan, nor am I making any kind of ultimatum to SAP/Sybase. Just saying that I disagree with this policy.


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