Yahoo to end home officing
posted at 1:17 pm on February 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Isn’t this just a little counterintuitive for a company whose focus is solely on the Internet? The struggling pioneer in the field wants to return to a brick-and-mortar paradigm, in part for productivity, and in part to re-establish a social and business culture internally:
Yahoo’s decision is meant to foster collaboration, according to a company memo sent to employees Friday.
Yahoo’s head of human resources, Jackie Reses, wrote that communication and collaboration will be important as the company works to be “more productive, efficient and fun.” To make that happen, she said, “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.” …
The struggling Internet icon burned through four CEOs and shed thousands of workers in the few years preceding the appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO last year. Her appointment gained further notoriety when she disclosed that she was pregnant at the time of her hiring.
Mayer has since whipped the company into shape — the stock price is up about 50% — with a series of executive changes and acquisitions. Her latest edict is motivated, in part, by a desire to improve productivity among Yahoo employees who work from home and to weed out unproductive workers, according to a former Yahoo employee who recently departed for another job. He asked not to be identified because his current employer works with Yahoo.
Authors Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler — who wrote Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix it: A Results-Only Guide to Taking Control of Work, Not People — say Mayer is making a mistake.
“Mayer has taken a giant leap backward,” they said in a joint statement. “Instead of keeping great talent, she is going to find herself with a workplace full of people who are good at showing up and putting in time vs. a workforce that could most effectively and efficiently drive the business forward in the 21st century.”
I’ve been home-officing for almost six years now, and I don’t think anyone is terribly concerned about my productivity. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss being in an office environment, especially the last couple of weeks after giving up Twitter for Lent. However, my work as a writer doesn’t have much of a collaborative component to it, which makes it easier for us to have a distributed office environment.
I think this says something interesting about Mayer in contrast to the recent trend in human-resource management. The distributed-office model assumes that there is no value added by bringing employees into close proximity and allowing social connections to occur within the brick-and-mortar environment, and that those actually are net negatives for quantity and quality of work. Mayer seems to believe the opposite. It will be interesting to see which ends up being correct, but Mayer’s is definitely the most optimistic about human nature and its role in commerce.
A CBS panel thinks this might be a smart move, especially given Yahoo’s market position these days. Mayer needs more innovation, and that requires much more collaboration — and she has a very surprising model on which to rely: