Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Yahoo! Debacle: Who's Really the Lazy One?

Commuting: Still the American Way
(Used with permission from Microsoft)
The media are all atwitter with Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s most recent edict eliminating telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements for all employees. The internal memo, leaked via All Things D, targets even those waiting for “the cable guy,” that bane of our modern existence.

To call Ms. Mayer’s decision disappointing is an understatement. One would have hoped that the nursery she had built in her office signaled not hypocrisy and one-percenter cluelessness but an understanding of the plight of working parents – or, I daresay, of anyone with extra-professional responsibilities who can’t afford a couple (or ten) personal assistants.

Yet, she had her reasons, chief of which, I suspect, was to send a signal to investors and the rest of Silicon Valley that she is “serious” about turning Yahoo! around. And in this country, we still believe working from home is tantamount to playing.

No matter how many studies (thank you New York Times Motherlode Blog) confirm that flexible work arrangements do not decrease productivity, supervisors across the nation bow and scrape to the popular notion that employees working from home are freeloaders who take advantage of their flexible schedules.

There are reports from anonymous ex-Yahoos (the unbelievable yet real, self-appointed internal moniker for Yahoo!’s employees) who have applauded Ms. Mayer’s move, citing workers who did, in fact, abuse their off-campus "benefits."

Here’s the thing. There will always be people who take advantage. You can put a firewall up on every external system on the planet, and someone will still be using Microsoft Word to compose a break-up e-mail at work. Instead, putting systems and infrastructure in place, as explained in this excellent Fast Company article "3 Ways Marissa Mayer Did Us A Huge Favor," can help monitor worker productivity. For those who are truly abusing the system… well, the virtual unemployment line is filled with people waiting for the chance to work. 

But reorganizing your business model to account for flexibility and work-life balance is difficult and tiresome, isn’t it? Much easier to rely on lazy shortcuts to seeming serious.

Thanks a lot, Marissa.