Does Yahoo’s Telecommuting Ban Signal a Trend?

Why a tech executive such as Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer would all but eliminate the option of telecommuting has spawned any number of hypotheses about her motivations, from forcing employees to work more closely together to simply driving home the point that these are critical times for the once-dominant Internet brand.

Frustrated TelecommuterBut here’s a question we haven’t seen many people ask: Is Mayer simply the first Silicon Valley CEO to begin down a path many others have wanted to follow for a long time?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if CEOs ask the question of their HR departments and try to make a decision on whether it would work or not,” comments David Chie, chief operating officer of Palo Alto Staffing, which works with a number of the area’s technology companies.

Indeed. Struggling electronics retailing giant Best Buy plans on Monday to discontinue its eight-year old practice of allowing its non-store employees to decide whether they want to telecommute, according to a CNNMoney blog. Managers will now have to give their blessing, ending Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) telecommuting program.

Me-Too CEOs

For CEOs who have long believed that having everyone work in the same place fosters collaboration, Mayer’s move may provide the impetus to push back against the seemingly inexorable trend toward telecommuting, suggests Kenneth Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at the New York-based Families and Work Institute.

But such decisions would be swimming upstream. In 2012, to 63 percent of employers the institute surveyed allowed their employees to work from home on an occasional basis, nearly double the number of companies who did in 2005.

One group that has remained in the minority are startups, Chie says. “I think there are a lot of startups that are trying to build their team and a culture. It’s hard to do when a lot of people are working from home,” he says. “If you have a stable company like a bank, telecommuting may be fine, but when you need to change quickly and innovate, you want to make it easily to collaborate.”

Even companies like Facebook and Google, with their reputations for cutting-edge workforce policies, clearly value face time and look for ways to encourage it. Among them are Bay Area buses to transport workers to and from their campuses.

Don’t Expect a Tide Change

Although some CEOs may glom onto Yahoo’s telecommuting ban, and no matter how many others want to, don’t expect a wholesale change in workplace policies anytime soon, say recruiters and industry observers. With the economy gaining strength, employers are in a weaker position when it comes to dictating unpopular terms, especially among the rock star tech professionals they’re fighting over.

“If the economy goes into the toilet and companies are back in the catbird seat, then it may be easier to have a ‘no telecommuting’ policy,” says Jon Holman, president of the Holdman Group, a San Francisco recruiting firm. “But we’re not in that situation today.”

Besides, Holman estimates that few telecommuting employees work from home full-time, so Yahoo’s policy shift isn’t likely to spur wholesale bans across Corporate America.

In addition,Yahoo’s in a unique situation. The Families and Work Institute’s Matos has heard people observe that “Yahoo is a sinking ship and is taking steps to fix it. If another company wants to do this, the question they should ask themselves is, ‘are we a sinking ship?'”

How to Counter Anti-Telecommuting Talk

Matos says employees can do a couple of things to influence managers who are leaning toward restricting their own telecommuting policies. One of the first is, be clear on the definition of success. “People who are nervous about telecommuting feel they don’t know how well you’re doing your work unless you are there,” he explains. “You need to be clear about your goals and how you do your work.”

Also, rely on email when collaborating, because your exchanges can demonstrate that effective collaboration indeed takes place even when people aren’t running into each other at the vending machine.

On top of the the backlash Yahoo’s Mayer faces, she’s accomplished one thing: She’s raised the issue of remote working on a national scale.

“It’s the first time we’ve really discussed it in a broad national forum, where people are weighing in like it’s a decision that has to be made,” Matos observes. “This is one of the options on the table, but people are asking if it works with their culture and business strategy. It’s a process of people asking, ‘Is this what we want, versus, is this possible?'”

What works better in your view? Working from home, or showing up at the office? Let us know in the comments below.

79 Responses to “Does Yahoo’s Telecommuting Ban Signal a Trend?”

  1. Will S

    When I worked at HP in R&D, right after Carly left, the new CEO killed several hundred research projects. I am pretty sure he didnt even read what each of them did. Many of them are now technologies that I see today, released by other companies, and some are extremely successful.
    Blanket decisions by CEO’s that usurp what those below them chose to do, on the grounds that they know better in all cases, with all possibilities are usually not very wise decision, IMO.
    A better “decree” would have been to have established a criteria, and then asked the people who make the decision to evalute their current work at home employees against that criteria, etc etc etc.
    Any time someone makes a broad, simplistic decision that countermands the hard work of thousands, whether it was Mark Herd killing research or this case, it is never, IMO a good idea to think of yourself as so much smarter than those working for you that you can effectively overrule hundreds of decisions, with one, simplistic blanket decision.

    • Wayne Blackmon

      Clearly spending two hours/day in traffic in order to get a few hours of “face-time” is superior to telecommuting part time. I know one tech CEO that I would refuse to work for.

      • Roger that, And we are talking about California Freeways. Worse yet, I bet they won’t have staggered start times so you would be forced to try to make it in during Rush Hour. Absurd!

    • ISmith

      Excellent points, nearly 30 years in high tech and I’ve seen this careless decision making too many times resulting in forward technology lost, delayed or “given” away by those employee’s that were let go and millions of dollars lost. It is so sad that corporate boards think they can bring in a short sighted bean counter in an effort to gain long term success, it very rarely ends positively.

    • Howard Forman

      I kind of disagree. Many people it is just the “productivity” issue and to make sure that work is getting done and the value of collaboration, etc. There are a whole mass of other issues. For example, where I work, technically, BYOD is not allowed (not heavily inforced though). Company-supplied equipment has certain safegurds that protect not only the company’s data but that of it’s customers. Allowing employees to “dial in” even with VPN means lack of control. They can use DLP software to find out where the data is, but they can’t do much about what is on someone’s home computer. In the aerospace industry, if you as much as brought a briefcase in, it was thoroughly examined going in as well as going out of the building. No floppy disks, CD-Roms or jump drives allowed. Why? Because the data may have been government secrets, such as DOD work.

      Not every place is as strict as the Department of Defense but, where I worked, we had people not only stealing and modifying data for profit, they were actually stealing constituent’s checks. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is going to be the next big thing. Imagine you want to work at home and download 800,000 patient medical records so you can adjust your program code and run tests and then find someone broke in and stole your laptop or your computer. Would you report it? Especially knowing that the FBI and DHS will be visiting you? Or would you hope that the theif only wanted the computer for quick profit?

      CEOs and, especially, CIOs lose a lot of sleep over these things at night and most will BAN data going out the door until some guarantees are in place. You could be the best and most productive employee but one accident is usually more than a company can handle with bad press, paying for credit reporting for those that had their data stolen. People are too into ease of use and convenience and not into what is too dangerous and uncontrollable.

      “Sorry guys, my dog ate your financial records…sorry…”

      • Orthoducks

        Please don’t take this as a personal attack; I’ve encountered this argument before, and I’ve found only one effective way to counter it because the people who say it (generally either those in authority or people who imagine that they speak for those in authority) are so dead solid convinced that they know The Truth and anyone who disagrees with them is merely demonstrating their ignorance.

        That is not a justification for denying people the ability to work remotely. That is merely an admission that the company’s security staff is incompetent.

        As you pointed out, the latitude for fraud in offsite work is only marginally greater than for onsite work. If the company has assets worth protecting, it needs to establish policies and practices that will PROTECT them. It cannot create a security policy that amounts to “Thou shalt not do anything the seems like it might cause problems” and pretend that it has done anything meaningful.

        I’ll respond to a couple of your specifics by way of illustration.

        What if the home computer is stolen? Many companies deal with this by allowing remote access only from company equipment. The company computer used for this purpose has disk encryption and probably other security measures. A more laborious but less restrictive measure would be to allow access from non-company computers but require them to conform to company security standards.

      • Orthoducks

        Continuing the previous message, which the web site decided I had finished for unclear reasons…

        “Imagine you want to work at home and download 800,000 patient medical records…”

        If the records are confidential, I’d ask: why the heck is the programmer required or allowed to use confidential data for testing in the first place???

        Most testing can be done with data sets that have sanitized or synthesized. The need for live data should be rare if this issue has been thought through. The need for huge quantities of live data should be even rarer.

        • Funny about that. I worked on the pharmacy system for Rite-Aid. I asked them to send me a set of test data so I could run fake transactions and test the modem/transaction reliability. I picked one customer and ran several thousand test transactions of him buying a bottle of pain pills.

          Eventually I got a phone call from Rite-Aid explaining a terrible mistake had been made, and the insurance company had just send Rite-Aid a twenty thousand dollar check for Bill Smith’s (phony name inserted here) morphine. It appears when I asked them for a backup tape of a test pharmacy, they just sent me a backup tape of some pharmacy in Chicago. They went on to explain we needed to back out each and every one of those transactions on my test machine right away. I said I would like to accommodate them but I had just low level formatted the machine the day before and restored that tape again..

          Aside from the obvious trouble about the twenty thousand dollars, I realize that I had been given thousands of live customer records including credit card numbers and sensitive medical records. As a seriously ethical engineer, their data was never in any jeopardy from me, other than the appearance of me selling Bill Smith his body weight in morphine.

          Despite me asking specifically for a test dataset, I guess accidents do happen and live data does escape from the data center. 🙂

          • Orthoducks

            That’s a funny story but also a painfully common pattern, as you’re clearly aware.

            I’ve worked in a lot of places, and I’ve found that handling sensitive data… sensitively… is surprisingly rare. Probably one of the reasons is that many managers think dumb-donkey policies like “don’t let anyone work remotely” eliminate the need.

            I gather that you were working remotely when this adventure unfolded, but I’ll point out that every part of it, except possibly the low-level format, would have been just as likely to occur in-house.

  2. Guy Rich

    Going back to the 19th century concept of employees all in the same work site is a BIG step BACKWARDS.
    There are all sorts of ways to effectively collaborate remotely, and it’s all ‘off-the-shelf’ technology that’s been around for over twenty years.i.e. Teleconferencing using video.
    I would say the only limit is lack of bandwidth in a lot of areas. At this point in time there is really
    NO EXCUSE for America NOT having fibre-optic to the local loop.
    Everyone is concerned about higher gas prices and employee wages being essentially flat for the
    past 10 to 15 years.
    We can reduce the demand for gasoline, reduce the wear & tear on our highway infrastructure, reduce auto insurance rates, all by allowing more people to telecommute.
    Also companies can realize a huge reduction in operating expense if they remove the overhead cost of space to house hundreds to thousands of office workers for just 8 hours a day.

    Something like 45 % of the people who drive to work (by themselves), once they get to work they
    perform their duties on a PC or laptop.
    A lot of studies have shown that people who telecommute actually spend upwards of 12 hrs working. Not all in one single session, rather 2 – 3 hrs in the early morning hours, then a small
    break, then the core 9 to 5 frame, then later in the evening another 2 – 3 hrs.
    As opposed to the FACT that people who commute to work actually only spend 5 – 6 hours doing USEFUL work. As to productivity and effectivness, That will ‘show-through’ no matter where one works from. In my 30 years in IT, I’ve seen a LOT of situations where people show up for work
    on time and regularly, but aren’t very efficient, and some are just down-right lazy. So it doesn’t matter where they work from; the question is was the work performed accurately and within the given timeframe.
    I say telecommuting IS the FUTURE.

    • These were our concerns as well. What seems to be missing to this good argument is the additional thought of all the technology that all these companies have created to facilitate working remotely. . . all the high tech gadgets. To end the working remote option would be like shooting oneself in the foot. A painful beginning to the collapse consumer demand of modern technical products. Isn’t this what we are working for? Modernization and product to attract sales and that big fat bottom line?

    • David Dunlap

      It seems there is also a requirement for the work and the inherent connection to the network to be done securely. Telecommuting may work in some cases, but companies have huge liability for not protecting data and maintaining uncompromised operation of the company network. According to a article, Yahoo had a fairly sizeable data breach incident in July 2012.

      Latest Yahoo Data Breach Restates Need for Basic Security | Blog ……/latest-yahoo-data-breach-restates-need-for-basic…

      • Orthoducks

        Any competent IT department requires remote uses to connect through VPN, which essentially eliminates the problem.

        The incident you mentioned didn’t have anything to do with remote access. It was SQL injection attack. The title’s wording, “…need for BASIC security…” says it all.

      • Guy Rich

        Hi David make a very good point.
        However the security risks can be mitigated through the use of company laptops that have
        locked-down desktops, good virus scanning software, combined with using ethernet cards who’s
        mac-id value has been modified, and using sign-fobs that generate a random signon password,
        and in the very near future, using biometrics (finger print scanners) to verify the identity of the
        person signing onto the system.

  3. James E. LaBarre

    Yahoo is a special-case company. Now, if some currently-successful company (actually successful, not a company like IBM that cooks the books) were to implement a similar policy, it might be meaningful. But Yahoo is a company in trouble, and Ms. Mayer is trying to pull them from the brink. Bringing everyone into the office to do intense company rebuilding might be the thing that is needed in their case. Again, it may not help at all, we will see in a year or two.

    • Guy Rich

      I find your comment about IBM as a company that “cooks the books” curious.
      Are you speaking from first hand knowledge? i.e. are/or were you a senior executive with IBM
      in some sort of fiduciary capacity?

    • There’s a step missing in your logic. Is there any evidence for the notion that bringing people back into the office will help? Or is it just a random grasp that, even if not harmful to the company, will make little difference other than hurting morale and garnering bad publicity?

  4. This is a dumb link-baiting article.

    Two crappy failing companies that treat their employees like crap and have crappy leadership over the years make a rash decision to try and right their ship. Even if it succeeds, it means very little. How about all the massive corporations out there with huge work-from-home segments that flat out MAKE THE COMPANY SUCCESSFUL?

    Go away with your “the sky is falling” drivel and bother someone else. At least wait until a relevant company that is worth talking about does this.

  5. Matthew

    Bestbuy is also changing its return policy from 30 days to now only 15 days. Yahoo and Bestbuy have something in common, they are both going out of business. So to all other firms who want to telecast to the world that they are going of business in the next couple of years you should follow suit too. Trying to champion the brilliance of individuals because they worked here or there is now turned on its head. This Mayer will end up going the way of the now Ex Groupon CEO. Of all the things a smart person could have done she comes up with this to make headlines? I am sorry to have to say this but “What an idiiot!!” I am sure I am not the first to say those words about her either. Soon a book will emerge from colleagues at Google that confirms that she was a paper tiger. The on very obvious point here is that management at Yahoo do not know how to get results in the market nor in the company. A person who get can get an employee to be productive while that employee is in the middle of the jungle is a real “manager. The rest just have schemed their ways into getting a tittle for job security.

  6. I think one key phrase to note is

    “the rock star tech professionals they’re fighting over.”

    If you are a rock star tech professionals, chances are you need not worry because they’d be giving you leeway. If your company _consistently_ employs such professionals, you definitely would need the leeway.

    The larger your company gets the more diverse things go and sometimes motivations change to the point where you have a significant number of your workforce unmotivated to work and would choose to slack off more.

    What Yahoo and other organizations that would force the work-at-work policy is to make these people easier to find, take to the side and lay them off.

  7. Our company recently shifted policy to greatly restrict telecommuting. I agree with the poster who said that the societal benefits to telecommuting are significant. The personal benefits are also strong. It makes a lot of sense, and I personally disagree with the policy shift we are seeing.

    However, from a management perspective, a lack of direct personal presence equates to a deficit of accountability. I don’t care how much process and tooling you add to prove that you are being productive remotely. Not being there is being absent in a very real sense. Every interaction with a remote worker is more difficult that walking into someone’s office. Telecommuting adds drag.

    Also, there is a stigma for those employees who cannot or do not telecommute. The corporate culture is subtly damaged by some employees having the privilege to work remotely while others do not.

    So fundamentally, this is a question of cultural standards.

    In my opinion, for telecommuting to really work, remote workers would need to have 100% telepresence so that they are virtually present in the office, and can hear what is happening and actually be engaged continuously. An open video telecon link from 8-5 (or whenever) between the home office desk and the main office desk – now /that/ is telecommuting.

    We are still a bit far off from this. Anything less is in fact absence.

    • Matthew

      Perfect example of what I described as not being able to manager.

      Here’s where the thing falls apart. Managers DO NOT want to take the time to manager. They want the title.

      If 8 things are defined by a manage that need to get done they if they are not done the person is not working. Period end of story.

      The problem goes back to lack of defining what a manager is there for. Ego trip? I AM the boss of you so let me see you sit in front of me for 8 hours while I manage you? Perhaps the manager gravitates to actually BEING a manager and starts to clearly define what needs to get done and they manages whether or not the work is done.

      A clerk at a gas station cannot work from home. But the person doing the books can!

      So seems like that most of those holding the title of “manager” like the idea of being the bus moderator more than doing their job of defining the work and making sure it gets done. What do you think a sales manager does? He is just lucky enough that a simple metric called “Revenue” clearly states whether he and his are getting it done.

      Persons that are called manage and do not manage need to get sent home. Not to work remotely but to work on their garden. Hire real managers who know how to define work and manage.

      • This move by the CEO of Yahoo is an indication of a lack of trust and the manager’s and probably the CEO’s inability to do follow up. If a manager initially trusts their subordinates to do their work and the manager has a way to do follow up to verify this trust, then trust will continue to grow and the necessity of being able to observe the subordinate in a common location is reduced. So, if I trust my subordinates then their physical location is not important.
        The other reason a manager might indicate a need to a common location of work might be to enable interaction. But this argument falls short in my experience since many people who work in adjacent cubes or offices never or rarely speak to each other.

    • I work for a pretty small company doing software testing and client support and work from home 95%. We are all “in the office” by staying connected on Lync or Skype – so it is like sticking your head in someone’s office to chat. Plus several weekly web ex sessions – I don’t see any reason why we would need to be physically present to accomplish any of our work. Each business is unique, so it is not easy to say that telecommuting is ALWAYS better, but I think it is for many businesses and employees. I also teach part-time on line – same thing – some students do great on-line some don’t, but I think it has more to do with the topic and whether they studied, not being physically on campus or not. Whether they are at home or the office, you often have a few employees who are just not very productive – this is not improved by physically being at the office- they are at their desk writing personal e-mails or going on Facebook or watching YouTube or hanging out in the hall or break room… that physical presence does not automatically make them more productive, just physically present. Maybe it will work for Yahoo – just a change of pace to help them snap out of this slump – or maybe it won’t. I also agree that making one big change like that is curious – did they do a big study to find out how productive they were from home, or just decide to “do something” without thinking it through or studying the root issues?

  8. Matthew

    To my point:
    Electronics retailing giant Best Buy will let 400 jobs go at its Minnesota headquarters. It said the cuts are being driven by its ending of some “non-core” activities, the elimination of management layers, and general “efficiency improvements.”

    Growing company that you want to get your foot in the door at? Or is it headed the way of the former Twinkies baker?

    It is clear from all of this is, that the first thing I was taught as a kid (18 yrs) old by some smart old folks was, if you wanted to get rid of people better to make their life miserable than having to come right out and fire them.. So clearly this stuff has more to do with getting rid of folks then it does a business plan… So in accordance with Bill Maher’s “New Rule” segment: New Rule.. When you are going out of business and you want to cull staff simply pull the plug on the remote work concept. It is a sure fire way to not to have to “fire” and provide severance incentives..

    It is a beautiful thing “they leave you when you needed them most” tears and more tears as they volunteer to slim down the payroll. Brilliant!

    Cat is out of the bag Melissa, you are just employing an old get rid of the staff tactic that has been around since lawyers starting making a bundle off of wrongful discharge cases.. No one is fooled here.

  9. Plinko

    Guy has it nailed down. Add into the mix that remote workers can use their own computers saving energy costs and costing them money when the machine needs replacing.

    Everything in some jobs in digital. I get emails for specifications and documents through them. I do my work on a remote computer. Everyone sees the work on a website. It doesn’t require real life paper passing or for two people to pretend to like each other in a conference room. It doesn’t require anyone to dress up for the occasion either.

    The only thing avoided by not going to the office are the things that deserve avoidance. The gossip, people coming into my cubicle and disrupting me with small talk because THEY are lazy. I can’t count how many times I had to shoo people out of my area because they wanted to talk about their family life or funny things their dogs did. I’m not paid to be your friend, I’m there to work. Say that to someone and now you are the office grump – it is however, true. I don’t care if there are donuts in the conference room or if Molly has a birthday today, I just want to do my job and get something accomplished.

  10. Too many employees use contractors as slave labor. It is the NORM to let contractors do the bulk of the work while employees take their kids to soccer practice or work on a side business. Why not hire the contractors and let the people who “work from home” get a different job? Marissa Mayer is doing the right thing — she is looking at the weblogs and realizing that these people are not logged in 8 hours a day — some of them are hardly working at all.

    • Guy Rich

      I realize everyone’s experiences are different, but to imply that contractors are slave labor is a bit
      ‘overboard’. The advantage to any business in using contract ‘workers’ is cost. If a business has
      a short term goal that has to be meet it is far easier to hire or contract temporary resources
      to meet that need, than rather go thru the laborious and some time tedious process of hiring a
      fulltime employee. I have worked on a corp to corp basis as an independent IT contractor for
      22 years now. I thoroughly enjoy it, and I wouldn’t take a ‘job’ now, unless I could take home
      after taxes at least 250000 /year.

  11. Guy Rich

    Your point is well taken Matthew. What you pointed out regarding so-called ‘Full-Time/Permanent’
    employees is very true. This why I advocate incorporating as a sub-chapter ‘S’ corp, and work for
    yourself, pay your self a ‘small’ salary and expense everything else thru your corporation.
    i.e. vacation pay, health-care, retirement plans, travel expenses etc.
    I have a friend who’s a lawyer and worked for the IRS, he left the IRS and also became a CPA specializing in Tax law. He told me that the Tax Code is written to benefit business. NOT wage
    earners (employees). Now telecommuting is a benefit both to the contractor and the business concern with whom the contractor is working with. the contractor can offer a lower rate, because
    no travel and per-diem expenses are involved.

  12. Jim Lagnese

    Is anyone getting tired of the Marissa show? it’s like a reality show and tabloid journalism meet. Enough. I’m already tired of reading headlines about her every move. No one warrants that much attention. That said, expect layoffs after everyone that telecommutes after coming back to the office. Anyway, enough of this gold-plated CEO.

    • Yes. Never cared much for double standards: Referring to the Nursery/day care built next to her office. For the rest of the working women, if a child is sick and one would now have to take a sick day to stay home with the child. If one can’t work from home, how productive is that?

  13. Telecommuting is not the issue with bad performance and morale. it is the leadership and clear directives, with responsibility and accountability put in the correct places. If you are a technology company selling the ideas of technology being anywhere at anytime, then you should also live by what you sell. the purpose for organizations creating work from home policies was to have a better work/life balance, reduce commute time and have people start working a lot faster, and in some cases, allow the corporate building structure to be sold for profit.
    CEO’s, use the proper tools and policies to create strong, cohesive companies.

  14. The comments regarding the failure of managers to actually MANAGE employees (whether working from home or in the office) are correct. If a manager lays out goals for the team, specific and clear deliverables for the individuals in that team and deadlines are discussed and agreed to by the team members and the manager then everyone is accountable. Deliver your assignments on time and professionally done and it doesn’t matter where you were working from to do so.

  15. Aren’t employment and employers passe? How funny to try and control the populace more. We’ve all been freed and learned how to be contractors. I am not owned by any CEO and don’t care what they want. Screw Yahoo!

  16. Orthoducks

    I have been working in the IT field for over 40 years, and I have had my share of both good and bad ideas. I have never, ever had an idea that was sparked by a random face-to-face meeting with a coworker in the workplace. The whole idea smacks of reverse logic: decide what you want to do, then think up reasons to do it.

    On the other hand, I’ve lost immeasurable amounts of productivity from trying to do serious thinking in an office environment that’s hopelessly distracting, whether due to normal work interactions, people goofing off (In the OFFICE? Can they DO that?), or weekly office parties passed off by management as “team building” measures.

    The arguments for a blanket in-office policy are not new. They are as old as telecommuting itself. They never stood up to logic, and they still don’t.

  17. If the dubious, unproven benefits of face-to-face interaction are more important than saving money, stress, the environment, injuries, deaths from automobile accidents, and a loss of creative impetus by having to invest more time and energy in “office politics” than “getting the job done” then by all means, ban telecommuting.

    Otherwise reconsider.

  18. My opinion, is that only companies with no clear HomeBased Workers’ work guidelines, policies and expectations will most probably have problems with their HomeBased workers and will be thinking of following the steps of Yahoo and Best Buy.

  19. I work 100% from home as an independant IT Project Manager. Most of the projects I manage require collaboration with people scattered around the world. With the tools available today and good people it is easily done. My guess is that many of the projects in large corporation are similar to what I’m dealing with where the project team is international. It would be much simpler if everyone were all in one location, however the reality is they likely are not. Going to the office just means, instead of telecommuting from home, I would be telecommuting from the office.

    I agree with an earlier comment, that blanket decisions by CEO’s tend to be wrong. If managed properly telecommuting has its place.

  20. Carol Sorsoleil

    The irony of the whole anti-telecommuting move is that the telecommuter is, in most cases, more productive than those putting in face time. Fewer distractions and much less time jawing with fellow co-workers makes an enormous difference in the amount of time spent actually working. When I worked in an office, I was constantly being interrupted by others stopping by to chat. I used to have to turn away from some to get them to move on and distract someone else.
    The only judgement on those who work for you should be that they get their job done and they get it done well. If you have someone who is more productive doing telecommuting, why not just leave them to it.
    I think managers who insist on facetime are probably just too lazy to monitor the work done and be aware who is and is not accomplishing the most work.
    All overseas outsourcing is telecommuting but no one says anything about that.
    We have the technology to allow people to work from home in this country which saves fossil fuels, saves the expense of so much office space and allows both the company and the individual more flexibility. It is a shame that so many managers and CEO’s are stuck in the past.

  21. CoolerHeads

    Collaboration by technology is great and it does facilitate exchange of work product and ideas that are in-progress. However, from a creativity and innovation standpoint, nothing compares to face-to-face, so-called “water-cooler” or “vending machine” / smoke-break/break room banter where employees casually become aware of what’s on the minds of their business colleagues in other areas of a company. Many choose to work through lunch with a bowl of glop at their side, but many innovations have derived from colleagues talking over a plate at lunch. Even conversations overheard or casual updates on the latest news from an area in transition typically come from private communication not emails where sender may fear that the message will be forwarded to the “wrong eyes”. Even IM messages can be pasted into emails, and text messages forwarded, so less confidentiality and less willingness to be open in communication.

    • I used to contract for a very large software company. I would estimate that 80 percent of the meetings I had with people included either clients or coworkers in another state or country. It makes no sense that the two people in California “need” to be in the same room while “meeting” with someone in Switzerland!

    • I agree with Coolerheads. Saying that telecommuting is the same as working together in an office environment is like saying home schooling is the same as going to a public school. There are things to be learned through human interaction that simply do not take place if individuals are isolated in a room by themselves at home. It may be easier to work at home away from others on a large, cumbersome project, but to say that people who work in an office all day are a bunch of gossiping blabbers who get nothing done is stretching it a bit. The telecommuting also does not save us money….at all. My company pays extra for home setups (phone, laptop, computer, fax software, internet connections, etc.) and in many cases has to use employees in the office to supplement off site workers because the telecommuters cannot run a job ticket out to production or grab the purchase orders that come off the fax machine to the main number. They are little things, but they add up. It is also simply the truth that if you are “out of sight,” you tend to be “out of mind.” Telecommuters usually are not as informed on the day to day shifts in our business because it would require extra effort to put every verbal update in an email.

  22. Let us use common terminology, “remote” workers. Great news, possibly. The “new” thinking is that IT workers should be on site where their systems are. Wonderful, no more support from thousands of miles away, no more supporting sites where you are NOT located, management can keep their eyes on us, have a warm fuzzy feeling, as they cannot trust IT workers and IT cannot possibly deliver results from a distance. If there is a problem with remote IT workers, is it only US based, is it only local IT, OR is the real issue management incapable, unwilling, or not confident enough that they can personally manage a remote worker environment???
    Whatever, if they could please stay on one side of the issue and please provide a clear consistent genuine standard best practice. Otherwise save us all time and stress of a false justification. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute. Ben

  23. The idea that employees need to all be in the same location at the same time in order to get work done efficiently and effectively is a HUGE step in the wrong direction. What matters is not whether you’re “busy” all day or not, but whether or not what you’re working on is producing a work product of value to the organization. In many cases doing this from home is the best way to get this done. This is because WFH removes several of the common stressors from a knowledge worker’s environment. There is no need, for example, for a project manager to be in an office every day. His job, in many case, can literally be done with an Internet connection, and phone, and a laptop… from ANYWHERE. Be it in his home office or on the beach in Fiji.

    This isn about the illusion of control, IMHO. Some CEO’s just need to see “butts in seats” in order to feel that they are getting value for their multi-billion salary budgets. Funny thing is many CEO’s don’t report to the office to work every day either. They are doing business on the golf course, in conferences, in email, on teleconferences… When was the last time a CEO held an earnings announcement to shareholder in a physical meeting? They don’t. they have earnings calls. Because the phone is a more efficient use of their time. It’s using technology to effectively leverage their time, and employees, particularly knowledge workers, are no different.

  24. I have telecommuted for almost a year. My company does not want to pay the high cost of real estate in these challenging times and is going to a total remote model. Most technology jobs today can be done remotely. Telecommuting also helps to reduce stress levels. With Skype and other video conferencing technologies you can still get face time to collaborate. Between Skype and conference calls we had all the collaboration we needed. I found that I was more productive and actually spent more time working than if I had to travel to the office. I try to have a quarterly meeting in the office so that I could acknowledge those telecommuters that have made substantial contributions to the companies success. It’s been a win win situation for both the company and the employees. Bad move on Yahoo’s part!

  25. T Smith

    Do evening conference calls at home with Asian offices and offshore contractors count as telecommuting? How about early morning calls at home with European offices? Will the CEO no longer permit these types of telecommuting? Great, I’m all for it.

  26. Alfred J DiPietro

    It’s called “Authoritative Management”, which was implemented back in the industrial age. “Do what we say or we will find someone else to do the job”. It’s a position of power signalling that the C-Level Management has exhausted all means of making their business model work, and are forced to fall back to what they were taught. Basically, what I call it is “Micro-Management”. It takes all individualism, self-creativity, pro-active behavior from the worker and diminishes them to just sitting there waiting for their High Level Manager to tell them what to do. With all the technology that we have, we can work from anywhere and be more successful outside of a brick and mortar cubicle stink tank than inside listening to complaints, worries, “misery loves company” approaches, etc. C-level management teams always fall back to the past and worry more about the stock than the employees. I guess that’s their job, but the smart ones know how to nurture their employees and they in turn will give back much much more than cubicle sitting authoritative “boss what do you want me to do next” attitudes.

  27. I work for a small Veteran owned Engineering Services company located in Maryland. I work out of an offsite office in another state and one way we have worked around the collaboration issues is by following the Agile process where we meet virtually daily via Google hangouts. We can perform the same tasks in this environment as we can if we were meeting in the same room. We still have some internal communication issues but by forcing us to meet daily to discuss what we did yesterday, planning to do today and road blocks it helps work through the barriers. With Google hangouts we can share each others computer screens, create a white board sharing session for the meeting and collaborate on tasking and ideas. This structure has allowed the company to grow and capture critical resources while saving the company a significant amount of relocation expenses.

  28. Cindy Wood

    I find that I concentrate better when I am working from home. I can get heads down on a project without the constant distraction of someone walking into my office. There is alot of socialization that happens in the office that is both distracting and wonderful for cohesion and collaboration. I would find the perfect solution to be a blend of both. There should be core hours where everyone is in the office for face time and meetings where it is very helpful to have face time, and then times where telecommuting is an option. My biggest beef is dealing with my commute. I think it would be SO cool to have “in office” time from 10am-3pm everyday with the expectation that business hours begin at 8am and go till 5pm. You have to adjust to accommodate for drive times to work or anything personal – that should not be on company time. It is so nice to have the flexibility to take care of a few personal things during the work day and just make up for it during the course of the early morning or evening. This is the ultimate work life balance. The all or nothing approach creates stress for the employee and families, which ultimately is not healthy for anyone.

  29. I believe that coming to work and share Ideas with your associates is very good.
    However in these times of remote assistance and video conferencing it should be mixed
    In with your weekly activity. especially in the winter or when the weather plays an important part of preventing you from coming into the office. Both telecommunicating And going to the office should be mixed.

  30. Years ago I interviewed for a job and asked about telecommuting. I was assure everything was in place to support it. A few months after talking the job I suggested a telecommuting rotation and was told it was not allowed. When I remoinded the boss of the interview, he said, “Ya, you can work from home after hours and on weekends!”

    A few years later the boss’s attitude had wore me down and I left. I also moved 1,600 miles away. I offered to work romote for a few months while they found someone. Six years later, I still log 10 hours a week of remote support. Some weeks are easy, some not so much but overall it’s a nice $20K/yr job.

  31. MediaGuy

    I think that Yahoo should try a balanced approach; working from home with boundaries. Limit work from home to something like 2 days per week, have at least one day per week when the whole team is together. Remove the privilege for those who abuse the guidelines. Eliminating telecommuting/working from home, they will probably see increased absenteeism. Case in point; a parent with a sick child or school snow day – “I can’t make it to the office, guess I’ll have to take a sick day. Someone recovering from a cold or flu – “I can’t make it to the office, I’ll have to take a sick day”. A homeowner needing to be home for home repairs – “got to take time off”. The list goes on. This is especially true in states like California with long commutes.

  32. Steve77018

    Working from home can be more productive, especially if situations where the actual commute can be difficult. A few reasonable rules can make it work.
    1. Output from the telecommuter must in some way be measureable.
    2. Core times to interact with colleagues, either by teleconference or in person, must be in place so that EVERYBODY can plan their time effectively.
    3. Person must be able to concentrate when they are actually working so other members of the household must be educated on the need for the person working to actually work.

    I work in a situation where “face time” requires my presence, whether there is anything useful to do or not. My inner clock makes me most productive from mid-afternoon until about 10 PM or so. Maybe someday, before I die, I will find a situation that matches my clock.

  33. Personally, I think Yahoo’s decission to stop Telecommuting is going bite them in the butt. Telecommuting works which is why so many companies adopted it as an option. Get rid of the bad employees not the option to help bring in and keep good employees.

  34. We have so many ways/tools to collaborate that it is actually less productive to try to have a JAD meeting in a room with lots of people and a whitleboard. Software solutions are instantly demoed, updated and approved within hours not days. This is done in the context of however many folks are needed to pull together to get a specific piece of development completed tested and put into Production. In other words, its scale-able. You don’t have situations where half the team is involved in a meaningless (to them) meeting. We are on IM from time we come to work to time shift ends and any time away (such as lunch) is clearly displayed in my Status bar. I am available to my entire team at any time, OfficeSpeaker phone allows hands on Conference calls Available 24×7 by Cell phone. And best of All from my Companies perspective, I do not cost them a dime in phone bills, internet service or real estate. I am willing to pay those expenses since I don’t have the commute/eating lunch out expense. 2nd Best of all for my company, they never get a call with me telling them I am late for work because I am in a Traffic Jam. I would find it very difficult to maintain my current level of Productivity working in an Office setting. PS I am a Mainframe DBA so I recognize your mileage may vary.

  35. Scott Massie

    I think telecommuting can be a benefit to both the employer (less office space) and the employee (commuting cost). However to make it most productive for the companies other factors come into play. The final decision must rest with the employer as to what type of management style will work best for the organization. I know that I manage project teams and it is much more effective to management them in face-to-face meetings versus being remote to keep people on the same page. But in fairness to the employees if the telecommute factor was considered when they were hired as part of their benefits, the company should consider adjusting their pay accordingly to offset the additional expense incurred by the employees.

  36. Tom S.

    Eliminating telecommuting may help a little in the very short-term, but in a few months it will increase turn-over and increase salaries. Many people are willing to tollerate or accept a lower salary for a position that fits into their lives well and has lower commuting costs. When a company unilaterally eliminates most of the job flexibility for its employees, and significantly increases their commute time and commute costs, then that company will lose its best people.

    A company’s best, most qualified, most motivated people are the ones most capable of moving on to better situations. Over time many of the best, brightest, and most motivated employess will leave, and the loses will really hurt. Yahoo will be left with the comparatively less valuable, less motivated employees – and will become less competitive.

    I am one of those “IT rock stars” someone mentioned above. I am very well paid, but I have turned down numerous offers that would have paid me significantly more simply because my current job fits my life. I telecommute most days, and have very flexible hours. If that changed then I would just take one of the other jobs. Then it would take the company at least 3-4 months to fill the position, and take the new person 6+ months to learn my job fairly well.

    This move by Yahoo is an act of desperation, and it is likely to accelerate their fall. Yahoo wants its employees to step up productivity and help save the company – so it kicks them right in the junk. What a strange motivational technique.

  37. Working from home works better it eliminates travel time that could be used more productively to create instead. Also elimates stress on crowded freeways, potential time lost for accidents, etc. Need I say more.

  38. Mickie

    As a support person in a large company, I can tell you that of work from home
    Goes away then every time I get called to work an issue during my off hours I
    Would insist that I would need to drive in. Let them wait the hour drive and lose
    Some money. Think of it as a tax on foolishness. 🙂

  39. I feel if you’re not working doing your job that you’re responsible for there are alternatives…People go to college online and it’s done 100% from home. Will colleges start not offering online college degrees because people aren’t coming through on their course work. There are reprecusions for your actions. But don’t punish the whole place when there may be only a few not keeping up on their end of the bargan.

  40. I used to work as an analyst for a really great company in Virginia, a six hour round-trip commute from my home in Baltimore. When I was hired, the job was 100% telecommute with the stipulation that an occasional trip would have to be to the office. The job was a perfect fit for telecommuting because our clientele was always scattered across the country, never meeting each other face to face. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that we had to make face-time once weekly. On that day I typically got 50-60% of the work done that I did on the other four days. My boss, who I also liked, was extremely busy since she was the PM for several projects. We rarely saw each other. We had a standing meeting scheduled where my PM, me, and one or two team members met for an hour. When another gig came along that was truly 100% telecommuting, I left the 80% telecommuting job.

    If face-time added value, I would have understood. It didn’t add anything. Principle two of Lean Software Development states if something does not add value it is waste. That one day per week of face-time was a waste.

  41. Richard M.

    Most larger companies HAVE to have the setup for remote access at least for IT types because they need to do off-hours support. The only cost is perhaps some more bandwidth on their access lines.

    Telecommuters usually have their own equipment for their personal use anyways, so that doesn’t cost the company anything. They can write off their equipment, their home office, etc., on their taxes, as well as saving on commuting expenses.

    I think the real issue is that some people are the sort of people who can self-motivate to work better from home. Some people need the structure of being in the office. Either way, managers need to measure individual productivity and reward employees accordingly.

    I expect that Yahoo and Best Buy will see that their brightest and best people will leave soon.

  42. For the twenty years that Goodall Software Engineering did business, I worked for clients all over the world. I did so from my home office which I was told by some people put most software companies to shame. There are a variety of reasons I ended up working in this mode. For one thing, the competition for resources was an endless drag. Computers and associated peripherals, Software packages, both media and doc, sufficient Internet bandwidth, dedicated access to critical test equipment, and so on …

    When I worked on-site at companies, there were a set of factors that plagued me constantly.

    Too small an office. Things I needed to work become piles of things due to a lack of storage facilities for books and hardware items.

    Having to constantly wonder what happened to that reference manual I just had that seemed to have walked away, sometimes never to be seen again.

    Having management decide a co-worker needs hardware assets more than you do, and then things you are working on disappear off your bench unexpectedly.

    Keeping physical control over my development machine so viruses and other bothersome things don’t happen. Other employees in a hurry use your computer and forget to tell you they downloaded new plug-ins and installed them without asking you.

    Beyond these things, I consistently had trouble getting employers to provide things I knew would make me more productive, so I re-invested some of my income enhancing my tools so I could do a better job.

    I knew in my heart that if I had a fast computer, a fast printer, and the right software, it could make a major difference in my productivity, and I was right. I was very much more productive with a 21″ monitor than the 14″ ones the company got a good deal on.

    I believe many of these factors affect the productivity of current home workers, but they are not openly discussed. Just my two cents.

  43. What started happening, people, was a “work at home/telecommute culture” that ran amok in the 90’s and early 2000’s and created a dreadful caste system and it’s finally falling apart. So called “rock star” employees get to telecommute while the non rock star employees don’t? Screw that. Sorry IT folk, we tried, it didn’t work. Time to grow up and get a real job, where you have to talk to your co workers, face to face, instead of sending me an email in the middle of the day, demanding my immediate attention, so you can go pick up little Colten from the day care by 4:00pm before they charge you extra, and all because you decided to live 60 miles from your employer. It’s why it’s called a “job” and not summer camp. Your little party is over. Deal with it.

  44. Honestly, this talk about water cooler talk and running into people at the vending machine is so silly. I have never come up with a good idea in those situations. Cooler talk consists of what show they watched last night or who they hate b/c they are lazy, etc.

    I wish I could work from home so I could think and have control of my environment.

  45. Orthoducks

    There’s a broader aspect of this issue that really concerns me.

    Just as different people are better suited to different types of work (technical, artistic, human services) and different types of goals (money, professional recognition, internal rewards), different people are better suited to different social environments (constant, intermittent, or rare personal contact; high, medium, or low levels of interaction).

    Obviously these different preferences interact. People who abhor high levels of human interaction are not going to do well as a psychiatrist or a sales manager, no matter how much talent they have otherwise. But most professions offer plenty of room for a broad range of personalities to succeed, and for a broad range of organizational cultures to cater to offer supportive workplaces to different types of people.

    What I see at Yahoo is a decision to create conditions in which certain types of workers will thrive and certain others cannot function. What bothers me is that it represents a fairly broad-based movement, and it’s presented not as choice to create a certain type of corporate culture, but as an effort to create the “right” culture, disadvantaging anyone who does not have the “right” sort of personality to fit.

    I’ve interviewed at places where “pair programming” is a company policy: all code is written by two engineers sitting in front of the same computer. I’m not going to say that’s the wrong way to develop code, but I’d as soon go to bed with a person whose gender does not fit my orientation. If I worked for such a company as an engineer, I would not learn to program the “right” way, any more than… you get the idea.

    For me, policies that make it difficult to work at home and not in the office, alone and not in pairs, in a private room and not in a bullpen, are not very different from policies that make it difficult to work and have a baby, or avoid cigarette smoke, or have a particular skin color. In some cases the requirement is rational and necessary. In most it’s based on nothing more than prejudice, but if the culture is hostile, it can be almost impossible to overcome.

    Unfortunately my preference for working alone in a quiet room, preferably at home, is not protected the way my gender, race, and religion are.

  46. I think, as many of the comments state, that this would be a huge step back in time. With social media moving so fast forward is this a wise choice, I don’t think so. Also, forget work and just think about the environment, do we need billions of people commuting everyday? I live in So Cal and I for one would love to see companies get tax breaks for encouraging telecommuting and reducing smog and harm to our environment. Does Yahoo’s CEO have family in the oil business??? Just askin’!

  47. John Williams

    I used to work on a team that had team members working across the globe. Now my team is local but we still use web technologies. IMHO restricting telecommuting without analyzing the specific pros and cons will end with unintended consequences. If you a self starter will disipline then telecommuting makes total sense. The software we use makes the difference for me. We would attend the meetings from our own cubes or offices even if we were all in the Same building because the software makes it easier to share our desktops and demonstrate code or processes seamlessly. For me with poor eye sight it is almost a must. Perhaps a compromise is in order.

    • It looks to me like she doesn’t want to compromise, but rather take her big stick and punish the staff. In my opinion, Yahoo just (if not previously) became very hostile to the workforce. She is obviously the “authoritative” type and not the “consultative” type. I prefer to work with the consultative managers. You can talk to them and help important decisions come about.

  48. Too many “me-too CEOs” also believe behaving like an arrogant ass morphs them into the next Steve Jobs.

    Telecommuting is a valid option for some people, at some times, with some companies. Allowing everyone to do it because they want to makes as much sense as not allowing anyone to do it for any reason.

  49. Funny how the CIOs want it both ways….okay to have thousands of people “offshore” to do the work at low cost, as they have for years, but suddenly they don’t feel their own onshore people are as productive as when they are in the office. Yeah, that all makes sense.

  50. Her solution to the problem of the abuse of telecommuting is like banning all food from your house just because you saw some bugs in the kitchen. A good solution to that problem would be to clean it up, spray some instecticide, and put out some bait. You could do something similar with employees. Take corrective action with employees who are abusing the privilage, and monitor employees logins and online activity. Telecommuting is going to become more common, and her ban is an overly simplistic solution and JUST AN EXCUSE FOR NOT THINKING. This idiotic ban will undoubtedly prevent some talented indivuduals from working there or even applying for a job. It’s just dumb, and a lazy (as in lack of thought) way of handling problems.

  51. One can tell, Yahoo, is not at its best. Example: The “crappy” way my e-mail works….hackers, and people on the side of Yahoo that are doing “Nothing About It”. I am trying to stick with them but honestly, I am tired of it. Therefore, I can see why Myers, wants all of her people back together – one knows there are deeper issues.

    “Hey!” if you have a job get off of your duff (This is a better word then ‘glom’..what does that mean, Dawn?) and get up and go to work…you are getting paid; and if need be leave earlier to sit in 15 minutes of travel. The problem: many people who work at home think they are special….they are not – not unless you are a Vanderbilt. So, get over yourselfs and try to get Yahoo back.