much ink has been spilled the past couple of weeks over yahoo ceo marissa mayer's recent decision to require all employees to work inside the office. a vast majority of the knee jerk responses have focused in on why at-home workers are more productive, have a healthier work-life balance and generally happier employees.
you know what? all of those reactions can be backed up by some great data and are generally sound, accepted business practices in the early 2000's.
and they're all wrong for yahoo (right now). this is why marissa mayer is smarter than you.
yahoo, as a company, is currently a shell of what it once used to be. talent has been leaving in droves over the past few years. since 2009, they've turned over ceo's like a line cook flips burgers. revenues are falling, but more importantly, the product focus is a mess. i think most of the employees who've moved to 'at home' working have done so solely to escape the highly dysfunctional and toxic environment that's been steeping for the past decade or so. can you blame them?
what ms. mayer knows is that nothing short of a full-overhaul of the office culture is needed to even create an environment capable of delivering the kind of online experiences that drive their future trajectory. you can't change an office culture - IN THE SHORT TERM - when a significant chunk of your employees never interact face to face. let's be real - working from home is a lot like suburbia - quiet, isolating (in a sense) and, well, comfortable.
yahoo doesn't need 'comfortable' right now. it needs sparks, caused by friction, and you maximize those chances by pushing people into a closer physical proximity (the urban city). and ms. mayer's smart enough to understand that the short term fallout from very 'comfortable employees' and a trigger happy punditry is a small price compared to the long term culture she wants to create.
yes, she's going to be accused of blatantly creating a double standard - the ceo telling everyone to toil away in the office while she takes off in time to catch dinner with the husband and baby. but, if you read the contents of the memo, this isn't the point. i'm assuming flex time is still intact, that a reasonable work-life balance is still desired for each employee and that some people will still largely be on the road, working away from the office. none of these, though, are the same as working full time from 'home' (or the local cafe) WHEN YOU CAN JUST AS EASILY COME INTO THE OFFICE.
my guess? employees will eventually be allowed to once again work away from the mother-ship. but you know what? if ms. mayer pulls off the cultural transformation she's embarking on, i'm not convinced quite as many will actually want to flee.
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