What Do You Think of Yahoo’s Ban on Telecommuting?

So someone asked me the other day about Yahoo recently putting the kabosh on telecommuting (employees who work from home) and what I thought of it.

As an armchair quarterback, my personal opinion is that generally-speaking, I think it’s a dumb move. Study after study show that productivity and morale are boosted in all kind of ways by allowing employees to work from home.

Yahoo is only putting a Bandaid on their telecommuting problems by elminating it. And that’s because the problems they are having are not a failure of telecommuting itself, but with the deeper underlying issues in corporate culture, values and management.

If employees don’t care about the company or their work at home, sitting them in an office isn’t going to change that.

I can see all kinds of opportunities for Yahoo to make make telecommuting work for them and not throw the baby out with the bath water:

  • Hiring better.
  • Having in-person get-togethers and meetings throughout the year.
  • Making better use of technology and incorporating video conferencing so there is more group interaction and collaboration.
  • Oh, and here’s a big one… how about giving a shit about the people and placing importance on the work they do and helping them understand the import and value of that work. I’m willing to bet that there is at least some faction of their telecommuting workforce they view as “lower-level” and were simply relegating them to telecommuting status to cheap out and save a buck. And when that is the underlying motivation, the employees absolutely know at some level they are not valued. So why should they give flying f**k? Loyalty goes both ways. And loyalty, interest and caring aren’t things that can be bought with a paycheck.
  • How about ASKING employees what they value most about a job, what motivates them, and what would help them find more passion, purpose and meaning in their work and being with the company?
  • Give employees the forum to address the issue and come up with solutions. I can just about guarantee they come up with far more creative solutions and ideas!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is all kinds of possibility for innovation if they could just shuck their antiquated, old-school employer mentality.

To be clear, I don’t really care about the topic all that much because it’s one of employers and employees. As a business owner (and not a telecommuting employee), it doesn’t have anything to do with me or my clients so I really don’t waste precious time and mental energy worrying about it.

However, I did come across an article on the topic that said something that was interesting to me:

The value in human interaction is greater collective wisdom as a result of improved communication and collaboration.

So, here is my question to you:

With all the technology and resources available to us in this day and age (forums, listservs, group chats, video conferencing, etc.) do you think we as independent professionals who run our businesses remotely lack in any ability to engage in human interaction and nurture greater collective wisdom, communication and collaboration?

 

Let us know what you think in the comments. 🙂

17 Comments Posted in Being Human, Personal Musings, Productivity. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses

  1. Hi Danielle,

    Since I have been conducting business online I have had the best professional interaction with other business owners. I have learned so much from mentors, peers and online coaches locally and globally, it is like attending university. I also have the time to read relevant blogs and articles to further expand my knowledge and growth. On this note, I think people have leftover time to invest in others when they work remotely.

    Kind regards,

    Brigitte.

  2. Margaret says:

    When I heard about it, I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. People are not going to work whether they’re sitting at home or in an office if thats what they choose to do. But I do think they’re going to lose a few really good employees because of this move

  3. Ditto, Danielle and Margaret! This was definitely a move that they’ll regret soon enough and will most likely have to relaunch.This sounds like an issue with micromanaging (which isn’t good) and if that’s the case, they probably need to just restructure some processes within their business or flat out hire newer, more proactive employees, to be able to continue successfully telecommuting. Good luck Yahoo!

  4. So true, Leshante (micromanaging)!

    Here’s something else for them to consider: They can hire all the new employees they want, and I guarantee you, they’ll still have the same problems. Because Yahoo and its culture/management is the root of the problem, not the employees.

  5. So true, Danielle…and yet, so unfortunate. Again we say, “Good luck Yahoo!” Thanks for touching on the topic.

  6. Why can’t they ban telecommuting? She is in there to try and improve Yahoo’s performance. What did people (working parents) do before we had telecommuting? They worked, had daycare, and made it work. My parents certainly did. I did.

    Now, that being said, I did hear that perhaps the decree was a bit heavy handed and could have been done differently. I don’t see why a company cannot set its own policies. If people want to go work for another company that pampers them, gives them nap time, entitlements, then they can go.

    A business may have to make unpopular decisions to become more profitable and a leader. Perhaps telecommuting for Yahoo needs to be restructured and different guidelines put in place in order for it to work better. People will take advantage of a great opportunity (telecommuting) if allowed. And the few can spoil the opportunity for the majority.

    And, as you noted in another post, people who are treated like a cog, will behave like a cog. Being truly appreciated and valued by a company does foster loyalty and creativity.

    Instead of penalizing the telecommuters perhaps they should look at the management culture that let it happen.

    Whether it is a good move, we shall see. I have a feeling they will back off with all the publicity.

  7. Oh, I hope they are not kowtowed by adverse publicity.

    (I have to look up the proper selling of that word. I just realized I’m not sure how it’s spelled, lol.)

    Instead of being bullied by outsiders who need to mind their own business, I’m hoping instead they will see that it’s in their own best interests to figure out what they’re doing wrong with telecommuting and learn how to better understand what makes people tick, and then fix those problems.

  8. Oh, hey, I did spell it right!

    Interesting bit of trivia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kowtow

    Kowtow, which is borrowed from kòu tóu in Mandarin Chinese, is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to have one’s head touching the ground. An alternative Chinese term is ketou, however the meaning is somewhat altered: kòu has the general meaning of ‘knock’, whereas kē has the general meaning of “touch upon (a surface)”, tóu meaning head.

    Kowtow came into English in the early 19th century to describe the bow itself, but its meaning soon shifted to describe any abject submission or grovelling

  9. Lu Sabal says:

    I also think that Yahoo, has a LOT to prove with this move of eliminating WFH. Yahoo is an internet/technology based company that has had quite a few leaders in the last 10 years and haven’t exactly brought on any new innovations in the last few years unlike Google.

    I’m anxious to see the results of this bold maneuver on her part. I hope they don’t kowtow/bend to public ridicule.

  10. So, we’re kind of straying from the topic of the discussion. Let’s forget about Yahoo. What I’m interested in are your thoughts on the question I posed in my post which is this:

    With all the technology and resources available to us in this day and age (forums, listservs, group chats, video conferencing, etc.) do you think we as independent professionals who run our businesses remotely lack in any ability to engage in human interaction and nurture greater collective wisdom, communication and collaboration?

    (Be sure to also answer on the poll.)

    Let’s hear your thoughts!

  11. Danielle,

    Sorry about that! We answered the poll, however did not address it via our comment about Yahoo, so we stopped back by.

    That’s a negative…just because one operates a business remotely, that does not take away from the ability to remain human and partake in human activities such as conversing/networking, learning, and the like.

    It definitely takes more discipline to create the balance, but if you want your life to bloom, just as you expect your business to, then you’ll take the necessary steps to do so. Even if it means, going to a few networking events or informational webinars for business growth purposes, and family gatherings or friends’ wedding to stay in touch with loved ones.

  12. Lydia says:

    She only meant this for her company. Good Morning America covered this story today.

  13. Linda says:

    Hi Danielle,

    I think that the CEO of Yahoo is setting a bad precedence for women who work in the Corporate world. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all left the company to work closer to home. Here in Silicon Valley the traffic alone is a reason to work near home, it’s a real b*tch quite frankly.

    There are going to be moms and dads that will see this as a ridiculous idea, especially in this time in history with all the technology we have at our fingertips. But whatever…I did vote in your poll, what a good idea! We and I mean all the Entrepreneurs in this world, I know are shaking their heads and are happy they are not “trapped” in the Corporate lifestyle!!

  14. Lu Sabal says:

    As an independent business owner my primary business interaction is usually conducted through a series of words and sentences found on a computer screen. The words themselves do not contain the idiosyncrasies of facial expression and intonation (which is often individualized by personality; with personality being the variable).

    I believe that we are only inhibited by our ability to express ourselves using language as a canvass and the words are the art itself. If that ability is exemplary (in that individual) then that individual would be well understood and contribute in various forms of communication becoming part of the greater collective of wisdom.

    I believe very little is missed honestly in terms of internet versus the stone age old, office pool, office assistant, and the just old fashioned being “right there” in the office. Fax machines, email, social media, text messaging, conferencing, webinars, skype etc…all contribute to this feeling, but I am also aware that they only are effective as we the business owners ability to use them.

  15. Anne Utulu says:

    I believe remote workers have not missed a thing with the onslaught of social media and other telecommunication systems. Indeed I feel its those worker in the office who are missing out on valuable networking opportunities as they are often stuck in the office most year round. They are lucky if they get two training opportunities in a year.

    Remote business workers have a broader horizon in a work day than those stuck in office such that their interaction is often limited to colleagues around them in the same office.

    In addition, they have limited control in the kind of conversations they get involved in especially in the open planned environment (where there exists some time wasters that roam around making unwanted conversations). Remote workers have a better control on what they get involved in.

    As for advice and support, there is a wealth of it out there (a click away!). So I’m all for remote working any day 🙂

  16. John Hardy says:

    To answer the poll question, no. Communication is important even though we are virtual. Seems to me there is a brand new invention called the telephone, so yes, that is important. It would be interesting to see if she has paperwork and directions to the local UI office, so all the people who leave know how to get there. Let’s see what would happen if she were given the directions to the same office. She is getting a lot of publicity for her company, but unfortunately , not the right kind.

  17. Elizabeth Nadler says:

    I just want to say in response to one comment above that I hardly think telecommuting can be compared to pampering and entitlements.

    No Danielle – I don’t think we have lost the human factor by investing in newer, remote technologies. I don’t believe that we lack in any ability to engage in human interaction and nurture greater collective wisdom, communication and collaboration? –

    I have to look at relationships I have established with some people on LinkedIn – I’ve made some great friends. I have an excellent relationship with my client. On facebook, I cannot even begin to tell you how many communities have formed to network for abused animals, human rights issues, etc. I see a tremendous amount of collective wisdom, communication and collaboration. In my business, I see eventually linking some things together with outreach for people who are in need of help, for various charitable causes, for the environment. I’ve seen a lot of good fostered through remote communications.

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