There were many things broken at Yahoo when Marissa Mayer first took over as CEO. She has moved the company forward, consolidated vision, and set the company on a better course than its seen in years. We’ve been very positive about her decisions to date.
The most recent one is idiotic. It’s the type of move that offers little potential benefit while risking a potential backwards step in the progress that has been made so far.
The idea of “Physically Together” is this: an office environment is the best place for every single employee at Yahoo. As of June, all of the hundreds of remote employees will be forced to choose between working from the office or resigning. Those who have partial exceptions that allow them to occasionally work from home will no longer have that option. Working from home while “waiting for the cable guy” will require good judgment and permission. In other words, even that is frowned upon.
In a world where more companies are seeing tremendous results by allowing certain roles and groups of employees to stay at home, this type of backwards thinking is the first sign of trouble for the Mayer era. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that working from home is a good thing or not. The company is in a fragile state. This is the wrong time to make such a move.
It would be different if thousands of employees were currently working from home. That sort of major move would make strategic sense. To focus on so few means that the benefits will be nil and problems will arise as a result. Now is the time for Yahoo to be tackling big problems, not working on minor logistics issues. It should have been pushed to 2014 or beyond. No need to rock a boat that’s already on choppy waters.
This is, of course, all assuming that you believe in the notion that people can be more productive “working together” in an office environment. In the world of tech, most forward-thinking companies are allowing more of their employees to go home. Yahoo is bucking the trend, damaging the relationship they have with some current employees, and limiting the talent pool for gaining future ones.
It’s a rookie move, one that you wouldn’t expect from a veteran in the world of leading thousands. Yahoo is not Google. It does not possess the same company culture of fostering creativity that is inherent with Googlers. You have to build a work environment that is progressive in order to earn the ability to make a change like this. Yahoo is not ready.
I completely understand the genesis of the move. Those who work better in an office environment are unable to understand that there are some, perhaps a small percentage but present nonetheless, who are much more productive and efficient in the comfort of a home office. Technology has given us the ability to collaborate beautifully from remote locations. It is easier to hold those who work at home accountable for their work today than ever in the past.
Yahoo apparently believes that a closer employee environment will foster a stronger company culture and it’s a valid argument. It simple wasn’t handled properly. This isn’t the right time to shake things up like this. Make progress and push forward before making changes that are bound to have a negative effect on company morale. Save unpopular changes for when the company can afford it.