The world was a buzz yesterday with Yahoo! and Marissa Mayer‘s new policy banning working from home. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. And, for every opinion there was a counter opinion. For every business leader who thought Yahoo! was wrong, there was another business leader who thought they were doing the right thing, for them. I would have weighed in yesterday, but I was really swamped. I worked from home for a little bit. Took care of some personal business. And then headed into the office. Took care of business there, rushed home, said hi to everyone, changed out of my suit and into some jeans, and headed off to a personal meeting. I got home close to 10:00 and fell asleep watching the Top Chef finale — no spoilers please. So you would think that I would personally be outraged by the new policy. I’m not. I get it. I’m finally finding the time to weigh in, and I have to agree with the Wired Magazine:
Yahoo’s reported decision to bar employees from working from home has led to the predictable backlash: “Crusty old Yahoo just doesn’t get it!” And the predictable backlash to the backlash: “Today’s workers are so spoiled and entitled!”
I think the truth is somewhere in between these absolutes of either or. As my friend Tim Corcoran pointed out in his blog post, The Work from Home Calculus:, “Productivity + Inequality – Collaboration + Quality of Life – Cost” = business solution. What is happening at Yahoo! this week is the solution to their calculus problem. And, thank God for men like Tim, because I don’t do math. And while I don’t do math, I do, however, have a gut feeling. And my initial gut reaction is that Yahoo! had swung the pendulum too far with the working at home, and it got out of hand. There was no oversight, and there was too much resentment towards those taking advantage of the policy, and it was creating an unhealthy, unproductive, and non-creative working environment at Yahoo! And now they are swinging it back. It will weed out those who are the slackers, hopefully bring some new energy into the halls of Yahoo! and a better work environment in time. Is it just me, or do you see this as a Five Dysfunctions of a Team case study? Eventually they will allow the pendulum to land somewhere in the middle, because that is the reality of our working world today. Or not. And I am not alone in this thought:
I think Marissa Mayer is way too smart for this to be the ultimate resolution of whatever challenge they’re facing,” says Tony Schwartz, the founder and CEO of The Energy Project, a consultancy to Fortune 100 companies that advocates for a more flexible workplace culture.
But the workers there will have a choice. They can not choose to commute into the office, or not. And not will mean finding another job. In the meantime, Yahoo! will be able to measure this new policy, because I do believe that they did not make this decision in a vacuum. There is something to be said for the energy created by people within an office. The brainstorming that takes place by the water cooler, or during cake day, or bumping into somebody and having an impromptu lunch meeting. When taking a new job, I half jokingly say that I like my office to be somewhere between the men’s room and the kitchen. After a long conference call, people get up, go use the restroom, grab a cup of coffee, and look for someone to talk to as they stretch their legs. And there I am … open door with toys on my desk to welcome you in. And it works. There is also something to be said for working at home as well. It allows me to maximize my time when commuting that day will make me less productive. Keeps me from taking sick days or personal days when I can work, I just can’t leave the house. As an extrovert, I build my energy by being around others. I don’t think it would be good for business for me to work from home most of the time. And I don’t think it would be good for an introvert to work from home most of the time. However, I do appreciate the ability to do so, when necessary. One thing I have learned from my most recent “let’s assess the team” exercise is that we each bring something special to the teams in which we belong. Whether you’re the visionary, or the implementer of that vision, or all the other necessary roles needed to accomplish the goals and strategy of the team we need one another to balance things out and create a functional entity. So I will not judge Yahoo! But I will watch. And I will learn.