Yahoo Inc. going backwards

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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has today reversed existing company policy regarding employees working from home. From June all employees will have to show up at the office in a decision that goes contrary to current thinking on this type of working arrangement.

A wealth of reputable research indicates that working from home increases productivity and this is backed by the experiences of major international entities that encourage the practice. The system saves employer costs such as office space, energy etc. and saves the employee commuting time and expense, and in some cases childcare costs and allows greater personal flexibility. Those industries in which such arrangements are practical are trending towards the expansion of this method of labour engagement. The technology industry is a forerunner in the field and many service industries have also counted the benefits: Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, telcos and journalists and insurance companies and dressmakers and copy-editors and innumerable others. New terms like Telecommute and Telework have become part of business jargon.

Industrial cost savings pale in comparison to the plans of governments around the world who have been following this trend. Some have factored into their future estimates equations that reduce capital expenditure on roads and public transport based on a drop in the number of commuters. Carbon emission estimates have been made on the proportionate reduction of pollutants from commuting and less office space. This extends to land for parking and planning for urban high-rise development. Health budgets reflect less cases of work stress and motor vehicle trauma.

It is difficult to explain the Yahoo move in the light of a connected world where internet bandwidth is now fast and affordable at a time when computers have never been cheaper and an average employee’s smartphone increases their availability to a possible 24/7 scenario.  Yahoo has cited the value of impromptu ideas in meetings as being part of its rationale but there is nothing to support this and in this day and age businesses do not make major changes without extensive research. The extensive research of the day points to working from home being added value for businesses and there is nothing to suggest that ideas originate in a specific environment. It is already a common complaint that too much time is spent in meetings anyway. When necessary, the virtual VideoTeleMeeting allows such an environment.

Marissa Mayer is the relatively new boss at Yahoo. She previously worked for Google, the company that invented the flexible workplace. She was headhunted into Yahoo in an attempt to restore the stale search engine to its former glory. Industry watchers have been waiting for her first major move. If this is it, nobody will be impressed. She’s not responding to requests for an explanation, saying that the decision is “an internal matter”. Respectfully Marissa Meyer, it’s not. It is now in the public arena and will be exposed for the short-sighted, selfish thinking that it is. As a manager you should know to keep it simple: increases in productivity mean better businesses and telework means increased productivity.

There are ramifications to her decision that affect the workforce worldwide, global environmental issues and government policy on every continent. In Australia the government is rolling out fibre-optic broadband to every home on the continent. To every home (sorry 98% – the outback will get satellite). It expects to double the number of people working from home to 12% of the workforce by 2020. The original estimate for this National Broadband Scheme was $43b and it will almost certainly come in over budget but the Australian Commonwealth has already counted the savings right down to the reduction in potholes to be repaired in rural back roads.

15 thoughts on “Yahoo Inc. going backwards

  1. Fascinating and thought-provoking. I’m confused, though, as to how a single questionable “internal” business decision by Yahoo would affect the economy, the environment, and government policy on a global scale? Yahoo, while up there with Google, Microsoft, etc., isn’t big enough to singlehandedly change the world with such ease … right?

  2. Great informative article Mike. Fascinating too, I have no doubt that there’s something going on behind the scenes that hasn’t been spoken of yet! Once a marketing professional myself, I know the research usually required before a major corporate change. And most obvious, I can figure out what the research would shown, so her decision does seem incomprehensible. Thanks for a great read, Penny

    • Thank you Penny for adding your professional opinion. Ms Meyer isn’t doing herself or Yahoo any favours by not being more forthcoming. The news headlines are all over it this morning. AI suspect that a response is now likely.

  3. Thank you for posting, so interesting! yes, in Australia the push is very much in the opposite direction and one that seems both modern and sensibe. How very odd that someone whose career was probably accelerated by her involvement in the flexible approach goes all ‘last millenium’ in her new role. Very odd. 🙂

    • Thanks for buying into this Helen. Odd indeed. The furore taking place in the press should cause her to explain her reasoning – we’ll have to wait and see. And yes, Australia bit the bullet and made an expensive decision but one that will pay huge dividends in the long term.

      • So true. I’ve been watching the media furore over this past week..its fascinating, and perhaps even more fascinating is reading the comments to articles written about it. Opinion is very divided, but I found the sub-story about how she treats her staff rather off-handedly really inteesting when considering the larger this issue. It shows how much the CEO of an organisation impacts much bigger decisions and how their own personality quirks can have a dis-proportionate effect. 🙂

  4. Catherine Johnson says:

    I think that is a shame, take out the commute, the useless meetings, the cost. I can’t see any common sense about that decision.

  5. I had read about this a couple of days ago and was well surprised. It is not only an idiotic policy, it is also absolutely insensitive to categories in the workforce that cannot physically commute. My mom works for IBM and she works from home, and honestly she quit her last job because it wouldn’t allow her to do that. As if we need another reason to think this policy is ridiculous, Donald Trump has gone ahead and applauded Meyer for it. He says it’s the right way to go since you can’t know what these people would be getting up to at home. This brings up the question of trust in your employees. I don’t see Yahoo Inc. benefiting from this at all.

    • You provide further good reason why this decision is objectionable Nandini, your own family being an obvious case And trust is a two way street – it will always be taken for granted that the worker should trust the firm but what about the firm reciprocating this trust? I notice that Twitter is fired up on this very issue right now so perhaps Ms Meyer may reassess her position, especially if she realises how much damage The Donald’s support could do to her reputation 😀 Thank you for your comment and support.

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