If you haven’t heard, Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer recently announced that Yahoo! employees who currently take advantage of a work from home program will no longer be able to do so. All employees will be required to show up AT work every day. Seems reasonable, right?
Many are up in arms however, because flexible work arrangements are viewed as the progressive approach to encouraging employee commitment and engagement, and actually taking advantage of mobile technology. I have read some comments from ex-Yahoo! employees saying that there were far too many people slacking off, not contributing their share, and some who were actually starting other businesses while being paid by Yahoo!. Which, at first blush, makes the new policy seem even more reasonable. The reports in the press indicate that Yahoo! feels that if people have to come to work, they will get more done, they will interact with other employees more, and it will help get results.
Now, let me be clear, I have no idea what it’s actually like at Yahoo!. But, please indulge my speculation as to what could really be behind this new policy. I think this decision is more about holding management accountable for the results they should have been getting, and less about the propagation of ideas through face-to-face interactions, or an indictment of the work-from-anywhere trend in business. Yahoo! is a big company and my guess is that Marissa Mayer’s management teams’ first excuse for poor results was that they could not control their employees because they never knew where they were. When you have managers who aren’t getting results and resort to excuse-making, you need to deal with the problem.
Step one – remove the excuses. Everybody needs to be at the office. Done.
Step two – hold management accountable for results. “Your staff is at work every day, if they aren’t getting results, what’s the problem?” This is where weak managers will be exposed and strong managers will thrive.
Step three – correct or remove the problems. Focus on the results, and provide help for those who aren’t getting them. If poor performance continues, those accountable need to be fired. Once the right people are in the right roles and are getting the required results, I expect Yahoo! will be less concerned where or when people work than with ensuring their work is improving the company.
My guess is that this is a quick way to take away excuses from management and start holding them accountable for results. Once Marissa Mayer is satisfied that people are doing the work necessary to get results, a long term strategy giving employees more control of how they get those results can be implemented.