Why Yahoo’s Decision Might Not Be So Wrong
Over the past few days there has been a lot of discussion about Yahoo’s decision to bring all of its employees into the office instead of letting them work from home. The trend in startups and newer companies has increasingly been to let more employees work remotely, so Yahoo’s decision to buck the trend is surprising.
But the vitriol against the move is being fueled by more than a big company’s decision to defy new workplace best-practices. I’ve been holding my breath and rooting for Yahoo, and the reaction to this announcement makes me think the rest of the community might have been too.
None of us are sure whether or not Marisa Mayer can pull off the miraculous turn-around that Yahoo needs. In her first few months as CEO she enacted some very radical changes that looked to be pulling Yahoo towards the realm of employee-competitiveness and excitement. Salvaging Yahoo seemed impossible, but all of a sudden she was doing it.
But suddenly we get news that the company is taking a step backwards. It’s revoking the privileges of employees it’s recently been spoiling, and the response has been tremendous. David Heinemeier Hansson wrote an incredibly biting piece condemning Yahoo’s decision and expressed excitement for the ousting of Mayer which he sees as imminent.
I think that gut reaction might be coming out too fast and too loud.
Working remotely is definitely the trendy thing to let your company do right now, and I’m absolutely on board with any company that is benefitting from a program that gives their employees more freedom. But I would never pretend to know whether or not Yahoo’s program was working and worth maintaining.
The truth is that decisions like this one get made based on data, data that none of the people criticizing the decision have. What if the remote Yahoos were getting 25% less work done than those doing their work at the office? Other companies have seen different trends, but the nature of the work being done and the management structure of the company certainly have an impact on whether or not programs like this make sense.
We’ve seen that Mayer and Yahoo are working to become more employee friendly in an attempt to make recruiting top talent easier. This announcement sacrifices some of the gains they’ve made in that area, and that is obvious to everyone involved—including the people who made the decision.
That means they’re either idiots who have no idea what they’re doing, despite having previously executed consistently and positively on this goal, or that they have more information than we do.
I don’t know the answer, but I wouldn’t be quick to assume it’s the former.
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