Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is Marisa Mayer Going Backwards With Her Telecommuting Policy?

All Yahoo employees must work in the office by June this year, so said the new CEO of Yahoo, Marisa Mayer. In the past decade with the advancement of technology, telecommuting has been applauded as breaking the traditional 9-5 clock system.

I remember when I first started working the first thing I was introduced in my orientation was the punch card system. Every morning, this little event of making sure my punch card produces black print sweat me out quite a bit especially if my bus was running late. I would be rushing like a mad lady if I discovered that I might get a red print. Needless to say, it’s stressful. I’m so glad those days were over.

With the advancement of technology, telecommuting was introduced. It was good news to many especially for jobs that do not require physical presence in the office all the time. To me, this idea is progressive and liberating. We are after all adults that know our job and what it takes to do a good job. If we do not meet the standards or targets set, the consequences are clear. We don’t need a “referee” to look over our shoulders all the time and certainly the reason of not performing if ever is not due to not enough time spent in the office!

One of the best benefits of telecommuting is that it saved a lot of time – it makes so much sense especially when work can be done in the comfort of a home or anywhere else besides the office – not to mention the stress from beating the traffic and as a result, more time can be spent with family and etc. If a worker can generate same results, i.e., no effect on the job performance, why telecommuting is a bad idea now?

I’m not sure whether Yahoo has done a feasibility study before they came out with this policy or not. If they have hard evidence that concluded telecommuting was bad for business, I would like to hear it.

So far the only rationale of why the shift is that they believe by having everyone in the office, they will have many "fun" new initiatives, people feel "energy and buzz" when they work in the office, and some of the "best" work is done when you run into someone in the hallway. This sounds more like “we wish this will happen if everyone is around.”

I don’t deny physical meetings are powerful and the connection generated from such can rarely be replaced by a virtual set-up. It’s like the Recruiters conducting a face-to-face interview – it certainly gives us more information as compared to a tele-interview or via a google hangout.

However, in our context of work, there are some work like programming and writing that are best done in a place that the individual feels most comfortable – more likely achieved in the comfort of his home. Why restrict that? Of course, there is some type of work in which regular communication with colleagues help, say marketing. And therefore, meet up in the office and brainstorm! Why can’t there be options and flexibility? It’s an irony to see a technology company taking this step.

From the hiring strategy perspective, it might not augur well when companies like Virgin encourages people to work wherever they work best, whether that be from home or from the office.

So, if you are a talent, which company will you choose to work - Yahoo or Virgin?