As a work at home mom, I have to admit, when I heard the news about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s directive to eliminate Yahoo’s work from home program, I was not happy. How Mayer runs Yahoo is not my business, and I’m well aware of the fact that she probably does not care at all about what a telecommuting employee in Colorado (who happens to work for a company in North Carolina) thinks about her decisions. Let’s get this straight, I don’t care what she thinks either. I’m not here to talk about what I think of her personally, or what I think of the way that she’s running Yahoo. I am here to talk about what she is doing to Yahoo’s reputation.
There’s no doubt that the memo sent to Yahoo’s remote employees was not well-received in the technology world. Although the memo seemed upbeat and well-intentioned, comments later issued by Yahoo execs carried a different tone. References were made to “trimming the fat” and “improving productivity”. Hey Yahoo, I have to say, I really don’t think dragging people into the office so that you can look over their shoulders to ensure that they’re working is going to improve productivity. I have worked both in office environments and at home over the past few years, and I’ve got to say, I am the most productive when I feel trusted and supported by my superiors. No matter where my desk is located. Feeling like someone is looking over my shoulder to ensure that they’re getting the maximum bang for their buck out of me is the quickest way to get me to not want to work. But I digress.
Saying that the news of this policy has created an uproar would be a bit of an understatement. Employees are angry, telecommuters from companies all over the world are offended, and tech companies are coming out of the woodwork offering Yahoo employees new work at home opportunities. My guess? Many of them will be taking a good look at these offers. I think Yahoo took a big gamble with their reputation on this one, here’s why:
- Ultimatums often equal desperation. It doesn’t matter what the company’s reasoning is for revoking their work at home program. Sending out an across the board ultimatum never looks good from the outside.
- Forcing many to pay for the mistakes of few brings Yahoo’s leadership skills into question. There are allegations that Yahoo was not managing their remote employees well. Punishing quality employees because of bad leadership does not improve morale on any front.
- Yahoo’s refusal to comment makes us wonder how bad things really are. Is Yahoo a sinking ship? Forcing a change this big feels rather drastic, what is causing Yahoo execs to make it? Panic? Last resort? Who knows, but it’s likely not good.
- If Yahoo doesn’t trust its own employees, why should I? A sweeping statement about lost productivity makes me question Yahoo as a whole. If they can’t trust their own employees, I can’t trust Yahoo. Ask investors how much confidence they have in Yahoo these days. My guess? Not much.
- Mayer continually alienates working mothers. This is not the first time that she’s given the impression that she values work over work-life balance. Many working moms look to her as a role model, and her behavior continues to set us back instead of moving us forward.
Guess what, Yahoo? You can’t force collaboration and creativity. If employees feel like they’re only valued for the time that their bodies are planted in cubicles, they’re only going to work for you between the time that they clock in to the minute clock out. Their evangelism for your brand is going to dwindle. They’re not going to hop on the computer at ten pm because they got a great idea that they can’t wait to share. In fact, they’re much more likely to try and see just how much they can get away with while big brother is watching them in the office. Their loyalty to your company will sit exactly where they feel that your company’s loyalty to them is. You are a technology company, Yahoo, why aren’t you embracing the idea of technology bringing people together instead of fighting it?
As a work at home mom, I am eternally grateful to Andy Beal for taking a chance and trusting me to become part of the awesome team here at Trackur. I can honestly say that I love what I do, and I work for an amazing company. Is it an easy balance? No. Do I know how lucky I am? Absolutely. And I will do everything in my power to ensure that I hold up my end of the bargain, even if that means writing a blog post in the middle of the night, or responding to a customer request at noon on a Sunday. This is not just a job for me, it is a part of my life. A part that I value far too much to mess up. I can’t speak for everyone who works at home, but I’d guess that I’m not alone in feeling this way.