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Does Working from Home Make You a Yahoo?

Posted Feb 27 2013 12:00am
Melissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, has had a rough week. After her head of HR notified employees that telecommuting would no longer be permitted , Mayer has faced anger from all sides. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is the latest to weigh in , accusing Mayer (in so many words) of being out of touch. Our friends at Signals vs. Noise posted a passionate (and scathing) critique .

It's no secret that I support work/life balance and workplace flexibility. More than 25% of our own employees work remotely, and they're the backbone of our company. What I'd like to focus on today, though, is the actual memo -- the one Yahoo! employees received last week. Thanks to AllThingsD , you can read every word
Yahoos,

Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productive, efficient and fun. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

Thanks to all of you, we’ve already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to come. 

Imagine for a moment that you're one those poor remote Yahoos. The company has struggled lately (three different CEOs in 2012 alone), but you've hung in there because you love your job and believe in your work. Imagine being told by the head of HR that "[b]eing a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices." How would you react to reading that "[s]ome of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings"?

I bet you'd hear the voice of HR whispering, "You don't really contribute. You're not one of the cool kids. You're not a real employee."

This memo gets to me because communicating with employees is such a central part of what we do as a corporate wellness provider . We work hard to make people feel included, to encourage them to make positive changes in their lives, and it's tough to watch a company like Yahoo! stumble so badly. Remote employees aren't an inconvenience, or an obstacle, or a problem -- they're people. Treat them as such and they'll move mountains. (Our remote employees certainly do!)

What do you think? Was the Yahoo! memo out of line? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below.
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