Continued Yahoo decision-spawned buzz: perceived problems with work-from-home employees being attributed to “Remote”

So, I didn’t realize that the Yahoo decision regarding work-from-home employees was going to generate so much related buzz and discussion (see here if you haven’t heard about it yet).

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  • On career prospects for the Remote employee: “…workers may be missing out on the personal contacts that get them promoted.”
  • On perception: “…despite studies showing that home-based workers may be more productive than their cubicle-bound peers, remote workers must also combat the perceptions among managers and colleagues that they’re not spending the day goofing off.”
  • On Remote working dependencies: “…remote employees can be just as productive as co-located teams, depending on how well they are managed and the job functions involved.”
  • On idea-sharing/innovation: “Some managers say the office just holds more opportunities for the accidental encounters that
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    can lead to new products or relationships.”

  • On speed/decision-making: “Having employees in the office can also lead to faster decisions and communication, because workers can more easily reach out to their colleagues, said Dan Yates, CEO of Arlington, Va.-headquartered energy-technology company Opower.”
  • On Quality: “Yahoo’s human resources chief said in a company memo that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.

I would say that these are all valid points, and would like to briefly address them one-by-one, because as I’ve said before, there is Remote, and then as a sub-category there is the work-from-home Remote worker.

  1. On career prospects for the Remote employee: This only matters if the employee is a full-time, long-term worker in the firm. This doesn’t apply to remote temp workers or freelancers who are on a project basis.
    • Applicable to work-from-home employees? Yes.
    • Applicable across Remote? No.
  1. On perception: this is another one that is strictly work-from-home vs. work-from-office. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Remote is much bigger than “work-from-home” and Remote working can simply mean working in two different offices on opposite sides of the globe.
    • Applicable to work-from-home employees? Yes.
    • Applicable across Remote? No.
  1. On Remote working dependencies: I like this one, as yes I believe across Remote those are certain dependencies, and do not only include how the employee is managed but also the type of work they are doing. I’ll explore appropriate types of Remote work in later posts.
    • Applicable to work-from-home employees? Yes.
    • Applicable across Remote? Yes.
  1. On idea-sharing/innovation: Sometimes (and I’d argue oftentimes), great ideas come out of well-coordinated, structured and purposeful brainstorming sessions, which, as much as I love white-boarding in a conference room full of people, can be done just as effectively using the right remote tools (lots of article out there on “Remote Brainstorming”:
    • Applicable to work-from-home employees? No.
    • Applicable across Remote? No.
  1. On speed/decision-making: The article itself answers whether or not this one applies across Remote: “…Dan Yates, CEO of Arlington, Va.-headquartered energy-technology company Opower. Almost all of his firm’s 320 employees work out of the company’s four global offices, which are equipped with videoconferencing technology allowing workers in different offices to simulate face-to-face contact.”
    • Applicable to work-from-home employees? No.
    • Applicable across Remote? No.
  1. On Quality: The best I can say on quality of workers working Remotely vs. in-house is I don’t think so. Does a programmer’s code come out worse because his computer is sitting at his home desk vs. an office desk? No. A programmer’s code comes out worse if there are not proper quality assurance checks in place, period. I could go on… I believe that failure in quality has to do with systematic failures vs. physical location of an employee.
    • Applicable to work-from-home employees? No.
    • Applicable across Remote? No.

Let’s see if people can move away from the blaming “Remote” for the problems (perceived) with work-from-home employees.

2 thoughts on “Continued Yahoo decision-spawned buzz: perceived problems with work-from-home employees being attributed to “Remote”

  1. Thanks for these insights Patrick — notably those on quality of work completed from home vs. an office. I enjoyed reading this simple, clean analysis.

    A key issue around this topic: my firm (and likely many others) have been disappointed in the past with the quality of code coming from Remote project team members, which can result in substantial re-work by local project teams and elimination of savings from the Remote model. You mention the need for proper quality assurance checks at the end of your article. I would enjoy hearing your perspective on what these checks may look like — for coders or Remote workers in general.

    • John, thanks for the comments and questions. Yes you bring up some really good points that I think I’ll need to address in a full-out post in the near future. In the meantime, you touch upon something really important, and that is Quality. When it comes to quality assurance and checks for remote staff (whether they are coders, bookkeepers, marketers, customer support people, etc.), one problem I’ve seen is that when firms outsource full on management and expect the provider to do everything, when it comes out sub-par there is not much they can do. This is one of the reasons why I favor Remote Staffing for many types of work over completely outsourcing things, unless you really know that the provider can deliver. Remote Staffing is basically hiring temp workers and getting the same access to talent and cost savings that you would if you were to outsource the whole solution, only, you maintain control over your people and can put in place the processes that you know should be there. I prefer this over outsourcing as well as over freelancers (some of my other posts talk about different types of Remote) – companies can get the talent, get the savings, but don’t get the headaches of a provider who doesn’t deliver, because the company itself maintains that accountability. Remote should be an enabler, because hiring top talent will enable your organization to thrive.

      As a final note, sounds like the disappointment and re-work with your team may be symptoms of something greater, and that is that either: A. your provider didn’t put the right QA in place (or was just bad at what they do), or; B. if these remote workers work for your firm, then your firm needs the right QA processes and to make Remote workers adhere to them just as any other developer on the team would, remote or not. Some great tools out there that I’ll explore in later posts – in the meantime perhaps give Pivotal Tracker ( a try if your software is built agile and requires tons of updates from your team.

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