Yahoo says “no” to work-from-home, but are they saying “no” to Remote?

Over the weekend, All Things Digital released a story that Yahoo’s CEO has just “instituted a HR plan today to require Yahoo employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities” (http://allthingsd.com/20130222/yahoo-ceo-mayer-now-requiring-all-remote-employees-to-not-be-remote/?refcat=news). Since then, there have been a flurry of articles on the topic, and it is eye opening to read most of the comments for these articles because they are overwhelming against the decision. A few comments worth noting:

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  • “A no work-from-home policy screams ‘we are looking for people who comply, not people who create.’”
  • “Productivity and collaboration are not dependent on location. You can be in the same room with 30 others at a tech company yet never look up from your computer. You can be at home and be on a 4-way video call, brainstorming and pulling great ideas out of the ether.”
  • “How do they expect to attract top talent with this policy?”
  • “This isn’t about human interaction or impromptu hallway meetings–it’s about maintaining a culture of fear and control. The real problem at Yahoo is a series of know-nothing HR regimes that adopt screwball philosophies completely disconnected from the way people really work, live, and create.”
  • “In a society where people and corporations are more and more embracing the work/life balance, this is a total backasswards movement on the part of Yahoo.”

 

So, in the spirit of treating Remote as something much bigger than simply “working from home”, let’s take a step back and understand if this is a “no to Remote” decision, or simply a “no to working-from-home” decision.

 

The thing is, I can actually fully understand where this decision is coming from in the first place. If you read the memo itself (http://allthingsd.com/20130222/physically-together-heres-the-internal-yahoo-no-work-from-home-memo-which-extends-beyond-remote-workers/) , sent by the Chief Human Resource Officer of Yahoo, Jackie Reses, you can tell clearly where she is coming from and why she thinks this is a good idea: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need

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to be working side-by-side.” It’s culture-building, and she is worried that by having a workforce not working side-by-side that Yahoo becomes a collection of independently moving pieces vs. one cohesive culture. In theory, this makes sense, and is in line with my previous post where I commented on Shane Mac’s article called, “Why Remote is bad for start-ups” ( http://venturebeat.com/2012/04/11/why-a-remote-workforce-is-bad-for-startups/).

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However, whether she knows it or not, I don’t think Jackie is saying “no” to Remote, and here’s why: “From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.” Bangalore? Santa Monica? Beijing? Is she going to consolidate all of these offices into one physical location? From her memo, I think not, and so she is going to have to rely on Remote working and communication between these offices… or maybe she thinks it will be impossible for Bangalore to communicate effectively with Santa Monica?

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Part of Remote also means leveraging email, chat, skype, even mobile to get work done in a location agnostic manner. I am quite confident that these tools will continue to be employed, and that an employee on floor 2 will still IM someone on floor 3 and most likely not meet face-to-face on a given day.

 

As I’ve explored in earlier posts, Remote is about embracing the power of technology, ignoring physical location constraints and combining that with the power to have access to a wider, global talent pool. Work-from-home is one way to leverage those new powers, but is certainly not the only way. Let’s hope that Yahoo continues to embrace Remote working in its other forms, such as building out workforces in strategic locations, hiring remote temporary staff for special projects, and engaging online freelancers when needed.

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Remote is about changing the way we think about hiring and managing a workforce – that’s the revolution. Work-from-home as a company policy/allowance is a part of this, and this policy doesn’t always work for all company cultures, let alone within all cultures globally (e.g. Japan where face-time is highly valuable in and of itself… will jump into that in future posts).

 

All for now – jury’s still out on this one, but one thing is for sure – it is definitely bucking some trends: re-posting this infographic that was already made 1.5 years ago:

Source: http://blog.spoken.com/2011/10/working-from-home-the-infographic.html

Managing the Virtual Workforce

Exploring Remote Working: Hiring Freelancers, Benefits & Risks

Balancing between Remote and Hiring Freelancers

Image by Sepehr Ehsani

Remote is about doing a job remotely, i.e. not face to face, and one area that remote working has revolutionized is the hiring of freelancers. Since it has also revealed some of the challenges that come with hiring freelancers, I’d like to explore two commonly perceived shortcomings of hiring a freelancer and what having a well thought out remote staffing strategy can do to help mitigate these challenges.

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Based on the Small Business Association’s definition, independent contractors are free to set their own hours. This means that you can’t choose when and where they should work; all you can do is set deadlines that they can and will agree with. Being results-oriented is great, but so is being able to reach someone and collaborate during your own working hours.

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The internet has revolutionized work, meaning that a freelancer is now about to sit in front of his PC and serve multiple clients all around the world at the same time (by heather). This carries some risks though, as typically employers don’t like their employees to serve two masters –or worse, two competitors.

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I’m not saying that hiring freelancers is a bad thing – it isn’t. In fact, a lot of companies benefit from these free agent workers. dns database But, as with everything that has to do with the Remote Revolution, it is important to understand the differences and then use Remote in a way that is best for your company.

What else is great or risky about hiring remote freelancers? Look forward to comments.