Tag Archives: work from home

Yahoo’s Ban on Working From Home

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably heard about Yahoo’s recent decision to prohibit employees from working from home. The ban, intended to promote collaboration and innovation, will start in June. Almost all of the news coverage I’ve heard and read has focused on a few angles:

  • Is innovation really harmed when employees work from home? (The consensus: yes, but productivity is higher when employees work from home, in certain jobs at least.)
  • Is this the start of a trend? (To quote the Magic Eight Ball, “my sources say no.” The trade-off makes sense only for companies that must innovate constantly to succeed: the serial innovators, as John Sullivan referred to them on the PBS NewsHour. And Yahoo needs to make some big changes to turn its fortunes around.)
  • Isn’t it kind of ironic that perhaps the most famous working mom — other than Michelle Obama — instituted this policy? (You be the judge. Over at the Daily Beast, Ellen Galinsky points out that men are more likely than women to work mainly ¬†from home, and more likely to be allowed to work from home.)

All interesting discussions. What interested me far more, however, was the memo that actually announced the change, sent out by Yahoo’s head of HR (and reproduced here at AllThingsD). If I were a Yahoo employee — or just a Yahoo, as the memo puts it — who had been working from home, and I received this memo, I would be pretty angry. I’m not sure if I would be angry enough to send it to the media, as a number of Yahoos apparently did, despite the all caps heading tagging the memo as “PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL — DO NOT FORWARD.” But angry for sure.

The change in policy is bad enough from an employee perspective, especially considering that some employees may have taken the job (or turned down other offers) because of the opportunity to work from home — and arranged their lives accordingly, from child care to pet ownership to buying or renting a home that’s too far away to commute regularly. No matter where you come down on the innovation/productivity argument, or whether you think this change will ultimately help Yahoo rebound, it’s clear that an employee benefit is being taken away.

Which must have made the odd cheerleading tone of the memo hard to take. There’s no acknowledgment that this might be difficult or unwelcome for some employees. There are, however, many references to the company’s culture and identity, from what “being a yahoo” is all about to the need “to be one Yahoo!” to the company’s effort “to become the absolute best place to work.” There’s also an admonition that even Yahoos who “occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy” must use their “best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.” Seriously? Does that mean missing even a few hours of work could harm the company’s success? Could they have come up with a more frivolous reason to miss work? Using the official announcement of what is sure to be an unpopular change in company policy to tout what a “productive, efficient and fun” place you are to work is the kind of HR speak that gets internal memos sent to news outlets by angry employees. I’m just sayin’.

Social Media Freedom “More Important Than Salary” to Generation Z

A couple of weeks ago, Cisco released its second annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report — and the findings were truly eye-opening. (Here’s Cisco’s press release, which includes the highlights; they were also featured in the news article “Millenials Put Tech Freedom Before Salary.”) For the report, Cisco surveyed more than 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries — the so-called “millenials” or Generation Z. Given the generally crummy state of the economy, I thought those who were looking for jobs (or soon to be ) would list their primary concerns as, well, just whether they’d be able to find work, along with salary, salary, and salary. (As in, is it enough to get my own place, or will I be living with my parents until the end of time?)

But no. According to this survey, it’s all about social networking, portable electronic devices, and working from home or other remote locations. Here are a few choice bits:

  • More than half said that if their company banned access to social media sites from work, they would either turn down a job offer or find a way to get around the prohibition.
  • 40% of college students — and 45% of young professionals — said they would accept lower paying work if it offered more flexibility regarding social media access, mobility, and device choice.
  • About 70% said they should be allowed to access personal sites and social media sites using company-owned devices.
  • About 30% said they should have the “right” to work remotely once they get work; 70% believe it unnecessary to be in the office regularly, as long as they show up for important meetings (I’m with them on that).

What to make of these findings? On the one hand, it gives employers a blueprint for attracting the best applicants of the youngest working generation: Let them work remotely, access social media sites from work, choose their mobile devices, and use your equipment for personal as well as business reasons. On the other hand, there are some fairly sound arguments to be made for having rules in place that separate business from personal, at least in electronic devices. Want to be liable for employee overtime you didn’t even know about? Let employees do work using their personal electronic devices. Interested in exposing yourself to personal injury lawsuits? Let employees use their company-issued smart phones for personal calls and texts, then wait for them to do it while driving. Sexual harassment lawsuits more your thing? Encourage managers to friend employees on Facebook, then wait for the nude pics to show up. The truth is that unless and until the legal climate changes to accommodate the blurring of personal and professional lives that younger generations embrace, it might be tough to offer the types of electronic freedom these future workers of the world want.