Yahoo and Best Buy’s Flexible Work Policy Changes are “Solutions” to the Wrong Problems

Last week, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer made waves yet again with the decision that Yahoo employees can no longer work remotely, stating in a company memo:

“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.”

Additionally, it looks like this decision will force long-distance employees to either relocate or resign. Critics internally and externally have voiced opinions on why this decision was made as the next step in Mayer’s campaign to save the failing company. Others believe that it’s a move to encourage turnover in a company that needed to reduce their workforce numbers (without laying people off) with even the occasional teleworkers put on notice.

And just as we were face-palming the mismanagement of this situation, Best Buy turned around yesterday and released a similar initiative, ending its ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) program.

As we discussed on Facebook earlier today, historically, companies tend to make short-sighted business decisions in tough economic times. It makes sense that these two struggling companies are making an effort to re-work their culture and rally all hands on deck. It’s clear that telework was mismanaged at Yahoo from the beginning and that some employees probably “went native”, losing sight of the culture and company goals. But we believe that the decision to make a sweeping policy to ban all telework is a shot in the foot for Yahoo for many reasons. One reason being — it’s a major backstep for productivity.

At Mayer’s all-hands strategy meeting, she said that Yahoo’s goal is to personalize the web for its users. We hate to break it to her, but eliminating telework all together is a productivity killer – especially for those in creative areas like web development and design.

Mayer noted that Yahoo would focus on more “acqui-hires” over the next two years. Wonder how they are going to attract diverse, top talent while barring remote workers? Many employees joined Yahoo because of the flexibility; and top talent in the tech industry is often earned by bringing on workers from a variety of locations.

As for Best Buy, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson (former Best Buy employees and creators of ROWE) said it best on their blog:

“[Best Buy is] sending a clear message that they are more concerned with having leadership excel at monitoring the hallways, rather than building a leadership team that excels at defining clear, measurable results, and holding people accountable for achieving those results. While we agree that Best Buy must take drastic measures to turn their business around, moving back to a 20th century, paternalistic ‘command and control’ environment is most certainly not the answer. It’s our hope that the Best Buy leadership team quickly recognizes that the managed-flexibility game is old news, and that organizations who will win in the 21st century will learn how to effectively manage the work, not the people.”

Would you work for a company that refused to allow remote work? Why?


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