Is Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, Right in Banning Work from Home?
PUNE, India, March 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ –
Yahoo’s recent announcement of banning work from home (WFH) for its employees has
resulted in a lot of heated debate in the US. Here are two links:
The memo from Yahoo! to employees explained it thus: “that in order 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.”
Some have called it a backward step for a 21st century world where each of us has at
least one virtual identity independent of our ‘physical location’ in the world made
possible because of the Internet. And Yahoo has a fair share of that virtual life
Many ex-Yahoo staff members are applauding Marissa for taking the bold step of banning
WFH. They cite poor work culture at Yahoo where many employees do not even show up at work
for days and weeks. It is claimed that a good number of WFH employees work on non-Yahoo
projects and even their own start-ups.
On the other side of the debate are people who blame poor management, stating that it
is their job to identify slackers, and that low productivity can be a problem even when
people come to office to work. If a company starts to distrust their employees, they will
lose high performers and will find it impossible to recruit new talent as a fall out of
In a trusted relationship, each party relies on each other to fulfill their respective
obligations. At work, an employee expects that management will look after his/her
professional growth, assign challenging tasks, and provide any learning and mentoring that
is required. The company expects each employee to put in his/her best efforts to
accomplish set goals, and notify if there is anything impeding the work from being done.
In a utopian world, trust is sufficient for any relationship. In a business, every
person will do his/her work diligently and no oversight is required. But that is not the
case, so a ‘Trust but Verify’ approach is inevitable. In a close relationship, within a
family or a small company, the ‘Verify’ part is implicit since people are interacting with
each other very actively.
In other relationships, including at a large company, there are checks and balances to
ensure that the system is not taken advantage of. The ‘Verify’ is important to build and
retain the trust with all the changes in work, projects, and team members that keep
That is the reason companies have employee annual reviews and performance tracking
metrics (Balance Scorecard, KRAs etc.). All these are result-oriented and track the
fulfillment of agreed deliverables.
However, companies and employees also need the means to steadily improve their effort
so that performance keeps rising. Traditionally, learning on the job, mentoring and
training and development have been the preferred approaches. However, since employees at
large IT and other companies do most of their work on PCs, either at the office or at
home, it becomes difficult to assess and improve the quality of effort.
It becomes the manager’s subjective opinion about who works hard and who doesn’t. The
person who is in the office all day, or who is good at marketing his/her efforts, is
working hard, whereas someone working regular hours (and maybe at home) probably isn’t.
For managers too, the flexi hours, distributed locations and work from home initiatives
are making it hard to be objective about someone’s effort.
Technology is available to get insights into work visibility. For example, Sapience
Analytics is a Pune based company with a patent-pending product developed entirely in
India, which precisely addresses this problem. This simple yet highly effective solution
works at two levels. It gives a high level view of work patterns to managers, thereby
helping them guide the team on improvement areas. For the individual, it offers a mirror
to one’s own work, thereby adapting their work habits to become more effective and
optimize their work-life balance. The solution is designed to assure high level effort
hygiene, and not for any intrusive continuous employee monitoring.
For example, a leading IT services company adopted Sapience
to let 30% of its new workforce to Work from Home. Several others liberalized their
policies around internet access and flexi hours, since they were now able to track both
outcome and effort irrespective of employee location.
Yahoodoes not need to ban progressive HR policies like WFH. It can achieve its real
goal of improved productivity with clarity of vision and improved execution to boost
employee morale and engagement, coupled with solutions likeSapience
[http://www.sapience.net ] that deliver a soft-touch approach for ensuring that there is no
About Sapience Analytics
Sapience Analytics’ (http://www.sapience.net) eponymously named product is a
patent-pending and award-winning solution that enables companies to achieve significant
gains in work output – effortlessly. Sapience Analytics was named by NASSCOM as a Top 10
‘Made in India’ Enterprise Product for 2012, and by Red Herring as a 2011 Asia Top 100
technology company. It has $1.2M in funding from some of India’s best known CEOs,
entrepreneurs and investors as part of Seed Enterprises and the Indian Angel Network.
SOURCE Sapience Analytics Pvt. Ltd