Effective this June, Marissa Mayer (Yahoo’s CEO) is asking all employees with work-from-home (WFH) arrangements to eradicate such arrangements. Mayer wants each employee to be onsite. Her rationale is having everyone physically onsite will improve collaboration, work quality, decision making, and execution.
I can understand Mayer’s thinking on this. Nevertheless, I have two objections: 1). She could be wrong. 2). One size does not fit all.
Let’s look at that first one. Ever since Mayer’s decision, I have observed the abundance of opinions being offered on both sides of the coin. Some businesspersons affirm this is a very positive decision in Yahoo’s best interest while others affirm the opposite. Mayer could definitely be wrong.
Too many experts have weighed in with too much evidence over the years. We know WFH arrangements—if managed wisely—tend to improve employee engagement and productivity. My concern therefore is Mayer may be shooting herself in the foot. At the very time her company needs the very best from its workforce, a major “pulling the rug out from under them” is happening.
What is especially ironic about this is the fact Mayer’s company is one of those leading-edge online technology companies that promise to connect people seamlessly all over the world while enhancing each person’s productivity and work/life balance. It strikes me as rather hilarious that Yahoo’s very employees are now forbidden from enjoying those fruits their company has been prophesying.
In fairness, Mayer knows her organization’s status infinitely better than most others and especially me. Perhaps her company is genuinely at a place where some deeply powerful, in-person meetings must happen to dodge death’s door. If so, then this was a tough decision that had to be made and people will have to adjust.
My second objection—one size does not fit all—emanates from a broader concern. I have been somewhat shocked and equally amused to see the number of companies that seem to be reacting to Mayer’s decision by reevaluating their own WFH policies. Some of their reactions suggest they suspect their preexisting WFH policies must somehow now be flawed purely because of Mayer’s decision. That is my point—since when did Marissa Mayer (for whom I have great respect) become the Bible of business? She is not.
Just because Mayer made this decision as one component in her company strategy does not automatically mean it is imperative for all companies to do the same. Yahoo is not the gold standard. My guess is most companies need to take no action whatsoever, a minority of companies may need to tighten the ship, and a minority of companies may need to loosen the reins. Yet these are policies and decisions that should be under review when strategically necessary, not purely because one company decided to make a change.
Here is a strategy to consider: Do what is good for your own company regardless of what some other company decides to do. What a novel thought!