SEO, Marketing and Public Relations

Yahoo’s Work-From-Home Backlash: Vindication At Last!

For several months, all we heard from tech magazines is how Yahoo’s new CEO was going to turn the company around. She was 20th at Google, she was a mommy, she would “shake things up”, and be a “breath of fresh air”.

In other words, nobody really knew anything — the articles were all fluff.

It comes as a huge disappointment to hear that she’s just another clueless slave driver. The Yahoo plan for the future is to scale back remote work, and force everybody to come to the office.

I guess she didn’t get the memo: It’s not 1985 anymore. As far as I’m concerned, Marissa Mayer is just another clueless pretty blonde put in a position of power, and she’ll end up screwing the whole company.

Everybody from Bill Gates to Google execs have condemned it as a stupid and backwards policy — though with less harsh language, of course.

It very much reminds me of my own situation, several years ago.

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The Outdated Government Office Sweat Shop

A few years back, I was lured away from video work — the pay was decent, and the benefits were excellent. They wanted my unique set of skills to fix their media problems — everything from DVDs, to their website, to print media (collateral) was an utter mess. I packed everything up, and moved to a new city, excited by the opportunity.

However, when I got there, I felt a bit hoodwinked.

It’s not so much that I wanted to work from home, as much I needed to work from home. Apparently when you work for the government, they tend to skimp on tech tools and locations. You end up with outdated computers, in dated buildings not equipped for modern tech. It’s rather sad when your home or home computer can best an office setup. Yet that was the case.

There were lots of problems. For example:

  • My office would hit 90 degrees in the summer; it was “only” 80 in the spring or fall.
  • The only DVD authoring software available was Roxio or Nero — both of which are terrible, even for consumer projects.
  • The only camera available was a Canon Rebel with the kit lens — a soccer mom camera, not a pro camera.
  • The web server was a Pentium running NT4.

Attempts to upgrade anything were met by a mix of crying about the budget by executive staff, or even push-back by the overzealous IT department. (I still find it ironic that at least two of the folks in charge had $1,000+ office chairs from the Relax The Back Store. Talk about priorities!)

So the easy solution was to go home and do it there. I had all the tools from my previous gig of being self-employed.

Though the head of the organization — an old lady well past retirement age — was not fond of my remote work, it was hard to argue the results.

The New Outdated Management

Within just a few years, the director did retire — only to be replaced by another xenophobic grandma. Like Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, she was touted as somebody that would “shake things up”. However, her ideas were just as outdated in the 21st century.

She insisted that:

  • You wear a suit to the office. (That sounds great — if your office isn’t 90. Furthermore, I didn’t meet with anybody outside our organization, so what’s the difference?)
  • Early was on time, and on time was late.
  • Leaving on time was bad; if you stay late, you really care!
  • No remote work, period, end of story.
  • Always be in your office and leave your office door open. (In other news, office theft went up.)

So it went from a 9-5 job at home, to an 8-6 job in the office — plus drive time. It effected everything — the work I could do, my relationship, even the energy I’d have throughout the day.

Yahoo vs. Overcommunication

But that’s not the only flaw in her plan — it affected productivity.

The Yahoo memo stated “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”, but that’s simply not true. I thrive in the quiet sanctuary of my home office. In fact, I need quiet to work effectively as a writer or videographer. Noise is like a knife to the skull.

The Yahoo memo also says “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.” But when you want quiet, that’s annoying. It invites people to come and bother you while you’re trying to work.

In fact, pretty much everything has been debunked. Both my ex-director and Marissa Mayer are out of touch with the data. Several academic studies report major productivity gains when employees are given the freedom to work where and even when they prefer.

It reminds me of those who insist on being available at all times — even when on vacation. They’re addicted to their phones, iPads, and other gizmos that tether them to the office. But at some point, you need to be left alone. Whether it’s for time off, or for time spent in the office, you need time to think. Some isolation is good!

The Aftermath

After a few months of that nonsense, I stopped caring and did what I wanted anyway. No to suits, and yes to remote work. All of a sudden, the salary and benefits weren’t worth the stress. I began to seek other work, and they began to seek a new employee. That was about five years ago, and I’ve since returned to video work. It pays a bit less, and the benefits aren’t as good, but the hours are better and I’m stress-free.

Yahoo will probably suffer the same fate — good employees will leave, they’ll face a ton of bad PR, and have nobody to blame but themselves.

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