Yahoo takes two steps back


As I'm sure you are aware by now, Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer has decided to ban employees from working at home starting this June.

As someone who fought Beltway traffic in the Washington, DC, area for 20 years and now works out of my home, I am dumbfounded, nonplussed, aghast, bewildered, thunderstruck and (insert synonym here). I shudder to think how many hours of my life I wasted stuck in traffic or in a delayed subway or commuter train.

So what could be the reason for this perplexing decision on the part of an otherwise intelligent and innovative business leader?

According to a memo to Yahoo employees obtained by All Things D, "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."

You must be kidding, right? What has the last decade of IT been about if not enabling people to communicate and collaborate from any location--on the road, in the office, or at home? Obviously, Mayer and her minions have not been reading FierceMobileIT (or any other IT-focused publication for that matter).

With all of the technology tools available to improve communication and collaboration among employees at different locations, surely the Yahoo leadership could have come up with a more innovative way to ensure that their employees are working together as "one Yahoo!"

The New York Times talked to some Yahoo employees about the decision. Some said that the work ethic at Yahoo had deteriorated. For example, some employees abused the work-at-home policy to do work not related to Yahoo, such as founding startup companies.

If employees are not being productive or worse abusing their employer, that it is a management issue, not a working-at-home issue. Employees in the office can be just as unproductive as those working at home or in a hotel room. Management needs to step in and either work with the employees or fire them, not ban them from working at home.

One of the most notorious instances of employer abuse by an employee was the case of "Bob" revealed in January by Verizon (NYSE: VZ). Bob worked as software developer for a critical infrastructure company. He sent his RSA security token, which he was given to work remotely, to a Chinese firm to do his software development work for him. What did "Bob" do while the Chinese did his work? He sat at his desk at his company and watched cat videos and surfed eBay, while receiving rave reviews for his work.

So, the location of the employee is not the problem. It is management and oversight of the employee that is the issue. In reality, what Mayer is admitting with this new policy is that she and her management team are not able to manage their employees effectively.  - Fred