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The Data That Drove Yahoo's Telecommuting Ban 529

Posted by timothy
from the but-think-about-the-savings-on-snacks dept.
Stiletto writes "Business Insider and All Things D are reporting that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting was data-driven, as you'd expect out of the former Google exec. After spending months frustrated at how empty Yahoo parking lots were, Mayer consulted Yahoo's VPN logs to see if remote employees were checking in enough. Despite all the outrage and flak she's getting from those outside the company for the move, some ex-employees are praising the decision, citing abuse, slacking off, and general 'unavailability' of folks working from home."
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The Data That Drove Yahoo's Telecommuting Ban

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:53AM (#43104917)
    I'm in the office right now, slacking off, and have been all day. As far as any "Data Driven" metrics are concerned though, I've been a star employee.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Conversely, I'm working from home today, and between webmail and a slow / flaky VPN I'm not attached to the work network except when I need to exchange some documents.

      • by Xest (935314) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:22PM (#43105281)

        If you have to connect to VPN say three times a day because it was flaky does that mean you triple turned up for work and are super-productive using the Mayer productivity measurement methodology?

      • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:33PM (#43105427)

        I only connect to VPN if I need to see a VNC session. I do all my coding/verilog work locally and ignore VPN (and use our webmail to see what's going on).

        She just wants to fire people, the data is a pretense.

        • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:51PM (#43105647) Journal

          That's the problem using any metric, really...

          If I wanted to slack off and pretend to work (like the rest of the team would ever let that happen!), I'd simply fire up the VPN, then have some small program randomly open and close certain binaries on the remote servers, etc.

          At work? Meh - I could slack off very easily by simply walking around a lot carrying papers, chatting with friends, or whatever. Far too many ways to slack off in a cube farm.

          Problem is, when I was telecommuting? I was too busy on the phone in conferences w/ remote company clients, had deadlines to meet, and in IM sessions with other team members helping them out (and getting help). Because I worked on the servers, I had VPN open from 8am to 6pm on most days... working. Now, I show up at 8, then leave at 5.

          • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:45PM (#43106331)

            That's the problem using any metric, really...

            If I wanted to slack off and pretend to work (like the rest of the team would ever let that happen!), I'd simply fire up the VPN, then have some small program randomly open and close certain binaries on the remote servers, etc.

            At work? Meh - I could slack off very easily by simply walking around a lot carrying papers, chatting with friends, or whatever. Far too many ways to slack off in a cube farm.

            Problem is, when I was telecommuting? I was too busy on the phone in conferences w/ remote company clients, had deadlines to meet, and in IM sessions with other team members helping them out (and getting help). Because I worked on the servers, I had VPN open from 8am to 6pm on most days... working. Now, I show up at 8, then leave at 5.

            The metrics don't have to be so obtuse. Your employees are assigned to projects and they're held accountable on being able to deliver, and having managers on the ball enough to recognize that 25 day estimate for modifying text on a dialog box is bullshit, and a 5 day estimate to make web systems be able to print blueberry waffles at users homes is impossible.

            VPN logins, butts in seats, donuts missing from the lounge are numbers that don't really matter.

            • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:53PM (#43108143)

              The metrics don't have to be so obtuse. Your employees are assigned to projects and they're held accountable on being able to deliver, and having managers on the ball enough to recognize that 25 day estimate for modifying text on a dialog box is bullshit, and a 5 day estimate to make web systems be able to print blueberry waffles at users homes is impossible.

              This. And while it annoys us ICs when managers lead inquisitions into why we're not delivering as unreasonably expected, this is really what they're trying to understand and what a good manager knows how to parse and report up.

              I may deliver something way ahead of schedule and be a ridiculous loser, or I may deliver something 6 months late and be a superhero. My bosses job is to a) understand what I do enough to know when i'm padding (and why, and if maybe the padding is a good idea for the company) and b) understanding what i'm doing on a weekly basis enough to know how busy I am. It really does not matter if I am physically there, rarely do I even SEE my boss and as a hw guy I'm almost always physically at work. But he always knows what I'm doing (and I have had exceptionally good managers).

              This thing where hte CEO pulls VPN logs implies she doens't trust her management chain, and thinks her employees are slacking off. Or she's decided she's got to knife 10% of her workforce cheaply, so she's starting with low hanging fruit.

      • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:38PM (#43105485)

        Stop posting on Slashdot, Kevin.

        If you're not in my office by 6am tomorrow in smart casual dress for a pop quiz on "Watercooler Culture" you're fired.

        Smart casual means ironed chinos and a dress shirt by the way, not filthy jeans and a filthier Tux T shirt with pin burns in it. Which reminds me, they'll be a drugs test afterwards.

        Also a visit to the hairdresser might be in the best interests of your career, if you know what I mean.

        Enjoy your evening!

    • by JWW (79176) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:01PM (#43105029)

      Exactly. Butts in seats is sooooo much easier to measure than productivity. Measuring productivity requires actual work by the managers!!

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:02PM (#43105047)

        If you make managers do useful work how will they slack off?

      • by Cabriel (803429)

        Why does being at home guarentee productivity? From the comments, a lot of people appear to believe being in the office is less productive than being at home, but at least with a VPN, it can be measured how much data is being sent to and recieved from the telecomuters. I doubt a former Google exec would make a decision like this lightly.

        • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:03PM (#43105813) Journal

          It's still an imperfect metric.

          I can make a script to randomly send data to and from servers, then delete the data once it arrives at the destination. If I uploaded, oh, a geolocation IP file to random servers, that's 250MB each go. If you're just measuring MB/GB, I could be a top performer in less than a week by stint of a simple script. ;)

          In order to reliably measure employee productivity remotely, you have to do one of two things:

          1) install a keylogger and mouse tracker on every employee's remote laptop, some BI bits to the VPN connections and mail servers, then have teams combing through the resulting data. Be prepared to add FTE slots, disk space, a server or so, and a lot of budget for this.

          2) allow only the people who are known to perform well in the office to telecommute, and insure they work on deadline-driven projects with measurable goals and milestones. As an alternative, insure that they have definitive SLA's to meet if their job is problem/solution-driven as opposed to project-driven. Also insure that they come in to work on a periodic basis, distance permitting. Be certain you have competent managers in place to insure, refine, and tweak as needed.

          Obviously one of these is easier to do, save for that last bit. ;)

        • "... it can be measured how much data is being sent to and recieved from the telecomuters."

          Volume of data is not an indicator of productivity.

        • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:51PM (#43106415)

          Why does being at home guarentee productivity? From the comments, a lot of people appear to believe being in the office is less productive than being at home, but at least with a VPN, it can be measured how much data is being sent to and recieved from the telecomuters. I doubt a former Google exec would make a decision like this lightly.

          Data transfer volume is of practically ZERO utility in measuring productivity. As a developer, doing as much of my work as possible on my local drive is more productive than having it dragged down by network latency. Ditto, I'd say for anyone doing artistic or word-processing work.

          All Data transfer volume metrics tell is how much activity I have on the net. It's no more useful than measuring the amount of time a cubicle is inhabited by a person as opposed to an inflatable Bozo doll.

          I don't buy into the proposition that people can only trade ideas when they're physically proximate. I spent too many years hiding from other people in offices.

          The only REAL metric of value is what the employee produces. If the employee is going to be productive, then location is relatively unimportant. If not, there are plenty of ways to appear productive in an office without doing anything useful at all. Some of them can consume massive amounts of network bandwidth, for that matter.

          If the employee is not productive, either the employee is at fault or the employee's manager is at fault. In fact, ultimately, it's the manager's responsibility to either ensure that the employee is productive or to replace him/her with someone who is productive. No amount of geographical relocation, micro-monitoring, spyware, or other "silver bullets" can take the place of good management.

      • A manager who comes by your cube and notices a pattern of you doing not-work-things when they walk up to you has a clear cut basis to look into what you are actually doing. Many jobs don't lend themselves to metrics that can easily demonstrate productivity. In fact your comment is a good reason why many managers used to believe lines of code was a great way to judge a developer. They didn't know any better, but it is perfectly sensible to most non-developers that a developer who can churn out 500 lines of c

    • by Xest (935314) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:19PM (#43105247)

      Yes, basically what TFA tells us is not that working from home was ever a problem at Yahoo, but that Yahoo has never ever had any way of measuring productivity, settings goals, or ensuring people are achieving their targets.

      It sounds like it was basically a free for all, turn up, don't turn up, do what you want, no one will care or measure you!

      It sounds like working from home is their scapegoat instead of refusing to admit to extremely incompetent management.

      Yahoo has been haemorrhaging talent for years, removing perks from them like working from home is only going to make the problem worse, especially if they're still refusing to admit to fundamental problems in their company like the aforementioned lack of ability to set goals or check whether anyone is actually doing anything.

      Now all that's going to happen is they'll lose more talent, productivity will probably go down as people are tired from long probably sometimes unnecessary commutes, costs will go up as they have to pay for more heating/lighting/office space and Yahoo will continue it's downward spiral

      I actually had some sympathy for the move before I saw this story, now it's obvious the decision had no demonstrable merit. More fool them.

      • by s.petry (762400) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:42PM (#43105537)

        I agree that the root problem is management, but refuse to discount that remote work is also a problem at some companies. I work, and have worked at places where remote work usually meant slacking for the day. At other places, some people that work remote were useless and unproductive members of the team.

        If everyone is at the office, peer pressure can help stir the shit off of the bottom. When people work where management is not good, the shit at the bottom does bring everyone else down, and even the best workers begin to smell bad and lose their motivation. When management fails to maintain motivation, peer pressure at least keeps the people with some motivation from giving up and becoming slackers. Remote access drastically reduces the impact of peer pressure on coworkers.

        • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:11PM (#43105915) Journal

          Sort of... but you can always force the non-performers to come in daily, while the top performers are allowed to work remotely as a benefit/perk.

          • by micheas (231635) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:39PM (#43106247) Homepage Journal

            Which is probably phase 2 at yahoo.

            But, getting there might well mean everyone comes into the office and then you hand out the perk.

            I would expect telecommuting to return to yahoo, after the current problems are dealt with.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Sounds more like a Marissa Mayer knee jerk reaction and power play. Gees, now doesn't the story just keep changing. One minute it's because unproductive staff don't spend enough time in corridors and tea rooms chatting together and the next because Yahoo was losing too many telecommuting staff in the wilds of the burbs, never to be seen again.

        One stupid unthinking memo and the PR and marketing staff will now be busy for months making up story after story about why it was down and of course inevitably how

      • by steelfood (895457)

        Yahoo lacks talent because they fire everybody once every few years and hires kids straight out of college to replace them. That's a corporate culture thing.

      • by sjames (1099) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @02:03PM (#43106591) Homepage

        Exactly! Where were the managers when people stopped bothering to log in at all? Where were the weekly or even bi-weekly phone check-ins, or even the occasional email? (Hows the project going, are you as far along as you expected/hoped? What are the sticking points, what can I do to move things along,etc). For that matter, were these people even given objectives to accomplish? An active and engaged manager could not possibly fail to notice that many employees simply not bothering to at least log in once in a while.

        I would go so far as to say that if management was slacking off that much, the employees might not have had much choice. If you aren't given an objective to accomplish and nobody even notices if you do something or not, what can you do? Eventually, logging in starts to feel stupid since nothing happens when you do. Eventually, you don't log in for a week or two and nobody calls to see if you're still breathing or not. So, what to do? Surely not go over the boss' head and suggest a layoff!

    • by fermion (181285) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:21PM (#43105273) Homepage Journal
      I can slack off anywhere, but at home I can do housework, cook dinner, run an errand, sex, lots of stuff. The idea is not that you can't do some of these things at the office,but that your choices are more limited.

      It really sounds like the employees, as some often do, simply took advantage of a good situation. I have, and have known people, who have had such opportunities. You keep yourself logged in. You stay next to a phone. If you leave, you make sure you can check problems from where you are. You check email frequently. It is a matter of discipline. it is hard. It is why some people make more than others. Those who don't need supervision do not incur the expense of supervision.

  • best data: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:55AM (#43104949)

    is work being done? if timelines are met, and dates don't slip, then the number of times i log into a vpn isn't a valid metric.

    period.

    • Re:best data: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PoolOfThought (1492445) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:18PM (#43105217)
      If management is under utilizing you as a resource then it's important for them to know that especially in a company that is trying to turn things and around and get better at what they do without spending more money to make it happen. Many employees won't want to just pass that information along and be given more work. Under utilization of existing resources is something that can be reasonably extracted using that particular metric (time spent logged in). I also understand (and so does Mayer I'm sure) that it could also mean a lot of other things, but the easiest way to be sure about it is to remove the other variables. Especially when the other complaints (perhaps jealous outbursts, but perhaps not) existed.
    • period.

      See? You aren't utilizing your connection enough. A semi-colon followed by incoherent rambling would have been more 'productive'.

  • good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SoupGuru (723634) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:57AM (#43104975)

    I can see telecommuting being ok when you've got an established company and clear objectives/projects, etc. When you're reorganizing, just starting, or trying to turn the fortunes of your company around I think you really have to work "together".

    • Re:good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:59AM (#43105005)

      That had nothing to do with being in the office or not.

      I bet most of the posters right now are in the office. People will slack off no matter what. Either you get your job done or you do not, how long it takes in the allotted time frame or what you do while doing it should not matter.

      • by SoupGuru (723634)

        I got the impression that it wasn't just grunts that were telecommuting. The cogs churn out code and that can be done from anywhere, frankly. China, India, Topeka. You're right, they don't matter. But when people that have influence and are decision makers are working from home, then you can have problems, especially when you're trying to turn the ship around.

      • "I bet most of the posters right now are in the office. People will slack off no matter what."

        Only if you are a government employee (if in the U.S.) or live outside the U.S. time zones.

    • by khasim (1285)

      "When you're reorganizing, just starting, or trying to turn the fortunes of your company around I think you really have to work 'together'."

      In my experience the only "together" available person-to-person is social. So meetings become opportunities to socialize and play status games (I called a bigger meeting than you so I have more status than you) rather than tools to accomplish business objectives.

      And when your TECH business is dependent upon social interactions of your employees then your business is fai

      • have to disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chirs (87576) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:21PM (#43105263)

        I've worked in teams where it was very important to get groups of people together somewhere and draw stuff on whiteboards with everyone else poking holes in the ideas or making suggestions for improvements. This is especially true when a project is just getting started and you're working out lots of details. Later on when something is mature you have a lot less scope for innovation (you're constrained by what is already there) so it's not as critical.

        Yes, you can do this to some extent with technology, but it's not as good as getting a bunch of people together physically.

        That said, I've been a full-time teleworker for 7 years. It works for me because I have a well-defined area of responsibility, I worked in person with almost everyone I deal with prior to moving away, and I can communicate effectively by voice/text (not everyone can do this effectively when not physically present).

        • Re:have to disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:59PM (#43105763) Homepage

          Yes, you can do this to some extent with technology, but it's not as good as getting a bunch of people together physically.

          Unless the team was deeply dysfunctional to start with - I have yet to see an environment where getting people together in one room to interact wasn't vastly more productive than trying to do so virtually. Though the slashdot demographic is virulently misanthropic, they're off on the left hand tail of the bell curve in that respect.
           

          That said, I've been a full-time teleworker for 7 years. It works for me because I have a well-defined area of responsibility, I worked in person with almost everyone I deal with prior to moving away, and I can communicate effectively by voice/text (not everyone can do this effectively when not physically present).

          I had a friend who successfully telecommuted for about five years... and then things started going to hell. The main cause was normal turnover at the office, slowly but surely he was no longer dealing with the people he'd dealt with before moving to another coast... but with complete strangers to who he was just a voice on the telephone. They didn't really think of him as fellow employee, just a cipher who coughed up blobs of code on demand. He's working in an office now, and actually much happier than he was telecommuting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by s.petry (762400)

        In my experience the only "together" available person-to-person is social. So meetings become opportunities to socialize and play status games (I called a bigger meeting than you so I have more status than you) rather than tools to accomplish business objectives.

        It's not about social ranking in a good environment. It's about camaraderie, mentoring, and learning to work together. You can be the best quarter back in the world, but if you can't work with the center you will fail. If you can't get along with your team members, they will laugh as you get pummeled by defense. The team will lose much more than win.

        Sounds like you are an egocentric person that believes that you are all that's needed for your company to survive. That works in very small shops, but does

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:58AM (#43104991)

    Inability to lead is what causes people to slack off. Employees will slack off same as when they were telecommuting. It would be much brighter to fix the root cause of the problem: lack of motivation. For that, it would take a different CEO. For now, Yahoo will big digging itself into the ground.

  • Not surprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dreold (827386) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:58AM (#43104995)
    I am glad that the background for the decision is coming to light after all the vitriol.

    Having managed a (partially) telecommuting workforce before, nothing is more frustrating than not being able to reach people or get answers in a timely manner.

    It really depends on the combination of management, tasks, and individuals to make telecommuting work.

    In my personal case, admittedly, we had insufficient procedure for measuring progress to ensure equal productivity through telecommuting, and people were quick to take advantage of that (yes, I am admitting management failure here) This was not in an IT-related field but a more traditional business field.
    • Re:Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:04PM (#43105063)

      Having managed in office employees, how is that any different?

      If people do not answer their cell phones or email, fire them. No different than them being unfindable in the office or not aswering desk phones.

  • by alen (225700) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:02PM (#43105049)

    if you're going to slack off, log on to VPN and slack off.
    i work with people who work from home and offices in different states. everyone is always available and you know they are working because there are always emails flowing and tickets being done

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:02PM (#43105053) Homepage Journal

    If they did it by the numbers, and they had all this data, couldn't they see which telecommuters were effective, and shitcan all the other ones or force them into the office?

  • Forgotten employees? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gblackwo (1087063) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:03PM (#43105061) Homepage

    "A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo."

    It's amazing that a company can have people on the payroll, and the managers forget about them..

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:13PM (#43105165)

      Once nobody tries to take their red stapler all should be well.

    • It's "Just Typical" that someone as smart as Ms. Mayer would see this as an indictment of telecommuting and not see it as what it is: A failure of management.

      This is all about helping poor managers keep their jobs.

      "We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!" -- Blazing Saddles

    • by rainer_d (115765)
      A former coworker drove a BMW M3 for 19 months before his former company realized they were still paying the bills.

      He had to pay it back, though.

      Ironically (maybe unsurprisingly), the "former company" was an audit and accounting firm....

      I had the lady on the phone - she was almost flabbergasted ;-)

  • I'm hesitant to ask, because I'd like to think no corporation would be stupid enough to create a survey that was guaranteed to conform to a preset notion, but did they at least make an attempt to compare the VPN results with a control group of cube dwellers?

    (And if they did, did they also do something to avoid a bias being introduced along the lines of "People who slack off might be more inclined to work remotely"?)

  • by wjousts (1529427) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:08PM (#43105103)

    Sure you need to be on the VPN to see your e-mail (that notorious destroyer of productivity), but there's a lot of stuff you can be doing offline (or at least off the VPN) that is still productive work. For example, if I'm writing code, it's not always the case that I have to be on the company network to do it.

    Also, my VPN software seems to be the only common element in the rare blue-screen crashes I get on my work laptop - so it's usually a lot less frustrating to leave it off.

    In fact, if I am goofing off, I'm much more likely to log into the VPN and open my e-mail so that others can see that I'm "online" and working. I like to sit my laptop next to my gaming desktop while I do this!

    • I'm a full-time teleworker...I just leave the VPN software running all the time.

      Email, IRC, instant message....sure, these are distractions but they are also ways for people to contact me quickly. If you have a reputation for being responsive, people are less likely to assume you're slacking off.

      Also, in my case the build farm, much of the codebase (the part that isn't in git), the test labs, etc. are all only accessible via the VPN.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:09PM (#43105125)

    People can lack interest or motivation and slack off from work wherever they happen to be, at home or in the office.

    All this data seems to show is that managers are poor at managing people who are not physically in the office. That I can well believe, but a more insightful solution than banning remote work is to improve managers and the management systems that they employ.

    There is a huge amount of time wasted in the social atmosphere of the office, so remote working doesn't have a monopoly on time wasting. But of course poor managers will never blame themselves.

    • Still, the logic that concludes that those who put the least effort into getting work are also those who will put the least effort into their work is not totally unsound. Still there may be middle ground here, such as home office monitoring? I don't know, but it does seem that a company is so laid back as to allow it's employees to work from home in their pajamas is inviting its competitors who demand more professionalism to step in and eat it for lunch. Middle managers are usually just enforcers of overall

  • Unless employees needed to use the VPN to use communication resources like email, IM, etc; just because they didn't connect to VPN doesn't mean they weren't doing work. If VPN is the only metric that they have to judge worker productivity, it's the managers that should have been fired.

    When I work from home, I often don't connect to the VPN at all - I can use email and IM without VPN so unless I need to send/receive data on a corporate fileserver or remote into my work desktop computer, there's no reason to

    • In my case the build farm, much of the codebase (the part that isn't in git), the test labs, etc. are all only accessible via the VPN.

      I can write code without the VPN, but I can't submit it or test it properly.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I work with a few ex Yahoo employees and they've almost all commented on this. The numbers being used are bad. A distributed revision control system (like Git) needs no network to do anything but merge. Virtualized hardware let's you test and deploy most things locally. Only poorly run companies (at least in the private sector) require you to be on VPN for email. So, what good is this metric? Why do I need a VPN, most of the time?

    Also, apparently Yahoo has a tunneling config that most engineers have been u

  • If I was one of the people working remotely and getting things done, I'd be rather miffed. However I can see that a company trying to reorganize and reinvent itself would need more random, in person, collaboration to spur some of the creative processes. On the other hand, I think Best Buy's attempt to do the same isn't going to do a damn thing. They need lower prices; enough said. Making people come into office spaces they have to furnish, own, and keep up is not going to do that.
  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:20PM (#43105255)

    We require remotes to have an XMPP client active when working away from HQ. Really easy to see when they are available / not available. The policy says Auto-away must be enabled and if you're going to be away for more the 15 mins, you need to leave a message stating when you'll be back. It's easy to contact people to ask quick questions so there isn't such a problem with "Joe wasn't in so we couldn't have the meeting".

  • This seems to ignore the possibility that people aren't always working while at their employer's premises. I've seen that happen as I think most people have. Just because someone is in their office doesn't mean that they're not playing solitaire. It always comes down to getting your work done or not. If people can get the same work done but have more relaxation time, what's the problem? If you force them to sit at their desk, they'll surf the internet. If you're really aggressive they'll just start making up plausible-deniability busy work.

  • by HerculesMO (693085) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:24PM (#43105309)

    No, I don't think so. Since Yahoo has "webmail", just like every other modern company, you can converse with coworkers and team members without ever needing VPN. You can write your code offline, and merge commits later, or even have a local SVN and push it upstream later.

    The sad fact is that while the CEO is supposed to be creating strategy for the company to achieve, she's not done that. She's going after people who have a flexible schedule. Does this fix the fact that Yahoo has no future roadmap for well.... anything? No. It just makes good engineers who have kids start looking elsewhere, lazy employees move the geography of where they slack. It doesn't fix management of those employees, it doesn't change the way productivity is measured, and it doesn't set them any goals to achieve.

    In the time Mayer has been CEO, Yahoo has announced a total of zero noteworthy items. The fact that this is the biggest news out of Yahoo is more telling to their poor business model than anything else, and shows that Mayer was better suited to being an engineer than a CEO responsible for driving the business of a technology firm.

  • Some employees... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ryanrule (1657199) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:26PM (#43105325)

    "Despite all the outrage and flak she's getting from those outside the company for the move, some ex-employees are praising the decision, citing abuse, slacking off, and general 'unavailability' of folks working from home.'

    Yeah, and that is an issue with MANAGEMENT, not the underlings. If my boss doesnt know what I am doing, that I am on task, it is THEIR failure, not mine.

  • Not a good metric (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:27PM (#43105339)

    Part of the benefit to working from home is the lack of interruptions and the ability to just get your head down and do your work. If you're complaining that they "aren't checking in enough" or "unavailable", you're basically complaining that they are using working from home as effectively as they can.

    Now if you have a real productivity metric that shows they are less productive, then fair enough. But half of the reason working from home is a benefit is to get away from pointless unwork interruptions like that. Demanding that they check in with their managers is basically saying "we don't believe you are working, stop everything you are doing every so often to reassure us that you are working", and I'm not surprised that this renders these people less productive.

  • Oh goodie, metrics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tridus (79566) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:27PM (#43105343) Homepage

    At my work, the people who do support got a new management structure. Their management is big on metrics. Sadly, their metric is "how many tickets did you close."

    Unsurprisingly, service levels have gone to total shit. The people who actually solve hard problems take more time than the ones who bounce tickets to other people and only handle easy ones, and thus don't look good to the morons in charge. What used to take minutes now takes hours, but apparently it's "more efficient."

    I see a lot of the same type of faulty reasoning here. Slacking off happens at work all the time, and people "being unavailable" is just code for "I can't walk over and talk about my dog for 45 minutes". I doubt their previous VPN logs really say a lot that's useful, but if there were actual abusers they should have been dealt with. Blanket bans don't tend to work.

    It's particularly weird in Yahoo's case since it's already not exactly a place that top tier talent wants to go, and this isn't going to help them recruit.

  • It's a Mgmt Issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tungstencoil (1016227) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:34PM (#43105437)
    I've worked at places that are heavily remote and heavily not. I've seen it done successfully and not.

    One place, when I was on team A 100% on-site, I interacted with my manager very minimally. We had little direction, lots of bureaucracy, and a slow pace of accomplishing anything. I moved to another team B, 100% remote, interacted with my manager a lot, we had lots of planning, direction, and follow-up, and got stuff DONE.

    I've seen it time and again: the overwhelming majority of people need leadership. What kind of leadership is specific to the individual; good mgmt can tailor their style to individual needs. Rare - much rarer than most people think - is someone who needs no leadership.

    What happens is that remote teams can exacerbate management failings. People slack off; some people work in chunks (as I do - I will goof off for a couple of hours and then pound out a day's work), some people work slow and steady. If you're results-oriented, you can measure this. If you manage people correctly, it can be done remote, on-site, or blended.

    Managing remote teams requires a different set of skills. Most places make the mistake of assuming a remote worker is just like an on-site worker, to be treated the same. They're not. It's not better or worse, just different.
  • by emagery (914122) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:44PM (#43105553)
    I lament this decision, but understand it. I telecommuted from Maine to D.C. I did it very well. I was reliable. I even got more work done there where I had control over my environment and time than I do where where I don't. That said, I was alone in this. The other 3 or 4 people doing the same thing were notoriously unreliable. So I understand the decision to end the practice even if it really made my life worse. My argument would be, then... address WHY people can't stick to the job at home... rather than end the practice. In a world with dwindling resources, severe jumps in carbon emissions (not small portion of which is transportation and heating/cooling related), all of a person's lifespan utterly wasted (and in some respected, endangered by) sitting in traffic, etc. Rise above, Mayer... don't put down.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:44PM (#43105559)

    Likewise, we're hearing from people close to Yahoo executives and employees that she made the right decision banning work from home.

    "The employees at Yahoo are thrilled," says one source close to the company.

    "There isn't massive uprising. The truth is, they've all been pissed off that people haven't been working."

    If it works for the employees, then our opinions here don't mean much in the debate.

  • by hagrin (896731) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @01:51PM (#43106417) Homepage Journal
    My boss telecommutes sometimes. All you need to know is this -

    He billed 40 hours "General" time from home one week.
    The week of Hurricane Sandy.
    When his house didn't have power for 10 days.

    If he was in the office, he'd be working on his personal e-commerce websites or looking for apps for his phone.

    Yes, Mayer did it so she can fire people and cut costs. Yes, VPN is a crappy metric to use although I'm sure that isn't the only metric she used. Yes, telecommuting works for a lot of people and can be a huge cost saver for companies.

    But please, let's spare me the "telecommuting is the Holy Grail" for all employees and for all businesses. Fact is every company has terrible employees and they will game the system no matter where they are.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:37PM (#43107921) Homepage Journal

    Of hearing these Gartner inspired dipshits tell me their business is 'collaborative'. As opposed to what? Funeral director? Jesus Christ this is a gaggle of fools who've finally guzzled their own marketing talk and now they identify strenuously with the Dilbert-speak of it all.

    Tell you what Little Miss Google who "has it all! work!, family!, fulfillment! free time!" off the back of your husband, nanny, live in staff, car service, private schools and such. Fuck you and the paradigm you chartered a plane to fly in on. Seriously. Fuck you. You want me to commute 2 hrs a day each way to come work at your veal pen - send a car and a driver to take me there both ways so I make use of that 4 hrs a day. Or, give me a 100% raise so that I can afford to live where the blogerati hobnob.

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