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Yahoo! Technology

Mayer Terminates Yahoo's Remote Employee Policy 524

An anonymous reader writes "AllThingsD's Kara Swisher reported and tweeted that Marissa Mayer (CEO since July 2012) has just sent an all-hands email ending Yahoo's policy of allowing remote employees. Hundreds of workers have been given the choice: start showing up for work at HQ (which would require relocation in many cases), or resign. (They can forget about Yahoo advice pieces like this). Mayer has also been putting her stamp on Yahoo's new home page, which was rolled out Wednesday."
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Mayer Terminates Yahoo's Remote Employee Policy

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  • Re:At you desk! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:03PM (#42989799)

    A lot of the level of teamwork is dependent on what the team is comfortable with. I have worked in groups where we would communicate via IM even if we are just over the wall from each other. For me, switching to another window to IM is much less intrusive to my workflow than getting up.

    When I'm in an idea generation phase, it is definitely helpful to have people together for that. There is a certain level of creativity that seems to get lost when I can't read all of the physical cues and overall vibes of the conversation.

  • Feminist outrage (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:12PM (#42989873)

    The feminist lobby were so pleased that Mayer was appointed and waxed lyrical that now they have a fellow sister in the IT industry finally women in the tech industry will now start to get the rights, privledges and working practices that they think they deserve.

    In one swipe she's now going to hit a large section of women who depend on remote access to juggle caring for child/parents and adjusting from maternity leave back into work.

    This should be fun.

  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:18PM (#42989905)
    But I agree with this. This is the first time that I think that Mayer may actually be getting it in that the US workforce has gotten lazy.Yes, this is a broad stroke of the brush, but look at any large project in just about any large corporation and you'll see costs and overruns out of control. I think this is just the first step of her trying to say enough is enough, you people are well compensated, quit acting like spoiled brats thinking you are all so special and get the shit done. This goes for every segment out there, be it government, IT, Defense, you name it.
  • Re: At your desk! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XopherMV ( 575514 ) * on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:36PM (#42990061) Journal
    It's far easier to concentrate and maintain that concentration when you don't have people constantly coming up to your desk and interrupting you. Since it's easier to concentrate, it's also easier to get into "the zone" and stay in "the zone" for a longer period of time. Further, since you don't commute, people who work from home also tend to work longer hours. So, you do more productive work at home for longer periods of time. I'd say people working from home are more useful for close-knit development teams than ones in the office.
  • This. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:54PM (#42990169)

    I work for a close-knit high-level support group. Our problems are complex and varied enough that I cannot imagine working from home routinely. Nothing beats overhearing somebody in an adjacent cube mumble something about an issue that you dealt with vaguely six months ago, and then you hop up, scrawl something on a whiteboard, and then call over another couple people to check it out with you.

    Yes, all this is theoretically possible via IM, (even the sketching, with special equipment), but things like overhearing others, and the instant, high-speed collaboration just isn't possible remotely. (I can talk much faster than I type, and there isn't any concept of "overhearing" a colleague discuss something if you are on other sides of the country.)

  • Re:Feminist outrage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2013 @02:09PM (#42990275)

    the feminists should have had a clue when she popped the baby out and asked for her laptop in the recovery room. Amazed she didn't have a surrogate. She'll now be paying someones to raise her child. Nothing wrong with that - happens all the time with those who aren't worth millions - but in her case, it was clear that she valued her work over being a mom to her child.

  • ceteris paribus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2013 @02:12PM (#42990291)

    "All else being equal, of course."

    I think this is the important part of your statement. If a person or team does not adapt to what works better for remote collaboration, then it does seem that productivity will suffer vs being face to face. Whether or not some people make up for this by being better or working harder isn't really an answer(just like the few workers who are so much more naturally productive could work through the impairment of being blindfolded lets say wouldn't justify the policy). I think what does answer this concern is that other things do not tend to be equal when working remotely. People do in fact adapt and in some cases, they find things about working remotely that make them even more productive.

    I work remotely 99% of the time with my current team. My team is distributed in Seattle, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Beijing. I would say I have some experience on the matter. I've found that while loss of direct communication is dampening, there are things about working remotely that more than make up for it. First, we are very good about remote communication. We mitigate some of the costs of remote contact very consciously. Daily meetings for status are kept short, and we even use video to keep it personal. Group chat options are always available and it is standard behavior on our part to get everyone in one any time information needs to spread to more than just one person. Remote working means less time spent commuting that can instead be spent getting stuff done. It also means more flexible hours(since work can be done at any time instead of just office hours) so some of us have more fluid schedules that accommodate quicker response when there are problems outside of normal work hours. All of us take significantly less sick leave since working from home while sick is not nearly as onerous. Some of us use the freedom of remote work to choose work environments more suitable to our tastes. I myself like extreme quiet so I can focus, which I could not get being in the office. I can get in the zone of concentration and bang out a ton of code that I otherwise would not be able to do. One last example is remote options permit us to hire people who otherwise would not be viable. Sure, it might be more productive if everyone on my team worked in the office, but that statement omits the fact that we were the best fit for the jobs on this team and if remote work were not possible, we would not be working at all. It is not a choice of us working remotely with lower productivity vs going into a building and getting more done; the option is between us working remotely vs hiring less suited(but local) people to get the job done.

    So I absolutely agree, all other things held constant, a team working remotely is going to be less productive than if they were in an office together. But other things do not stay equal when permitting remote collaboration.

  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @02:30PM (#42990383) Homepage
    This is exactly true. I actually went into the office this morning (Saturday) which is extremely rare for me, but there was an interesting project to work on, and we were limited with equipment time. At any rate, during the morning I said to my co-worker, "coming in on Saturdays is addictive because nobody bothers you so you get so much more done!" He agreed 100%.
  • Re:At you desk! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @02:34PM (#42990403)

    As a manager, the only way to really know if you are really utilizing your people is when they start failing. Otherwise, they might have more capacity.

    If you have a set amount of work to do, then you can measure who is finishing the work with quality and efficiency but even those measures are ineffective because not all work is the same. So if it is repetitive work you can rotate it around and maybe catch the total gold brickers.

    If you work with them on a daily basis and gather status from them - you can get some indication for who is doing a lot of work and who is not doing a lot of work. When we interviewed people said they had worked on 2-3 projects. At our company, on our team we were working 10-15 projects per person upper (management cut corners and missed a lot of SAP blueprinting) and we were graded on "all done or fail" basis.

    Now... two things did happen.

    1) After two years upper management laid almost everyone off (~80%) and brought in Infosys. The nasty bit... after two years of 70 hour weeks- we found out this had been in Legal for two years. I.e. they planned to use us up like batteries from the start and then toss us.

    2) Of the 20% of the people retained. Over half are gone. The SAP project is stalled until Infosys comes up to speed. And the surprise was this: Infosys didn't have enough trained resources. I hear a lot of $200 an hour contractors have been brought in... sort of negating the savings of laying everyone off. I expect it will resume moving again in the summer.

    So this is off topic from the remote worker (oh btw, they DID lay off every single remote employee while staffing up a bunch of people in india so watch out for being a remote employee because of the extra risk).

    This is the third major company that has done this that I'm aware of so my advice is if your company is going to SAP and they bring in Infosys- there is a very high risk that the plan is to lay you off right after all the hard work unless you are on enterprise architecture.

    The good news is- most of the people who god laid off found work in under 90 days working 45 hours a week. Moral: They should have left when management first called for them to work 70 hours unless they had been offered huge (and I'm talking a years salary) bonuses.

  • Re:At you desk! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2013 @02:50PM (#42990523)

    Typical feminine perspective: maximizing social drama (or what most call 'communication' nowadays) matters more than results. I'm sure she'll also make sure everyone's dressed like fashion models too, because dresscode is more important than results.

  • by BrianRoach ( 614397 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @03:03PM (#42990593)

    You're correct that we didn't evolve with digital communication. We also didn't evolve with telephones, but everyone seems to have figured those out.

    The company for which I work is 100% remote when it comes to pretty much everything but C-level, and that's working pretty well for us (We just opened new business offices in Tokyo and London). I work with people in ... 7 timezones? Something like that anyway. The nearest physical office to my home is ~ 1800 miles away.

    The trick is you have to hire people capable of working that way. As you say, we didn't evolve with digital communication, but humans have a remarkable ability to learn new things (well, at least some of them). Can you have that guy that needs constant micro-management and someone asking "What did you do today, Bob?" ? No, you can't (although I would make the argument that you really don't want him in an office, either). You also can't have the typical bad mid-level manager that thinks someone sitting in a chair within close physical proximity to them from hour X to hour Y = productive. Or anyone who thinks talking to someone face to face is more effective or productive than the myriad of ways to communicate digitally. I often find great humor in the irony of people building software that allows people from all over the world to communicate and interact with each other ... need to be in one physical location to do so.

    In short? Best. Job. Ever. I've always found that I was more productive outside an office due to the constant interrupts and constant stream of often useless "facetime" meetings. Having a job where I do that all the time is simply awesome and I have gotten more honest, real work done in the last year working here than probably any time elsewhere (while it's hard to quantify that when talking about software engineering there is a sense of getting things done and doing so effectively).

    I will say, however, that having *everyone* remote is far different than having most people in an office and a couple people remote. This is where you run into the problem of them "not being involved". While not impossible to manage and again the right people make this work, it is more difficult for most people because it's simply that "out of sight, out of mind" problem when it comes to the remote workers. In general you also don't have an environment and tools in place to facilitate those remote people being included because it's not your normal workflow.

  • Re:At you desk! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @04:10PM (#42991053)

    silicon valley person, here.

    my current place has so many non-english languages spoken (in cubes, in the hallway, etc) that even hearing people talk about work means NOTHING to me.

    should I say something to management? probably not. it would not be interpreted in the well-meaning fashion that I would have intended.

    but I definitely do NOT benefit from being on-site when almost no one speaks english as a first language and people fall back to their native tongues, even in the formal office environment.

    what do folks think about that? a US company where the office has very little english spoken in the hallways, cubes, etc.

    official meetings in conference rooms are in english, of course, but that's not what you were talking about in your post.

    maybe there's something I could comment on or help with - IF I only knew what they were talking about.

    personally, I find it rude, but again, I won't say anything about it at work. if they don't 'get it', my saying anything about it won't help any.

    but I might as well be at home since being there is not the benefit you listed.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @04:19PM (#42991101)

    When I worked at Google, there were a lot of remote workers, since teams were put together for specific purposes, and the geographic locations varied widely between the best people for the task at hand. This worked as well, in 99% of the cases, as having the person locally in the office. But Google has a pretty big, pretty sophisticated teleconferencing infrastructure which perhaps Yahoo does not have/can not currently afford to buy.

    It's also frequently very difficult to communicate corporate culture remotely; for this reason, when someone was hired permanently into a position in the team, even from another team already within Google, they were expected to spend several months with their coworkers in Mountainview. If the office containing most of the on-site team had been in Germany, they would have been expected there instead.

    I imagine that it would be amazingly difficult to make a cultural shift in a company with remote workers, even if you imposed the same restrictions in terms of having them work locally, and if, as Marissa seems to be trying to do, you do it by throwing a big switch, that's a rather large up front cost, unless you own Marriott Suites or a similar housing complex.

    That said, Marissa is apparently trying to turn Yahoo into a mini-Google. I don't know how this will work out for them, but it probably can't be worse than if they'd taken the purchase offer from Microsoft and become a mini-Microsoft.

    My gut feeling is that this isn't going to be terrifically successful; I knew a lot of the people who were initially involved in Yahoo. I also know that a lot of managers dislike managing remotely on general principles; for those managers, the people "allowed" to work remotely were the "rock stars": people who were allowed to be remote not because the managers were OK with it, but because they would otherwise lose the talent. They've already had something of a brain-drain: I know several of the Yahoo top technical people already jumped to Facebook, Google, and other companies, some of them years ago, when it looked like Yahoo was starting to go down hill.

    It really remains to be seen what, other than a mini-Google, Marissa is trying to build at Yahoo, but it should be interesting to watch.

  • Re:At you desk! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @04:54PM (#42991299)

    +5 Insightful for this? Really? OK, I get it, Slashdotters are too cool for face to face conversations. If it gets you out of the "programmer zone" it's bad. Got it.

    Here's my anecdote:

    The best thing my current company did for the (software) product was to get people back in the office, working together. Before, it was a mix of people offsite, in other states, in other countries. Even inside the company, people who were supposed to be working together had cubicles all over the office, on different floors and different buildings. The result? Nobody talked to each other, requirements were mis-interpreted, and every little thing had to be documented because nobody was in the room when changes were made. Decisions (code and business) that could have been made over a 15 minute conversation instead took days of E-mail chains. Engineers, marketing people, managers, etc. locked themselves in their private little worlds and sent status reports at each other, and lo and behold, nothing was getting done.

    After a great deal of convincing, we ended that shit. Every significant contributor to the project (including developers, QA, project management, architecture, art, marketing, etc.) not only needs to be in the office, but they work in the same "war room". No cube walls to hide behind, no doors to lock, no screaming kids on conference calls. If there's a question about something, the person who knows is less than 20 meters away. If you need a quick over-the-shoulder code review, it's done. What is Marketing planning on calling this feature? Answered. Status reports became unnecessary, endless meetings and conference calls started going away. No more of this, "Jim is only going to be in town for three days, so we need to cram all the meetings in while he's here!" The little petty morale-killing stuff like "Why does he get to live in Utah on a California salary, while I have to pay rent in Mountain View?" went away. I can't begin to emphasize the difference this made in terms of productivity and collaboration, and morale.

    Don't underestimate the power of simply getting everyone in the same room talking. Companies that do it will have an edge over companies that don't.

  • Re:At you desk! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by noh8rz10 ( 2716597 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:42PM (#42991921)

    This is why working at the office can be challenging for those people whose coworkers/PHBs think, "Oh, you're here anyway, so it's not a big deal if I ask you a quick question or ask you to do some quick task."

    see what I did there?

The best defense against logic is ignorance.