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The Data That Drove Yahoo's Telecommuting Ban 529

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

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

  • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:17PM (#43105199)

    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 using for years and has nothing to do with the corp VPN but accomplishes the same. Good job Yahoo. Glad you're opening up the talent pool for the rest of us.

  • Re:Motivation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Keruo ( 771880 ) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @12:21PM (#43105275)

    It is not a worthless metric for all roles. Phone/Net tech support for example. If they are not logged in, they are not working. Even there it's an easily gamed metric.

    Perhaps Mayer checked those users who need corporate network to do their job then?
    To me, this sounds like military-style management.
    You are supposed to work as a team. If one of you goofs around instead doing their task, everyone suffers.
    It's classic team-bonding strategy, and I don't see anything wrong with the approach.
    She can prove wrongdoings happened but instead pointing fingers everyone gets punished. Now the group can work out itself who deserves to get soap-sock treatment.

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

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2013 @02:08PM (#43106671)

    That or Yahoo's hiring process is so flawed they ended up employing society's layabouts and nothing else.

    Having a liberal telecommute policy is the first step to attracting those people. If your hiring process and your evaluation process aren't good at identifying those employees, you'll become a haven for them and people who use the policy legitimately will begin to resent having to do all the work while others abuse the system.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead