I was stunned to see Yahoo!'s new policy slamming the door shut on telecommuting. Why? For many reasons, mostly having to do with the fact that fundamentally I believe that Yahoo! is trying to have their cake and eat it too.
They say they want their employees to work in the office, where organic, creative, and collaborative juices flow freely, and where productivity can be nurtured and guided (and, let's face it, watched). But what makes me so mad is the likelihood that Yahoo!'s employees -- all of them, not just those who had work from home arrangements -- will still be expected work from home, in addition to office hours.
Why else would Yahoo! give employees iPhone 5s as a "perk?" To email their friends, play games and take videos on the weekends? I don't think so. Instead, employees will be using their handy, Yahoo!-issued iPhone 5s to check their email, be on important calls, and access files whenever Yahoo needs them too... including outside of the office.
So they're banning telecommuting. Where's the ban on working outside of the office then?
Yahoo! is highlighting one the most blatant falsehoods in today's work culture -- if there is no approved telecommuting policy in place, then the company's employees aren't allowed to work from home and they won't be paid for work that occurs outside the office. And if employees happen to work from home, it's not really talked about or is kind of bonus time for the employer.
Actually, what it's really called is working around the clock, and it's a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In this day and age, where working professionals typically have a computer or laptop at home (and maybe a smartphone and iPad too), almost everyone telecommutes to some extent. It's standard to check emails, work on files, listen to voicemails, talk to colleagues, read work briefs during their commute, at night and on the weekend, etc. The list goes on, simply because most people have work-related tasks that they (a) do independently and (b) are location-neutral and can be done from anywhere, not just in the office.
If productivity and collaboration are really the issue, then Yahoo!'s problem isn't employees working from home, but a poor management structure that hasn't been challenged to actually manage telecommuters well.
Yahoo! should take responsibility for the shortcomings in their corporate culture and management style, and yes, absolutely look at all possible ways to improve their productivity and increase collaboration in order to turn things around. I'm not saying it's easy, and I know that Marissa Mayer has her work cut out for her. But for a technology company like Yahoo! to say that telecommuting cannot be host to healthy, productive work environments in any way -- compared to the "hallway and cafeteria discussions" -- it's just plain hypocritical.