Regular readers of TheGreenSuits.com know that we embrace telework. We believe that talent who are allowed to work remotely tend to work longer hours than their traditionally officed counterparts; they are nimble, creative, productive, well-rested, and inspired. Typically, they achieve some semblance of work/life balance that eludes talent who must work from a brick-and-mortar location.
Telework is not for all talent nor is it appropriate for all companies; some folks just need actual human interaction for continued success. And it's true, we virtual office professionals are prone to occasional loneliness and must find ways to connect face to face with friends and acquaintances to stay grounded and productive.
Executive talent these days measure attributes such as telework as a true reflection of a nurturing company culture. Thusly, telework embracers tend to value the option to work from a virtual office higher than overall compensation, title, or other employment factors. In other words, a company that offers--and embraces--telework will attract and retain like-minded talent more than a company that does not.
For years, Yahoo! stood alongside other major American "logos" as an embracer of telework. But Yahoo! will soon jump back in time to the early 1980s. We learned this week that the company is nixing telework. From a leaked internal HR memo:
“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
The leaked memo continues:
“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. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices.”
To a certain degree we get the rationale behind the Yahoo! move: one of our clients, a very hip media and marketing insights company based in NYC, thrives because its talent work together in one vibrant, colorful and Hipster-ish office with no walls. Their bright, buzzy workspace fosters lots of engagement and interaction...and for them the busy setting seems to work quite well and produce great results. But it is true that our client's fabulous talent embraced their buzzy workplace vibe from the get go. And it is also true that most of their team lives very close to their Midtown Manhattan offices. Our client doesn't offer a telework option, but their talent don't seem to mind.
But, Yahoo! What were you thinking? We fear this venerable brand which for years embraced telework has slapped hard its loyal talent pool who chose to, or must, work remotely. Many of these folks opted for telework at Yahoo! over commuting to Yahoo! headquarters (or other non telework offering companies) because the impact of highest-in-the-nation gas prices on their wallets plus notoriously long commute times would be a non-starter.
If I had CEO Marissa Mayer's ear, I would have urged her to achieve her goals by entirely different means. First, I would have offered the winning examples of Triple Bottom Line embracing companies like marketing agency Hacker Group. A few years back, Hacker moved its offices from suburban Redmond, Washington to easily commutable downtown Seattle. Second, I would have suggested that the Yahoo! C-level develop a thorough understanding of talents' need for telework to separate which assignments could continue via virtual office and which could not. Third, I would have created grand incentives--like Hacker Group did--to ease the transition to brick-and-mortar based work; Hacker Group provided its talent mass transit passes and ride sharing options. Fourth, like Fortune contributor Larry Hawes suggests, I would have offered the possible return to telework to those team members who could prove that they are engaged and productive when working remotely.
We don't know if Yahoo! is offering commuting stipends to affected teleworkers. We hope that is in the works.
Our biggest beef with Yahoo! is the arrogant "from up on high" edict-like tone of the announcement as well as the manner in which the company handled this workplace transition. Undoutbtedly, we fear that loyal talent will seek work elsewhere thus hurt the brand and its value further. But as Hawes suggests, it is probably not too late for CEO Mayer to mitigate the announcement's impact.
Yes, The Green Suits want to see more companies embracing telework. No, we don't think it is for every company. But, we do believe companies that embrace this and/or other Triple Bottom Line impacts will enjoy greater success than those that do not. Surely, their talent will reward them with hard work, great results, and continued loyalty.
Cross-posted from The Green Suits: