It’s all over the news right now…embattled Yahoo is asking new CEO Marissa Mayer to save the company. Once an internet leader, Yahoo has turned into an also-ran and a string of leaders have either left the company or were forced out leaving it in the hands of Ms. Mayer to clean up and shore up.
Her latest action is to call in the chips for every single Yahoo employee…they must either show up at a Yahoo office for work starting in June or ship out. Ouch. This is the 21st century. And if Yahoo wants to be an innovative company, taking a step back 20 years won’t get them there very fast. In today’s world of virtual teams and remote workspaces (home offices, coffee shops, etc.), it won’t fly well with the dedicated, trusted, and talented workers that Yahoo hopefully employs. What makes matters worse is that many of the remote Yahoo employees affected are customer service representatives who will not benefit at all from the increased thought-sharing and face-to-face meetings that Yahoo says will happen and make them a tighter and more competitive company overall.
Here’s what’s wrong with the idea….
The internet, virtual teams, cloud tools, storage and technology. It’s all about innovative thought, the use of cutting edge technology and quick access to the tools, data and information that we need to do our jobs well. It’s about collaboration. To ask an entire workforce to take a step back and go to an office to work when they’ve been productively working from home or wherever part time or full time is not the right step to take. And many will have to relocate or resign simply because they aren’t near a Yahoo office. Yahoo offices aren’t Starbucks. They aren’t on every corner. If they have slackers in the group, then that’s a different story. But to take this broad stance is not going to save the company…and it will likely hurt it in the long run.
It won’t solve anything
Collaboration is critical to productivity. Project teams must communicate. Project leaders must be master communicators. Same for resource managers, department heads, CEOs, CTOs, PMO Directors, etc. Those in authority with high-dollar responsibility – and PMs fall into that category – must be excellent, efficient, and effective communicators. And it doesn’t take face-to-face meetings to make that happen. A small company with one or two locations…I understand. But a global company like Yahoo…this move won’t solve anything. Global companies must act globally. Beef up what needs beefed up. Make workforce changes…fire personnel. But an across the board mandate for a global internet company that needs to remain lean – and Yahoo fits that description – is a wrong move…and it won’t solve their problems.
It breeds the 9-5 mentality
I lead projects and project teams all the time. I’m up at midnight making last minute changes to a client status report with the latest and greatest information on the project so that we can have the most productive call possible the next day. I’m revising project schedules late for the same reason….and because I’ve completed a team call late in the day to make sure I had the latest info for our project client. I’m also creating online content for clients at 2am and communicating with clients in Russia, Israel, Macedonia, Italy, France, you name it….all around the clock on some days/nights. Will the worker who is now forced to show up onsite at a company like Yahoo – who was otherwise being a very skilled, detailed and productive worker and putting in countless hours to do the job right – be likely to want to do this type of work also from home now? I don’t think I would. My day would now end at 5…period. I’m always frustrated by the loss of potential productive working hours spent in a car just to please someone who wants to see your face to hold you accountable. It’s not productive…unless working remotely has made you non-productive. And, again, that’s a different issue to tackle. That’s not what Yahoo is really trying to address with this mandate.
This works if you want everyone to clock in and out and be done. But what about the weekend creativity? What about the 9am conference call with a client on the east coast for a west coast worker? Does he come into the office for that? Does he skip the call? I predict you’re going to see workers coming in at 9 and leaving at 5 and that’s when their workday will end no matter what. No late night updates of status reports or coming up with creative plans because that’s just when they work best. It sounds good coming out of Ms. Mayer, but it won’t fly well and it won’t solve anything. And it’s going to set a dangerous precedent for other companies. It’s going to become the latest IT slippery slope.