Apologies to Neil Young and Def Leppard but the phrase has been rattling in my head as I continue to hear about the brouhaha about Yahoo!’s work-at-home decision.
As someone who has worked and managed teams remotely starting in 93, I certainly have a soft spot for WAH policies. Heck, I have written two books remotely and have never met the countless staff assigned to work with me at my publisher’s HQ.
Having said that here are some thoughts:
a) This debate should have happened over a decade ago when Ricky Gervais and then Steve Carrell showcased their offices with water coolers, land lines and fax machines. In 2013, it is more than a binary office versus WAH decision. As I wrote in this guest column, there are at least 10 ways where and when we work has evolved in the last few years.
b) Marissa Mayer was brought in to turn around Yahoo! She is entitled and expected to make policy, strategy decisions. If she had laid off all the WAH employees, we would have had much less discussion.
c) Apparently, VPN Logs showed Yahoo! WAH employees were not logging in enough. Analytical as Marissa is, hopefully they used many other metrics. I was one of the first WAH analysts at Gartner and they measured me along with analysts at HQ on at least 10 different metrics ( number of client calls handled, number of new presentation slides, research pages etc.). Gartner also invested considerably in making sure I spent time at HQ so I was not out of sight. Indeed, I spent most of the first 3 months at HQ.
d) In turn I felt like I owed it to all WAH workers (not just at Gartner) to show performance can be location agnostic. I (and a few other WAH analysts hired around at that time) were in the top 5% of those metrics across all analysts for several years. I would like to think we put management at ease with the model. Not sure whether something similar happened at Yahoo! or it did before Marissa arrived.
e) A concern with many WAH employees is not that they are slacking, but in fact do not know when to turn off. Also WAH employees have different work habits. I remember being asked why I did so many of my conference calls via mobile phone. The fact that I was multi-tasking, balancing work and home tasks while driving , while being highly focused on work at home is a foreign concept to many who compartmentalize work and home.
f) If I had a chance to sit down with Marissa, my questions would be more focused on why Yahoo!, one of the biggest contributors to the open source Apache Hadoop product, is not a bigger Big Data player these days. Ditto for its competent data center team. How come it does not figure much in cloud computing discussions?