Recently, Marissa Mayer (ex-Googler turned Yahoo! CEO) put a cease to all work from home arrangements between Yahoo! and their employees. I for one applaud her decision. I’ll come out and say it: It’s a counter-productive element about running a company (including in the tech space and I’d argue especially in the tech space). For our proposes we’ll focus on the tech/startup space.
For the most part I’m addressing this issue in generalities and not looking at outlier cases. I’m sure there are people who are successful remote employees. I personally know of an IBM’er who is very high up the food chain and has been with the company for a long time. He works remotely and is very effective. But I also know he walks into his home office at 8AM, closes his door and does not step out until 5pm, despite a stay-at-home wife and a toddler. To me, he is the exception to the rule.
Then there are solo-preneurs like Rob Walling who successfully works from home. This is not about him. Different topic.
Yahoo! has experienced significant marketshare loss over the years and has been engulfed by bad decisions after bad decisions. For a company that lorded over an industry to be whittled down to 13% marketshare in 10 years is hard to understand. Having employees under the same roof creates an atmosphere of engagement, ownership and collaboration.
Ex-Yahoo! employees admit that not everyone works their 40 hrs/week. Often they are doing everything else but work – working on startups, side projects, consulting, watching TV, etc,. A few years ago a Yahoo! employee called us with a phone app he and his team in India had developed. He wanted us to try it out. This proves what Mayer suspects; employees get paid for an honest day’s work who turn around and work on side projects. Who knows how many startups Yahoo! has (unknowingly and unwillingly) funded. Yahoo! has a work culture of “get it done later” which is proving to be detrimental to the company. Frankly, I’m surprised that it has taken this long for management to make this decision.
When I first joined Ties.com and Scarves.com – we also had team members (some department heads) working remotely. With the sheer amount of work that needed to get done, it made more sense for our team members to come into the office. It became much easier to walk up to someone and ask him/her about the status of a project then spending all my day sending emails. This allowed our departments to be more collaborative and accountable. It helped change our culture for the better.
So why do I perceive WFH programs do be counter-productive? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We get so much work done AND the quality of our work is so much better. I believe this is because we have now created an environment when day-in and day-out everyone works together and you get to see your team members’ work. It creates continuity and consistency.
There is no project management software that will help you communicate or collaborate better than working in the same office. We use and have used Skype, Facetime, GotoMeeting, GoogleDocs, Dropbox, Asana, Trillo, Basecamp and everything else under the sun. Still the most reliable way to work through a project is with our simple Pmeetings.
And finally, culture is very important for us. What we wish to create demands in-person involvement. Having a fun and interactive culture is what we strive for and therefore it makes more sense to have everyone work in-house.
If you wish to consult and run your own business by all means work from home, your bed, co-loft spaces, the local coffee shop, on vacation and where ever else you can get internet connection. But if you wish to work for us count on seeing all of us everyday.