The Yahoo Telecommuting Policy Change – What Does it Mean to the Rest of Us?

I, like most, was surprised when Yahoo announced on February 22nd that they were eliminating their “Work From Home” benefit and forcing all employees to report to work at a Yahoo office starting in June. From the New York Times to Mother Nature Network, the story was picked up everywhere. All highlighted opinions, stats and facts regarding working from home versus onsite as well as the potential fallout and/or benefits CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision may have on turning around the organization.

Initially Resourceful HR wasn’t going to blog about Yahoo’s telecommuting decision and subsequent discussions because we didn’t want to add to the noise. But given the number of times this topic has come up in conversations over the past month, particularly with clients, the pros/cons and best practices of telecommunicating are clearly on everyone’s mind.

So what are people saying about the Yahoo Telecommuting Policy Change?  LOTS! There is much speculation on the real purpose of the change. Is it: For the ideas and innovation that come from spontaneous and impromptu interactions in the hallway of the office? To inspire those not really engaged with the turnaround of Yahoo to quit, thereby avoiding a massive layoff? To highlight Marissa Mayer’s strength of character as a leader and her ability to make the unpopular decision? Because the VPN logs highlighted that employees were not logging in enough when they were working from home? To dramatically and immediately shift the culture of the organization – one described as stagnant at the time she was hired? Or something else?

Many support Marissa Mayer’s choice and others are extremely critical. Topics commonly covered in the opinion pieces highlight that the change won’t last, it is a massive step backwards for working parents, and an archaic approach to leadership. Some even go so far as to claim Marissa Mayer broke the code of motherhood by changing the policy.

But Yahoo isn’t alone in making the move. Best Buy changed their Results Oriented Workforce just a couple weeks later, requiring 4,000 corporate employees to return to the office. Best Buy, however, included in their message that they were encouraging employees to work with their managers to determine if telecommuting was a viable option for their situation.

I don’t anticipate there is going to be a lot of companies getting rid of telecommuting as a result of these two large, struggling organizations’ decisions. But it has caused many of us to sit back and think about our own policies and if they are leading to the results we desire.

There are many considerations when building or evaluating a telecommuting policy. You can read some in this previous blog post.

As you evaluate a telecommuting policy, I encourage you to put yourself in your employees’ shoes and visualize how a telecommuting policy may change their daily lives and subsequently impact their contribution to the organization. Are you willing to model the behavior you are requiring with a policy change? Think big picture about the impact of a telecommuting policy on your organization’s goals, employees, and customers.

What are your short and long-term business goals and how does your culture and policies support these goals? Create a telecommuting policy that ensures you receive the greatest contribution and productivity from your employees.

Consider the following as you evaluate your telecommuting strategy and related policy:

  • What is the employment brand you desire to have? Is telecommuting a big piece of that and a driver behind why your employees chose to work for you?
  • Does your culture promote the levels of communication and openness required to be successful when employees are dispersed and working from home?
  • If you change your telecommuting policy, how will that impact your company’s culture and employment brand?
  • If you are going to make a blanket policy change, are there employees that will likely leave the organization? Are there exceptions you’d be willing to make for the policy?
  • How will your employees feel about the change in policy? As you look at the different groups of employees, will this have a more dramatic impact on certain demographics?
  • How would your customers perceive the change in telecommuting policy? Would that impact their decision to purchase from you?
  • What kind of talent do you need to hire now and in the future and will this policy change impact your ability to attract them?

Only time will tell whether the moves made by Yahoo and Best Buy were for the best. Obviously, the shareholders simply want to see positive financial returns. I’m curious about how the change impacts their ability to recruit talent in a tough market. What are your thoughts on telecommuting? Share your comments below whether you think it helps or hinders an organization.

What are your thoughts? Let's discuss:

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