Is Yahoo Showing Ineffective Leadership by Banning Telecommuting?

Yahoo!’s recent announcement to ban telecommuting raises issuesPros and cons of telecommuting around good management skills, technology use, employee motivation and productivity. Some would argue that a ban on telecommuting (Richard Branson for one) is going backwards to a time where employees need to be micro-managed because they can’t be trusted.  What also makes this debate so interesting is that  a technology company would ban telecommuting when it is the advance in technology that has made telecommuting possible. You could argue that it allows for more participation in the workforce for those who would have to stay home to take care of children, an aging parent, or, who live in a remote place.

Aside from the benefits face to face interaction has, companies have to weigh whether they can keep good employees and stay productive should they decide not to allow telecommuting. Some have already answered that question by allowing it. And, it seems to be more of an ability to manage well and have the structure in place to ferret out abusers, track productivity and trust workers.  That being said, here are some divergent points of view on telecommuting: 

From a manager:

Two weeks ago, one of my staff called me and said she’d like to work from home that day. The next day, she published a long blog entry on another website (similar to CNNGo) which she likes to do to increase her public profile, and certain news references on that blog made it all too clear she’d written it during her day at home allegedly working for me.

I am quite a loose supervisor, in the sense that as long as you hit your deadline I will give you a lot of leeway on timekeeping. And I will accept working from home. But anyone who doesn’t admit sometimes workers abuse the process is full of it.

Years ago, someone said to me that at the end of every month you should ask yourself if your employer got their money’s worth from you that month. It’s the best advice. Your employer does NOT have a duty to keep you in employment. I work with some superb people, and I mean really superb, but I have zero patience with the lazy ones and the con artists. And they make it hard for the rest. voxpopulus

Richard Branson, the head of Virgin, took issue with Yahoo’s decision, claiming he never worked in an office and wouldn’t expect his workers to work there either. To him, it’s a leadership issue:

This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.

If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.

Working life isn’t 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.

Here are some common sense responses that many felt:

Useless worker is useless whether at a physical job location or at home. What a waste of time and resources to force people to show up – it makes as much sense as forcing people to go into the office to stuff envelopes.

I fail to see why an internet company needs people to work face to face when their customers won’t. BludApfel

Former Yahoo! employee:  

My guess is that somehow people got promoted to management who weren’t skilled managers. They pissed off the talented people who easily got jobs elsewhere. All that was left were many ineffective managers leading a bunch of slackers and only a handful of talented workers who valiantly tried to hold the entire mess together.

The leftover talent is being lumped in with the dregs because management doesn’t have the capacity to recognize who is talented and who is dead weight. So, management decides to take the easy way out and force compliance. What they will be left with are compliant employees.

Ouch!  Did anyone ever say management was easy?  We’d love to know how you make your telecommuting effective. Or, are you weighing offering this to keep key employees. What’s your experience?

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