No More Phoning It In, Ctd

Farhad Manjoo criticizes Mayer’s decision to ban Yahoo employees working from home, pointing to the mounting evidence of the benefits of telecommuting:

It’s not just that the policy completely elides the virtues of working from home. Numerous studies have found that people can be more productive when they’re allowed to work away from the office. One, released this month by researchers at Stanford, showed that when Chinese call-center employees were allowed to work from home, their performance increased by 13 percent. Considering such gains, it’s likely that Yahoo’s new ban will force remote workers to alter their work lives in a way that will lower their productivity. It will also put Yahoo at odds with just about every other tech company in Silicon Valley—firms that don’t impose such rules on working from home, and with whom Yahoo competes for talent.

A reader calls Manjoo’s piece “ridiculous”:

How can journalists compare call center workers, travel agency workers, and journalists to the highly skilled people employed by Yahoo who are going to charged with engineering that company’s revival and manage to keep a straight face? When Marissa Mayer talks about the crucial conversations around a water cooler, that’s not a quaint Mad Men era justification.  Most people are unable to imagine what the actual work done at a tech company is like, and so they make idiotic comparisons to call centers. Mindshare is overwhelmingly important in the tech industry – it really matters to be in the middle of problem solving and then be able to trot across campus and -ask- the guy who wrote the thing you depend on what assumptions he was making, &c.

Marcus Wohlsen suspects that Mayer is running her own experiment in productivity:

Coming from Google, hardly known as a stuffy workplace, she obviously has seen how unorthodox approaches to life at the office can support huge successes—and huge profits. Some current and former Yahoo employees have reportedly said that the new policy will separate out the truly productive workers from stay-at-home slackers who abuse the system. Perhaps Mayer sees the policy as a test of commitment, which, once passed, will help generate a roster of who can truly be trusted with flexibility in where and how they work. Once honed, maybe that leaner organization will lead to a better company.