Christine Barney|Feb 28, 2013

As the buzz about Yahoo’s ban on working from home continues to escalate, it struck me that the outrage over “to ban or not ban” misses the big picture.

Both sides can make arguments that have some merit. Yahoo claims this is “right for Yahoo right now” – but says who? Obviously not the current and former Yahoo employees who are shaken and confused by the change and have chosen to speak out.

The decision comes from someone at the top who more than likely has engaged in very little of the “water cooler creativity” with the rank and file that was determined to be so critical to company success.

I believe in an employee-driven workplace where those who do the job have the best insights into improving productivity and maximizing innovation in their areas. If Yahoo employees had come together and said, “For our organization, mandatory on site presence is key to success,” then my blog would stop right here. But clearly that is not the case at Yahoo.

The people at the top, talking “at” employees rather than “with” employees, have taken the attitude that momma knows best. It’s condescending, arrogant and bad business for everyone.

While I’ll leave the specifics of how workplace flexibility impacts recruitment, retention and creativity to those who have already weighed in like Richard Branson (for) and Donald Trump (against), I did want to add one point.

Some contend that people slack off or are less productive when they are working remotely. Forcing non-productive employees to be that way in front of you rather than behind your back accomplishes nothing. Allowing poor work performance is the result of poor management, not a bad HR policy.

If you manage by results achieved, the slackers are quickly identified by their supervisors no matter where they work. In addition, if you manage by team metrics and give team members an outlet to peer review, slackers are even more quickly identified because no one wants to carry another’s load.

Again, an employee-driven workplace is the key to maximizing productivity and profits, and it sounds like Yahoo could use a lot more of both of those things. A blanket ban on how/where to work that has little to no employee buy-in is a step backwards, not forwards.

Yahoo and many brands talk about the value of listening (to customers), so why not “practice what you preach” in your own house and start listening to your employees?


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