A leaked internal memo at Yahoo Inc. informing employees they are no longer able to work remotely from home has brought productivity into question. Does working remotely lead to greater productivity? Or does it stifle creativity and allow employees to slack off?
Breakdown of the Message
There are a number of communications implications and points of contention to be addressed. First, a drastic change in employee policy should have come from the CEO Marissa Mayer, rather than the HR director Jacqueline Reses. Mayer would have been a more suitable choice to convey her message, of making Yahoo more innovative. The goal of the memo was increased innovation. Perhaps that could have been phrased differently, as the message is directed to Yahoo employees that are highly skilled and innovative to begin with. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” as stated in the memo. Implementing a company wide policy change via email is impersonal, and contradicts the purpose of the new procedure. Lastly, the memo is not mom friendly. Working remotely allows families to maintain a better balance between work and family commitments. But this is not surprising, as the messages comes from Mayer who returned to work two weeks after giving birth to her child last year.
Mayer is a driven woman with a clear idea of what the company needs to do in order to succeed. She was brought to Yahoo from Google, to save Yahoo from its past corporate misfortune.
In light of the leaked memo, there are a number of alternative ways Mayer could have handled the situation. The news could have been brought up at an employee event or a town hall. This would allow individuals to share their thoughts and engage in a two-way communication process with Yahoo executives. Mayer did not provide much rationale for this sudden change. How does coming to work make people more innovative? Is there data to support that? Lastly, the emphasis of the policy needs to address what is in it for the employees? And, how are they likely to benefit from this shift in company culture?