Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Marissa Mayer Busts Sacred Cows At Yahoo

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 8

Yahoo busted a sacred cow when it discontinued it’s current work from home policy. (See the last post for more.) Frankly, compared to IBM’s changes to its pension program in the early 90’s, this is small potatoes.

Don’t get me wrong, I support business strategies like ROWE, which gives employees 100% flexibility about when to come in to the office. Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson the inventors of ROWE, wrote a great open letter to Yahoo, explaining why reducing flexibility is a step backwards. The letter is a business case, as opposed to a moral imperative. As you know, I don’t believe a company is capable of moral agency for either good or ill. Therefore, I think it is far more effective to describe a moral imperative as a business case for good.

While ROWE has a very good track record of business returns, at the end of the day it is only a strategy. And ROWE is not the only good strategy for making money.  Google is decidedly not ROWE.  The “always on campus strategy” works for them, and will continue to work until it doesn’t.

So what can Yahoo employees who like to work from home do, now that they must start coming to the office in June?  If working from home is important to you, my advice is not to take the change personally and use the transition time through June to find another job.

There is another more interesting option for those who will be staying: Use the culture transition as an opportunity to solve The Problem in another way.  And what is The Problem?  Too much time and energy going into work, and not enough left for anything else. Data shows that people who work from home tend to work longer hours, and are more likely to feel “on call” all the time.

What if the tradeoff of going to the office every day is a firmer boundary between work and the rest of life?  “I’ll be in the office every day with energy and enthusiasm, but when I go home the email stays off.”

After all, doesn’t the strategy say that working from home is less effective for what Yahoo is trying to achieve?  And doesn’t the research show that rested, relaxed people are more creative and collaborative?

The previous post explains why I support the changes at Yahoo.

The next post offers some perspective for people upset with Yahoo or Marissa Mayer.

 

Should Success Be Based On Results or Politics?

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 11

It really isn’t the same everywhere.
For example, some company cultures tend to drive people towards unethical decisions[i] (More here).  In an analogous way, some company cultures drive people more towards corporate idolatry. Employees are expected to “do what it takes” to meet deadlines, and to sacrifice their personal time if the boss asks. I believe that a company with a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) has a lower risk for corporate idolatry.

The philosophy behind ROWE is simple. Employees are responsible for results. How they get there is up to them, completely.  Employees are given the freedom to decide when to come into the office, and how best to meet their objectives.  Daniel Pink argues that ROWE is effective because it provides employees autonomy, i.e. control over their environment, which is intrinsically motivating.[ii] This testimonial from an employee at the GAP, a ROWE company, seems to support that notion.

ROWE has been such a huge support and peace of mind. It allows me to not feel guilty when I need to take care of personal issues. I always meet my deadlines and find alternate time to complete my work.”[iii]

ROWE was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson when they were in the HR department at Best Buy.  Now, they are consultants and speakers, helping to bring change to hundreds of companies.  I am skeptical about an individual’s ability to change a company culture.  But Ressler and Thompson present a way to make it possible, with a website filled with business cases and slide decks to help you justify a radical change to the way your company operates.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DhIVfpfimY&noredirect=1

In one example, Suntell, a company that sells loan risk management software adopted a ROWE strategy.  They implemented a VOIP system that allows employees to work from anywhere, which saved the company 7% in phone expenses.  Many employees decided to work from home, which allowed the company to save 30% on rent by moving a smaller office .[iv]

ROWE is generally structured for departments or companies to adopt, but there are principles that can help individuals regain control of their time as well.

[i] Bad Apples, Bad Cases, and Bad Barrels: Meta-Analytic Evidence About Sources of Unethical Decisions at Work.  Kish-Gephart JJ, Harrison DA, Treviño LK. . J Appl Psychol. 2010 Jan;95(1):21

[ii] Drive by Daniel Pink.  Riverhead Book (2009) P 84-85.

[iii] Results Only Work Environment Case Study: GAP

[iv] Results Only Work Environment Case Study: Suntell