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.


Marissa Mayer’s Quest To Change Yahoo’s Culture

Chapter 10: Embrace People First Part 7

If you have been reading Busting Your Corporate Idol, you might expect me to be against Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting.  I’m not, and here’s why: I expect a good business leader to make strategic decisions that are best for the business, and not to consider a larger social movement or the impact on individuals. It’s the reality of the corporate world that strategies change, and benefits change even faster. My advice is to embrace reality, and plan your life accordingly.

From her first weeks at Yahoo, Meyer has worked to change the culture, to become a place where people work with energy to create synergy for innovation.  One part of the strategy was free lunches, to encourage employees to stay in the office. (See this post for a discussion of the downside of the free lunch culture.)

At the same time, Mayer has made no secret that she wants to upgrade the talent at Yahoo. In September, the Business Insider reported that Mayer was reviewing every hire at Yahoo to make sure high level talent was coming in. An internal source at Yahoo explained that

“one of Yahoo’s biggest problems over the past couple years has been “B-players” hiring “C-players” who were not “fired up to come to work” and were “tolerated too long.  I mean nobody gave a s— to come to Yahoo.”

So from a company perspective, anyone who leaves because of the telecommuting ban is another chance to hire an A player. And this policy change is a shot across the bow to send a message that anyone can be replaced; sacred cows of the old order will not be tolerated.

In the next post, I’ll explain why busting sacred cows at Yahoo offers opportunities for a better life.

And in the post after I’ll offer some perspective for people who feel let down by Marissa Mayer.

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