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Is Yahoo Sacrificing Employees for Excellence?

Beatings Will Continue Flag

Souvenir flag indicative of many work environments

Yahoo recently announced that it will eliminate telecommuting, or working from home, because company leaders believe the office environment fosters collaboration, productivity, efficiency and yes, fun that can’t be accomplished if everyone is working from home. As you can imagine, Yahoo employees are reacting somewhat negatively to this decision.

On the surface, Yahoo’s decision may appear employee-UNfriendly but perhaps it’s not all wrong.

Working from home allows employees the flexibility to deal with sick kids, to attend to plumber visits, to avoid the distractions of a busy work environment while still getting their work done. But there are distractions at home as well. I’ve worked from a home office for 16 years and while I love the flexibility, I’m easily distracted by dishes that need to be put in the dishwasher, a stray tree limb in my yard, or even an afternoon March Madness basketball game. Another challenge of working from home is that my creativity and inspiration are limited to what I, or the internet, can generate. And we all know what happens when we start looking for inspiration on the internet – an hour of YouTube later, we’re still looking for inspiration on the internet.

Working alone is not as productive as it may seem.

There is a creative and fun vibe that emerges from interacting with other employees. In fact, many people work at coffee shops for that very reason. They can benefit from the energy created by the other customers without being drawn into their conversations. This same kind of energy is present in the office environment and I suspect that’s what Yahoo is attempting to enable.

Oh sure, there are also distractions, tensions, and pressure in a corporate office setting. But the atmosphere of people working together can lead to a creative energy that exceeds each individual’s own abilities. Two heads are better than one.

Yahoo is trying to harness that combined energy by bringing people back to the office. The problem is that they’re taking something away that employees saw as a benefit. Ultimately, they may be inadvertently inviting bitterness and angst back to the office instead of the positive energy they desire.

Perhaps the best solution is to engage the employees in creating a new policy which allows some telecommuting without sacrificing the creative energy in the office. I suspect they would not only get more support for their new policy but they would achieve the excellence they want without devaluing the employees in the process.

I’m sure there is more to say about this topic but I just noticed my bird feeder needs to be refilled.

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