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The Data That Drove Yahoo's Telecommuting Ban

timothy posted about a year ago | from the but-think-about-the-savings-on-snacks dept.

Businesses 529

Stiletto writes "Business Insider and All Things D are reporting that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting was data-driven, as you'd expect out of the former Google exec. After spending months frustrated at how empty Yahoo parking lots were, Mayer consulted Yahoo's VPN logs to see if remote employees were checking in enough. Despite all the outrage and flak she's getting from those outside the company for the move, some ex-employees are praising the decision, citing abuse, slacking off, and general 'unavailability' of folks working from home."

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I can slack off anywhere (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43104917)

I'm in the office right now, slacking off, and have been all day. As far as any "Data Driven" metrics are concerned though, I've been a star employee.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43104997)

Conversely, I'm working from home today, and between webmail and a slow / flaky VPN I'm not attached to the work network except when I need to exchange some documents.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (3, Funny)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43105281)

If you have to connect to VPN say three times a day because it was flaky does that mean you triple turned up for work and are super-productive using the Mayer productivity measurement methodology?

Re:I can slack off anywhere (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year ago | (#43105427)

I only connect to VPN if I need to see a VNC session. I do all my coding/verilog work locally and ignore VPN (and use our webmail to see what's going on).

She just wants to fire people, the data is a pretense.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about a year ago | (#43105485)

Stop posting on Slashdot, Kevin.

If you're not in my office by 6am tomorrow in smart casual dress for a pop quiz on "Watercooler Culture" you're fired.

Smart casual means ironed chinos and a dress shirt by the way, not filthy jeans and a filthier Tux T shirt with pin burns in it. Which reminds me, they'll be a drugs test afterwards.

Also a visit to the hairdresser might be in the best interests of your career, if you know what I mean.

Enjoy your evening!

Re:I can slack off anywhere (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105521)

a "drugs test"?

What are you, 5?

Do you realize how many "drugs" there are in the public water supply? How many "drugs" are pumped into your food?

Since when does a tech company need my urine or blood to function?

Am I willing to give you a self-funded "drugs test" to ensure I'm not working with some drug-crazed manager?

Why don't you change your job title to something more appropriate like, pharmy-whore?

Re:I can slack off anywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105527)

You lost me AC. Are you slacking off at work or working from home today?

Re:I can slack off anywhere (4, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about a year ago | (#43105029)

Exactly. Butts in seats is sooooo much easier to measure than productivity. Measuring productivity requires actual work by the managers!!

Re:I can slack off anywhere (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43105047)

If you make managers do useful work how will they slack off?

Re:I can slack off anywhere (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105121)

Give them slashdot accounts?

Re:I can slack off anywhere (2)

Cabriel (803429) | about a year ago | (#43105503)

Why does being at home guarentee productivity? From the comments, a lot of people appear to believe being in the office is less productive than being at home, but at least with a VPN, it can be measured how much data is being sent to and recieved from the telecomuters. I doubt a former Google exec would make a decision like this lightly.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43105247)

Yes, basically what TFA tells us is not that working from home was ever a problem at Yahoo, but that Yahoo has never ever had any way of measuring productivity, settings goals, or ensuring people are achieving their targets.

It sounds like it was basically a free for all, turn up, don't turn up, do what you want, no one will care or measure you!

It sounds like working from home is their scapegoat instead of refusing to admit to extremely incompetent management.

Yahoo has been haemorrhaging talent for years, removing perks from them like working from home is only going to make the problem worse, especially if they're still refusing to admit to fundamental problems in their company like the aforementioned lack of ability to set goals or check whether anyone is actually doing anything.

Now all that's going to happen is they'll lose more talent, productivity will probably go down as people are tired from long probably sometimes unnecessary commutes, costs will go up as they have to pay for more heating/lighting/office space and Yahoo will continue it's downward spiral

I actually had some sympathy for the move before I saw this story, now it's obvious the decision had no demonstrable merit. More fool them.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | about a year ago | (#43105493)

It sounds like working from home is their scapegoat instead of refusing to admit to extremely incompetent management.

Probably so, but sometimes you don't have the option to turn around management fast enough to solve the problems caused by abuse of the system.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (5, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43105273)

I can slack off anywhere, but at home I can do housework, cook dinner, run an errand, sex, lots of stuff. The idea is not that you can't do some of these things at the office,but that your choices are more limited.

It really sounds like the employees, as some often do, simply took advantage of a good situation. I have, and have known people, who have had such opportunities. You keep yourself logged in. You stay next to a phone. If you leave, you make sure you can check problems from where you are. You check email frequently. It is a matter of discipline. it is hard. It is why some people make more than others. Those who don't need supervision do not incur the expense of supervision.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (1)

Trentula (1684992) | about a year ago | (#43105383)

But I can easily find you if I need to ask you something, instead of sending an e-mail I hope you read in a timely matter, or hoping you don't have your phone on silent.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (2)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about a year ago | (#43105495)

But I can easily find you if I need to ask you something, instead of sending an e-mail I hope you read in a timely matter, or hoping you don't have your phone on silent.

I work from home. If you need to ask me something, IM me on skype. I'll at least start typing an answer within a minute - five if I was in the bathroom. And if I was in the bathroom at work you wouldn't have been able to find me at my desk anyway.

Re:I can slack off anywhere (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105391)

If your manager e-mailed you, you'd probably respond. The people "working" remotely were not. So, as far as data driven metrics go, it's better to have you in the office. Once that hurdle is passed, they can focus on firing the people that slack off all day at the office.

you gotta do what you gotta do .. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43104939)

making this as a philosophical issue is none of anyones business except yahoo's

Motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43104943)

"I suffer in the office so you have to as well"

If you dig deep enough you could find statistics that support any point of view, the reality is patently clear on this one.

Enjoy your office full of angry people.

Re:Motivation (4, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43105017)

For many roles hours in office/on VPN is a completely worthless metric.

It is not a worthless metric for all roles. Phone/Net tech support for example. If they are not logged in, they are not working. Even there it's an easily gamed metric.

Remote work creates new challenges. Perhaps Yahoos management hasn't been up to it.

Re:Motivation (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43105189)

I wonder if the metric they were using would completely miss people that are constantly logged onto the VPN. What log were they looking at exactly? If I am logged in for more than 30 days at a time, would they think I never did any work?

Seems like a flawed and rather lazy approach to actually checking up on the actual work output of your employees.

Re:Motivation (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43105321)

When I was a kid the local amusement park installed one of the first computerized time clock systems.

Inside of a year night maintenance employees were sleeping under the bridges all day, others bought themselves season passes so they could stay on the clock for days, then come in as guests to actually work a shift and clock out.

Many managers really are so dumb they would drown if they were caught outside in the rain. They look up with their mouths open when the rain hits the tops of their heads.

Re:Motivation (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105507)

"Inside of a year night maintenance employees were sleeping under the bridges all day,"

And thus, the troll was born.

Re:Motivation (3, Interesting)

Keruo (771880) | about a year ago | (#43105275)

It is not a worthless metric for all roles. Phone/Net tech support for example. If they are not logged in, they are not working. Even there it's an easily gamed metric.

Perhaps Mayer checked those users who need corporate network to do their job then?
To me, this sounds like military-style management.
You are supposed to work as a team. If one of you goofs around instead doing their task, everyone suffers.
It's classic team-bonding strategy, and I don't see anything wrong with the approach.
She can prove wrongdoings happened but instead pointing fingers everyone gets punished. Now the group can work out itself who deserves to get soap-sock treatment.

Re:Motivation (5, Insightful)

daem0n1x (748565) | about a year ago | (#43105245)

Every time I hear people complaint about lazy employees, I blame their managers. I mean, what are managers for? I don't expect them to micromanage what everyone is doing all the time, but their role is to receive the work, distribute it and check that it's delivered on time and quality.

If there are slackers, I can't believe their managers don't know about it. Unless they're also slackers, or don't give a shit. But then the company has far worse problems to attend than telecommuting.

best data: (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43104949)

is work being done? if timelines are met, and dates don't slip, then the number of times i log into a vpn isn't a valid metric.


Re:best data: (4, Insightful)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | about a year ago | (#43105217)

If management is under utilizing you as a resource then it's important for them to know that especially in a company that is trying to turn things and around and get better at what they do without spending more money to make it happen. Many employees won't want to just pass that information along and be given more work. Under utilization of existing resources is something that can be reasonably extracted using that particular metric (time spent logged in). I also understand (and so does Mayer I'm sure) that it could also mean a lot of other things, but the easiest way to be sure about it is to remove the other variables. Especially when the other complaints (perhaps jealous outbursts, but perhaps not) existed.

Re:best data: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105487)

Employees might be willing to volunteer that information if they actually thought they would be paid more after being given more work/responsibility. Also, employers could decide to do the opposite with that information. A under utilization employee could be perceived as a low risk layoff.

Re:best data: (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#43105259)


See? You aren't utilizing your connection enough. A semi-colon followed by incoherent rambling would have been more 'productive'.

Re:best data: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105417)

is work being done?

Given how badly Yahoo has done over the last oh 10-12 years, I'm going to venture a guess and say the answer to that one is no.

Some (ok, a LOT) of the comments here are making it sound like Yahoo used to be this really awesome place to work until a tyrannical dictator of a CEO showed up and decided to cancel the party. Yahoo has absolutely fucking sucked for years, and Mayer is only going to get 2-3 to turn things around before the board throws her out on her ass too. On this point, she kind of deserves the benefit of the doubt.

good idea (4, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | about a year ago | (#43104975)

I can see telecommuting being ok when you've got an established company and clear objectives/projects, etc. When you're reorganizing, just starting, or trying to turn the fortunes of your company around I think you really have to work "together".

Re:good idea (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43105005)

That had nothing to do with being in the office or not.

I bet most of the posters right now are in the office. People will slack off no matter what. Either you get your job done or you do not, how long it takes in the allotted time frame or what you do while doing it should not matter.

Re:good idea (0, Flamebait)

DogDude (805747) | about a year ago | (#43105057)

Either you get your job done or you do not, how long it takes in the allotted time frame or what you do while doing it should not matter.

Spoken just like a person who has never had a single employee. There's a lot more to managing people than just getting X done in Y amount of time. People aren't just cogs in the proverbial machine, as you seem to imply they are.

Re:good idea (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43105153)

I have several. Thanks for trying though.

I know each of them very well and they know me. If they get their jobs done by the deadline they can be jerking it at their desks for all I care.

I never said they were cogs, just that I expect them to get their work done in a timely fashion and if they can do that in two hours and spend the rest of the day on slashdot that is my fault not theirs. Even more likely it means everything is going well and their jobs are not the sort were hours are that predictable.

Re:good idea (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43105239)

They either get the job done or they don't.

Fixating on anything else is just an excuse for micromanagement and petty megalomania.

Re:good idea (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | about a year ago | (#43105327)

I got the impression that it wasn't just grunts that were telecommuting. The cogs churn out code and that can be done from anywhere, frankly. China, India, Topeka. You're right, they don't matter. But when people that have influence and are decision makers are working from home, then you can have problems, especially when you're trying to turn the ship around.

Re:good idea (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about a year ago | (#43105381)

"I bet most of the posters right now are in the office. People will slack off no matter what."

Only if you are a government employee (if in the U.S.) or live outside the U.S. time zones.

Re:good idea (2)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#43105111)

"When you're reorganizing, just starting, or trying to turn the fortunes of your company around I think you really have to work 'together'."

In my experience the only "together" available person-to-person is social. So meetings become opportunities to socialize and play status games (I called a bigger meeting than you so I have more status than you) rather than tools to accomplish business objectives.

And when your TECH business is dependent upon social interactions of your employees then your business is failing. And demanding MORE socialization is not going to help it.

I'd have expected someone from Google to take the "monitor it and improve it" method instead. Look for patterns in the VPN habits and identify the people who are doing the work and promote them to the divisions that you depend upon.

have to disagree (3, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43105263)

I've worked in teams where it was very important to get groups of people together somewhere and draw stuff on whiteboards with everyone else poking holes in the ideas or making suggestions for improvements. This is especially true when a project is just getting started and you're working out lots of details. Later on when something is mature you have a lot less scope for innovation (you're constrained by what is already there) so it's not as critical.

Yes, you can do this to some extent with technology, but it's not as good as getting a bunch of people together physically.

That said, I've been a full-time teleworker for 7 years. It works for me because I have a well-defined area of responsibility, I worked in person with almost everyone I deal with prior to moving away, and I can communicate effectively by voice/text (not everyone can do this effectively when not physically present).

Re:have to disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105375)

There were people that were trained at work and then they become work from home people, but after having them work away from work it was a nightmare to get them back into the office, they would always complain, damn astronauts

Prevent flexibility instead of fixing root cause (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43104991)

Inability to lead is what causes people to slack off. Employees will slack off same as when they were telecommuting. It would be much brighter to fix the root cause of the problem: lack of motivation. For that, it would take a different CEO. For now, Yahoo will big digging itself into the ground.

Re:Prevent flexibility instead of fixing root caus (1)

A bsd fool (2667567) | about a year ago | (#43105449)

Funny. I thought what caused people to slack off was a shitty work ethic. If you need 'motivation' beyond your paycheck to do your job and do it well, perhaps you're more suited to the position of walmart greeter than you are to an IT role : remote or local. Disclaimer: I've been working from home for the past 3 years.

Not surprising (4, Interesting)

dreold (827386) | about a year ago | (#43104995)

I am glad that the background for the decision is coming to light after all the vitriol.

Having managed a (partially) telecommuting workforce before, nothing is more frustrating than not being able to reach people or get answers in a timely manner.

It really depends on the combination of management, tasks, and individuals to make telecommuting work.

In my personal case, admittedly, we had insufficient procedure for measuring progress to ensure equal productivity through telecommuting, and people were quick to take advantage of that (yes, I am admitting management failure here) This was not in an IT-related field but a more traditional business field.

Re:Not surprising (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43105063)

Having managed in office employees, how is that any different?

If people do not answer their cell phones or email, fire them. No different than them being unfindable in the office or not aswering desk phones.

Re:Not surprising (-1, Flamebait)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#43105081)

No!!! What did I tell you about trying to use common sense on the Internet again?!?!

Yeah, all the idiots trying to justify their side. Sometimes, there are other factors involved, and they don't even want to look at it. Bleh.

Re:Not surprising (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43105337)

It only your response had any of that... common sense.

At my desk I have my PC and my phone. My mobile is in my pocket. Now it doesn't matter where this desk is or where my boss is. It doesn't matter if it's a cubicle next to my bosses office. It doesn't matter if it's in a cubicle farm on the other side of the country. It doesn't matter if it's in my home office.

If I am goofing off or unavailable, it doesn't matter where my phone or PC.

how dumb can people be? (5, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43105049)

if you're going to slack off, log on to VPN and slack off.
i work with people who work from home and offices in different states. everyone is always available and you know they are working because there are always emails flowing and tickets being done

Re:how dumb can people be? (5, Insightful)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year ago | (#43105177)

It works at your company because the management is (probably) competent, and knows how to motivate people to work. Management was not Yahoo's strongest quality

Done by the numbers? (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43105053)

If they did it by the numbers, and they had all this data, couldn't they see which telecommuters were effective, and shitcan all the other ones or force them into the office?

Re:Done by the numbers? (4, Insightful)

joebok (457904) | about a year ago | (#43105221)

I suspect it's a simple case of psychology on that - come down hard at first, then ease up. It has the potential to rattle loose the weak links and have Yahoo emerge a leaner, stronger company because of it. The people that stay will be more or less self-selected, will feel a bond of having endured a common hardship - and I think that can translate into the kind of trust needed to bring back flexible working policies. The more I've thought about it, the more I think this move will, in the long run, turn out well for Yahoo.

Re:Done by the numbers? (4, Insightful)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about a year ago | (#43105367)

It shall be leaner of talent than it will of slackers.

Exactly: punish the slackers (2)

archer, the (887288) | about a year ago | (#43105223)

Don't take away a benefit from the employees who are meeting or exceeding their duties.

Forgotten employees? (5, Interesting)

gblackwo (1087063) | about a year ago | (#43105061)

"A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo."

It's amazing that a company can have people on the payroll, and the managers forget about them..

Re:Forgotten employees? (4, Funny)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43105165)

Once nobody tries to take their red stapler all should be well.

Re:Forgotten employees? (2)

snookerdoodle (123851) | about a year ago | (#43105307)

It's "Just Typical" that someone as smart as Ms. Mayer would see this as an indictment of telecommuting and not see it as what it is: A failure of management.

This is all about helping poor managers keep their jobs.

"We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!" -- Blazing Saddles

Re:Forgotten employees? (1)

snookerdoodle (123851) | about a year ago | (#43105505)

Heh - I sure like that quote.

Re:Forgotten employees? (1)

HerculesMO (693085) | about a year ago | (#43105355)

Yes, and instead of just going after those loose ends it's an upheaval of the entire idea of working for a tech firm. That you can wear jeans and a ripped t-shirt, that you can work from home, as long as you are productive and get your work done.

How many things has Yahoo put on the roadmap for their engineers to work towards? Nothing. Yet they are making huge changes to bring people into the office to spur the creative process which ironically, starts with a business driven roadmap from -- you guessed it -- the CEO and executive team.

Re:Forgotten employees? (1)

rainer_d (115765) | about a year ago | (#43105371)

A former coworker drove a BMW M3 for 19 months before his former company realized they were still paying the bills.

He had to pay it back, though.

Ironically (maybe unsurprisingly), the "former company" was an audit and accounting firm....

I had the lady on the phone - she was almost flabbergasted ;-)

Ouch (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#43105069)

I'm hesitant to ask, because I'd like to think no corporation would be stupid enough to create a survey that was guaranteed to conform to a preset notion, but did they at least make an attempt to compare the VPN results with a control group of cube dwellers?

(And if they did, did they also do something to avoid a bias being introduced along the lines of "People who slack off might be more inclined to work remotely"?)

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105079)

If it were me, I'd be connected all the time on the CEO's home page having fantasies of sexual harassment.

I think she is so sexy - smart, pretty, great legs, etc ... and as icing on the cake - RICH!

Re: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year ago | (#43105211)

Not sure she would have fantasies of having a sex maniac for partner.

management problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105083)

If the CEO has to comb through the VPN logs to find out that people aren't working then, obviously, a lot of managers heads need to roll. It's the front-line and middle managers that failed to keep track of what their charges are doing that need to be shown the door.

Login time == work @ yahoo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105087)

Yes, there is data, that people log in to VPN for less duration, but does that mean, they work less? Some people live in office, and go home only to sleep, but what they do at office, inside the office network?

Personally, when I work from home, I am under pressure to finish some work. But when working from office, spending time is accounted as work.

VPN Logs that relevant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105095)

VPN logs? I'd thought you'd consult the repository logs and some quality metrics (e.g. features per month vs production bugs per month).

Re:VPN Logs that relevant? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43105123)

not everyone codes at home

sales, pre-sales tech support, tech support, IT and other jobs can work from home as well

with home and cell phone plans being sold with unlimited minutes/calling it makes it easier and cheaper

Yup. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105101)

Same thing happened in one company where I'd worked. Tele-commuting was allowed until a small subset ruined it for everyone by abusing the privilege.

VPN not a requirement for doing useful work (2)

wjousts (1529427) | about a year ago | (#43105103)

Sure you need to be on the VPN to see your e-mail (that notorious destroyer of productivity), but there's a lot of stuff you can be doing offline (or at least off the VPN) that is still productive work. For example, if I'm writing code, it's not always the case that I have to be on the company network to do it.

Also, my VPN software seems to be the only common element in the rare blue-screen crashes I get on my work laptop - so it's usually a lot less frustrating to leave it off.

In fact, if I am goofing off, I'm much more likely to log into the VPN and open my e-mail so that others can see that I'm "online" and working. I like to sit my laptop next to my gaming desktop while I do this!

Re:VPN not a requirement for doing useful work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105203)

Actually... I would think that many company's wouldn't require one to be on the VPN to see their e-mail as that would complicate email on smart phones.

I'm on the VPN almost always (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43105311)

I'm a full-time teleworker...I just leave the VPN software running all the time.

Email, IRC, instant message....sure, these are distractions but they are also ways for people to contact me quickly. If you have a reputation for being responsive, people are less likely to assume you're slacking off.

Also, in my case the build farm, much of the codebase (the part that isn't in git), the test labs, etc. are all only accessible via the VPN.

management problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105109)

If someone isn't available who needs to be where is their manager in all of this? Conversely, the same can happen in the office. I have trouble finding people to "collaborate with" because they're in meetings all the time. In fact the best time to collaborate with them is over IM while they're in those meetings. What is their reasoning for not logging into the VPN? Are they still getting work done? Maybe they need to work in isolation to get their work done because of interruptions over email or IM.

Maybe there's more to this "data", but Yahoo is going to lose a lot of good talent over this. Seems like they're throwing the baby out with the bath water on this one.

Distributed Version Control Systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105113)

If they are using a DVCS like git which provides for offline revision management, then not being constantly logged into the VPN is not necessarily a good measure of productivity. Conversely, leaving one's system logged into the VPN is hardly definitive proof that one is working either.

While VPN logs can surely be a good general indicator, I agree with the poster who points out that the quantity and quality of the work being done by each employee is likely to be a more reliable metric.

Mayer has to do something to shake things up at Yahoo and turn the company around. This seems to me to be more of a tactical move given Yahoo's decline over the years, rather than a prescription for the IT sector in general.

Technical people may have been actually working. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105119)

Not checking in and not being available to be intterupted do not mean unproductive for technical people.

Managers jobs require constant interaction, engineers jobs don't.

Data merely shows incompetence of managers (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105125)

People can lack interest or motivation and slack off from work wherever they happen to be, at home or in the office.

All this data seems to show is that managers are poor at managing people who are not physically in the office. That I can well believe, but a more insightful solution than banning remote work is to improve managers and the management systems that they employ.

There is a huge amount of time wasted in the social atmosphere of the office, so remote working doesn't have a monopoly on time wasting. But of course poor managers will never blame themselves.

Perhaps you are right? (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#43105305)

Still, the logic that concludes that those who put the least effort into getting work are also those who will put the least effort into their work is not totally unsound. Still there may be middle ground here, such as home office monitoring? I don't know, but it does seem that a company is so laid back as to allow it's employees to work from home in their pajamas is inviting its competitors who demand more professionalism to step in and eat it for lunch. Middle managers are usually just enforcers of overall company policy afterall.

Probably a good move but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105129)

VPN logs don't necessary correlate with getting work done. On any given day I might be: reviewing a white paper, reading a new technical book, stuck in teleconferences/meetings all day, testing code ideas locally before bringing them into the code base, on the phone with customers, on the phone with other employees helping them with issues, writing a technical paper/brown bag talk, creating a presentation....

She was too mild, then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105141)

What would she do if there was a requirement to work from home, e.g. company having a way too small HQ building, being remote or employing people from around the globe? I guess then there would ought to be some very harsh measures, like losing jobs for being unavailable for more then three times a week, or not checking in on time, etc. Falling back to meatspace is not what I'd call a solution.

Don't blame telecommuting, blame clueless managers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105163)

The problem here isn't the telecommuting; the problem is that managers in general have failed to shift from a blue collar, "if you aren't at your station, you're not working" mentality to a modern mentality that is concerned with quality and quantity of output as well as general availability to others. They don't know what they should expect from their employees, so they take the easy road and equate being in the office to working. This is a cop out for everyone above the grunt workers.

With great power... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105169)

... comes great responsibility.

Telecommuting only works when you are a stakeholder in the company's dividends. While it would be great to trust every salaried employee to use company time efficiently, there are far too many distractions in the modern workforce to not enforce some method of accountability. Future in-house IT departments will be increasingly responsible playing Big Brother to control the company's time waste. Don't like it? Start your own company, hire an employee, and tell me if your mind has changed. No one cares about the things you care about more than you... no matter how much you pay them.

No VPN doesn't mean no work (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43105171)

Unless employees needed to use the VPN to use communication resources like email, IM, etc; just because they didn't connect to VPN doesn't mean they weren't doing work. If VPN is the only metric that they have to judge worker productivity, it's the managers that should have been fired.

When I work from home, I often don't connect to the VPN at all - I can use email and IM without VPN so unless I need to send/receive data on a corporate fileserver or remote into my work desktop computer, there's no reason to get on VPN.

And my home computing environment is much nicer than my environment in the cube - I have 3 monitors at home (can't do that at the office, because if I have 2 monitors (even if I bring my own), then everyone will want them), a faster computer with much more RAM, and I can play the speakers as long as I want, no need to use headphones.

depends what they're doing... (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43105329)

In my case the build farm, much of the codebase (the part that isn't in git), the test labs, etc. are all only accessible via the VPN.

I can write code without the VPN, but I can't submit it or test it properly.

Well... (0)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43105185)

If working was home was part of the agreement with certain employees when they started working there I hope those employees sue.

It's a meaningless metric (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105199)

I work with a few ex Yahoo employees and they've almost all commented on this. The numbers being used are bad. A distributed revision control system (like Git) needs no network to do anything but merge. Virtualized hardware let's you test and deploy most things locally. Only poorly run companies (at least in the private sector) require you to be on VPN for email. So, what good is this metric? Why do I need a VPN, most of the time?

Also, apparently Yahoo has a tunneling config that most engineers have been using for years and has nothing to do with the corp VPN but accomplishes the same. Good job Yahoo. Glad you're opening up the talent pool for the rest of us.

Mixed Results (1)

Thyamine (531612) | about a year ago | (#43105213)

If I was one of the people working remotely and getting things done, I'd be rather miffed. However I can see that a company trying to reorganize and reinvent itself would need more random, in person, collaboration to spur some of the creative processes. On the other hand, I think Best Buy's attempt to do the same isn't going to do a damn thing. They need lower prices; enough said. Making people come into office spaces they have to furnish, own, and keep up is not going to do that.

Slacking from work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105253)

I worked from home for many years, and worked much harder. Life balance sucked. Having a spouse that wanted to come home and relax, while I wanted to go ANYWHERE in the evenings didn't work so well. Employees from the office thought I was slacking if I didn't respond immediately, even if I was attending a webex or was busy with items of more importance. I often did my work disconnected from the VPN, as I did not need to be connected. "Data-driven" VPN logs would not show that. Overall, not having face to face human interaction is great for work production and not so great for life balance and promotions. I worked from the time I went to bed, often to late at night responding to emails and calls, as to not appear to be slacking. I had the foot the bill for the power running computers at my house and provide storage space, as well as my own office furniture. Yes, there were some positives, like learning to be much more efficient, and to learn how to do all sorts of tasks remotely without ever stepping foot into a data center. I saved on gas and wear on my vehicle, and even found that my patience and driving habits improved as I was out of the rat race daily commute.

Now I can go in and chat with people at the coffee machine, talk to people in the halls about non work related activities, attend meetings that produce little results, and the days go by much faster. Human interaction is awesome, and I work MUCH less. I think Yahoo made a mistake, but I would like to continue to work from the office, even if it is way less efficient for our society as a whole.

Use IM (XMPP) (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#43105255)

We require remotes to have an XMPP client active when working away from HQ. Really easy to see when they are available / not available. The policy says Auto-away must be enabled and if you're going to be away for more the 15 mins, you need to leave a message stating when you'll be back. It's easy to contact people to ask quick questions so there isn't such a problem with "Joe wasn't in so we couldn't have the meeting".

The Possibility that People Are Not Working at Wrk (2)

AtlanticCarbon (760109) | about a year ago | (#43105261)

This seems to ignore the possibility that people aren't always working while at their employer's premises. I've seen that happen as I think most people have. Just because someone is in their office doesn't mean that they're not playing solitaire. It always comes down to getting your work done or not. If people can get the same work done but have more relaxation time, what's the problem? If you force them to sit at their desk, they'll surf the internet. If you're really aggressive they'll just start making up plausible-deniability busy work.

I Don't Get It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105289)

Either people are completing their assignments or they aren't. This is a black and white issue. There is no need to consult VPN logs. If Bob can complete all of his assignments offline and log in for 10 minutes to dump the results, what's the issue? It seems like the real issue is that micromanagers cannot stand telecommuting. After all, how will they manage the positioning of the stacks of paperwork on your desk if you're not there?

If this is about employees that need to be available for consulting, that's not a position that should be telecommuting anyway.

VPN logs as a measurement of productivity? (4, Insightful)

HerculesMO (693085) | about a year ago | (#43105309)

No, I don't think so. Since Yahoo has "webmail", just like every other modern company, you can converse with coworkers and team members without ever needing VPN. You can write your code offline, and merge commits later, or even have a local SVN and push it upstream later.

The sad fact is that while the CEO is supposed to be creating strategy for the company to achieve, she's not done that. She's going after people who have a flexible schedule. Does this fix the fact that Yahoo has no future roadmap for well.... anything? No. It just makes good engineers who have kids start looking elsewhere, lazy employees move the geography of where they slack. It doesn't fix management of those employees, it doesn't change the way productivity is measured, and it doesn't set them any goals to achieve.

In the time Mayer has been CEO, Yahoo has announced a total of zero noteworthy items. The fact that this is the biggest news out of Yahoo is more telling to their poor business model than anything else, and shows that Mayer was better suited to being an engineer than a CEO responsible for driving the business of a technology firm.

Some employees... (4, Insightful)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about a year ago | (#43105325)

"Despite all the outrage and flak she's getting from those outside the company for the move, some ex-employees are praising the decision, citing abuse, slacking off, and general 'unavailability' of folks working from home.'

Yeah, and that is an issue with MANAGEMENT, not the underlings. If my boss doesnt know what I am doing, that I am on task, it is THEIR failure, not mine.

Not a good metric (3, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | about a year ago | (#43105339)

Part of the benefit to working from home is the lack of interruptions and the ability to just get your head down and do your work. If you're complaining that they "aren't checking in enough" or "unavailable", you're basically complaining that they are using working from home as effectively as they can.

Now if you have a real productivity metric that shows they are less productive, then fair enough. But half of the reason working from home is a benefit is to get away from pointless unwork interruptions like that. Demanding that they check in with their managers is basically saying "we don't believe you are working, stop everything you are doing every so often to reassure us that you are working", and I'm not surprised that this renders these people less productive.

Oh goodie, metrics (4, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | about a year ago | (#43105343)

At my work, the people who do support got a new management structure. Their management is big on metrics. Sadly, their metric is "how many tickets did you close."

Unsurprisingly, service levels have gone to total shit. The people who actually solve hard problems take more time than the ones who bounce tickets to other people and only handle easy ones, and thus don't look good to the morons in charge. What used to take minutes now takes hours, but apparently it's "more efficient."

I see a lot of the same type of faulty reasoning here. Slacking off happens at work all the time, and people "being unavailable" is just code for "I can't walk over and talk about my dog for 45 minutes". I doubt their previous VPN logs really say a lot that's useful, but if there were actual abusers they should have been dealt with. Blanket bans don't tend to work.

It's particularly weird in Yahoo's case since it's already not exactly a place that top tier talent wants to go, and this isn't going to help them recruit.

Rank amateurs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105357)

Jeebus ! The first thing any decent homeworker would do is automate the log in process so that you clock in at, say around 8:00 a.m., Follow this with some random keyboard strokes for an hour or so.

That way when you do actually get up and do a bit you've already been "clocked in" for a decent chunk of time.

Honestly kids today. No imagination :)

Why not ask her middle management? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105401)

Surely she ought to consult the people whose job descriptions include evaluating worker performance in order to assess worker performance... right? Or is the corporate world finally doing away with the inconvenient idea that managers do anything useful at all?

Remember back in the third grade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105405)

When that stupid teacher punished the whole class because a couple of boys misbehaved?
Mayer is cut from the same cloth.

The correct answer is at "outrage and flak" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43105421)

"Data-driven" decisions don't help if you weren't doing it right in the first place.

Where Yahoo seems to have failed is in execution, [management consultant Kate] Lister says.

“If they have no idea what their remote workers are doing, they’re obviously not managing by results. Perhaps it’s a function of their rapid growth. Perhaps they failed to teach their managers how to manage,” she argues. “The execution failed, not the concept.”

And was this really a strategic move? Recruiter Steven Levy thinks it was more of an “executive temper tantrum” than an informed decision.

"Call us Marissa - we can help" []

It's a Mgmt Issue (5, Insightful)

tungstencoil (1016227) | about a year ago | (#43105437)

I've worked at places that are heavily remote and heavily not. I've seen it done successfully and not.

One place, when I was on team A 100% on-site, I interacted with my manager very minimally. We had little direction, lots of bureaucracy, and a slow pace of accomplishing anything. I moved to another team B, 100% remote, interacted with my manager a lot, we had lots of planning, direction, and follow-up, and got stuff DONE.

I've seen it time and again: the overwhelming majority of people need leadership. What kind of leadership is specific to the individual; good mgmt can tailor their style to individual needs. Rare - much rarer than most people think - is someone who needs no leadership.

What happens is that remote teams can exacerbate management failings. People slack off; some people work in chunks (as I do - I will goof off for a couple of hours and then pound out a day's work), some people work slow and steady. If you're results-oriented, you can measure this. If you manage people correctly, it can be done remote, on-site, or blended.

Managing remote teams requires a different set of skills. Most places make the mistake of assuming a remote worker is just like an on-site worker, to be treated the same. They're not. It's not better or worse, just different.

un-layoff (1)

amblin (1997) | about a year ago | (#43105439)

Yahoo! wanted to drop it's workforce without a layoff. This was the cheapest and easiest way to do it. Plain and simple.

Unavailability of co-workers (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43105451)

Couldn't round up enough people for the office football pool?

Where I used to work, the office was some people's only social activity. They'd be the ones whining when co-workers wouldn't be around to bullshit about TV episodes, sporting events, go out for drinks at lunchtime, etc.

Not the answer (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43105501)

Tighten up the rules! The problem is people don't check up and hence people get lazy. Create rules such as check in with the VPN twice a day or make sure you at least two major status updates a day with work to follow. Make sure you available from 8am to 6pm all day via the phone. If you go out somewhere make sure everyone knows via email response. Make sure you voice mail box reflects the day's events. Telecommuting isn't hard to pull of, it just has to be done right.

Why not simply fire the slackers? (1)

sirwired (27582) | about a year ago | (#43105509)

I don't get it. If some WAH employees are not producing, why not simply fire them? (And, for that matter, reprimand their managers, who let them get away with it.) Why ban WAH for the employees that ARE getting their jobs done?

Okay, WAH requires a better work ethic than working from a desk. But if an employee can't hack it (for whatever reason) the solution is to get rid of the employee, not piss off half the company in an attempt to bring the slackers in line.

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