Yahoo questions telecommuting

Yahoo and its new CEO Marissa Mayer have put telecommuting in the spotlight this week as it clamped down on a well-loved perk. AllThingsD published the memo from Yahoo HR, which stated:

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. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

I suspect IT managers – even more so than regular managers – have a mixed reaction to this. IT professionals, particularly those  creative types or high-end support that may called upon round the clock, can be stymied or frustrated by a butt-in-seat type of management style. We want to give them freedom even if it requires us to be a little more diligent and organized in our managing regimen. I frequently hear research results like this from the University of Texas which says teleworkers “add five to seven hours to their workweek compared with those who work exclusively at the office. They are also significantly less likely to work a standard 40 hour schedule and more likely to work overtime.”

Yet we have also managed folks who are in IT for paycheck rather than passion or who lack discipline and commitment. Teleworking is a constant PITA as we try to measure and improve their productivity.

In Yahoo’s specific case, the decision is more strategic than anything else. Yahoo has been floundering in their direction and the new CEO should be given whatever latitude she needs to right the ship.