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Monday, February 25, 2013

Telework Dumped By New Yahoo CEO

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I admit I was very surprised to read about Yahoo's new CEO, Marisssa Mayer, stopping employee's from working away from the office because it doesn't support good "collaboration." Like around the water cooler or at lunch, etc.?

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This story reminds me of a similar experience that I had in the early days of developing online time-sharing services for the ARPAnet, a precursor of the Internet and the World Wide Web. One of the application developer's (Clark Weisman) wife was experiencing a difficult pregnancy, which required her to be completely bedridden for the remaining weeks of her pregnancy. That meant that he had to be at home to take care of her, and therefore might not finish his project as scheduled.

Since the basic SDC Time-sharing System (TSS) was already working for remote access by teletype phone lines, I suggested to the project management that it would be practical to simply put in a new phone line at his home and he could then complete his project online, while taking care of his wife. Management's first reaction was that this was a project that required time sheets to be filled out, attesting to the employee's doing the required work in the office. They were concerned that there would be no way to insure that the employee would be working for the time required.

I pointed out that not only would the normal work hours be put in, but, because the work was being from home, there would probably be more hours expended. Further, there would also be evidence of actual activity recorded by the time-sharing system while online work was being done. Grudgingly, management acceded to my recommendation, and, as I predicted, online work started very early each day and ended late at night. The wife had a successful delivery of a daughter and the online project was also successfully completed.

Of course, there will be "different strokes for different folks" when it comes to what kind of work needs to be done in an "office" environment, so it will be a mixed bag for individual workers as to when they can and cannot work while physically away from a group. So, it's not so much whether it is in an office, but what kind of work is involved and with whom. 

The means of accessing information, interacting with people and online applications has become more flexible with mobile UC, and it is therefore very surprising that Yahoo has taken such a Draconian step. I just heard a news program that suggested that this action was taken as a way to get some employees to quit their jobs and thus reduce the payroll without actually firing anyone directly. Oh, well!