Is The Future The Past ?

marissameyermarissameyerThis post is a compressed version of two guest posts I did on Monday and Tuesday this week for Expert Alumni

This one

and this one

As I said in the first of these two posts - this is news I really DIDN’T expect to see.

Essentially Marisa Meyer has sent a memo to the entire Yahoo organization informing them that ‘working from home’ in Yahoo is no longer going to be acceptable. To quote :

Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

I know what she means, but I dont think it is coming out right. I (we) think we are moving towards an age of the virtual worker, the occasional worker, the portfolio lifestyle - and when someone insists that I need to be on their premises in order to do my job suggests one or more of a number of things.

  • They do not understand what I do - so want to see me around.
  • They don’t believe I am delivering the work that I am being rewarded for.
  • They think they are paying me for my time worked - not my value delivered (which kind of ties back to that top point)

Now don’t get me wrong - I totally totally get the cultural aspects. I really do. They are important . But being in the office cant be the only way to do that can it ? I mean - pop into a coding hot bed one day take a look around.

  • Rooms darkened
  • Screen on
  • Headphones over ears to block out any sound at all
  • All you can hear is the tap tap tap of the keyboards

Tell me about that culture / water cooler thing again.

Of course the flip side of this is that if I can only deliver value to you when I am in your offices - then I guess the work I currently do at home on the weekends and at night time is no longer considered work you need - so I won’t be doing that - at least if I was being ‘bolshi’ that could be my attitude.

Every single company (UPDATE - see Oscar’s comment below - and my response)  that I know of are downsizing their offices, reducing costs by having people work at home. In fact one of the core things that people talk about in ‘Future of Work’ scenarios is that people won’t go to an office anymore. (I also happen to think that is an extreme POV).

But what I do wonder is whether there is an under current at Yahoo along the lines of nobody really understanding what people are doing and this is a clumsy way to start to examine the solutions ?

Just like outsourcing - working from home works very very well when you are totally on top of what results are expected in return for a sum of money. The process is not time dependant - it is value dependant. I give you x - you give me value of y - and we both have our own equation for whether that is a good deal.

If I don’t have a good idea of how to measure your value, then I will ask what your hourly rate is. Now I can assess my value. (Except you can’t since in an hour, you have no idea what someone can truly deliver - if you don’t understand what is going on).

But if you are at home - how do I know how long you are working ?

I know that nobody at Yahoo is saying they are returning to a ‘punch in - punch out’ mentality of workforce management - but it sure does feel like it. Of course - at the other end of the scale you have Amazon - who seem to have taken telecommuting to a whole new level …..

Meet James Hamilton, a distinguished engineer who is responsible for keeping Amazons $4.5 billion tech infrastructure business running while inventing new ways to make its data centers more efficient.He’s responsible for keeping a giant portion of the Internet up and running. Sites like Netflix, Pinterest, Reddit and Airbnb all rely on Amazons web services.

and he does all of this on a boat !!

The full article is here if you are interested: Amazon Engineer lives on a boat and (sometimes) works from Hawaii

February 27, 2013