Telecommuting, Yahoo, EdTech, and Dedicated Teams



Yahoo is putting a stop to telecommuting. The NYTimes reported this week that Yahoo Orders Home Workers Back to the Office.

All Things D published the PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT FORWARD – memo informing employees of the new procedures:

\”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.\”

\”Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices.\”

What do you think?

Do you have colleagues who work from home?

Some of my most productive and creative colleagues spend only a couple days a week on campus.

One learning designer that I work with spends his home days deeply enmeshed in designing and building blended courses, creating multimedia learning materials, project managing our development schedules, and experimenting with new methods for improving our course design and faculty development. The days that he is on campus are spent largely in meetings and in working collaboratively with faculty and colleagues. The arrangement works well.

In the past I have worked with colleagues who were initially based on our campus, but due to family circumstances needed to move to another state. This colleague continued to work with us remotely, utilizing the same synchronous collaboration tools (Adobe Connect) that we use in our online teaching. Eventually this colleague moved on to another position, but we felt extremely fortunate that we could continue to work together as this colleague was an incredibly high performer (with no discernible change in productivity while working remotely).

I have also witnessed my share of telecommuting disasters. For some people, and in some positions, it is absolutely necessary to have a physical presence on campus. Some people thrive in the less structured environment of working from home, while others do much better having colleagues and supervisors close by to check in with. Some positions require presence.

My read of the new Yahoo anti-telecommuting edict is that one-size-fits-all policies seldom work.

Knowledge industries, from web companies to higher education, depend on creative and smart teams of people to make them run. We need to discover work arrangements that best support our teams.

A dedicated team may benefit from having a diversity in working arrangements, just as it benefits from a diversity in viewpoints, experience and expertise.

I think that Yahoo\’s fundamental mistake is to locate the center of innovation at the individual rather than the team.

A much smarter approach would have been to empower dedicated team with clear goals, adequate resources, and the autonomy and flexibility to make work arrangement decisions.

Some teams may decide that yes, it makes sense to have everyone all together at all times. Other teams may decide that a mixed approach that requires substantial office time with some \”at home\” time makes sense. While other teams may want to recruit for talent, and be less concerned where that talent is located.

What is your experience with telecommuting?

What is the telecommuting policy for your campus?

Do your dedicated teams have discretion, or are they bound like those at Yahoo to an organization wide policy?