Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face? - InformationWeek

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Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
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lgarey@techweb.com
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[email protected],
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2/28/2013 | 2:29:44 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
A someone who has worked exclusively from home for over a decade, I think going in a day a week, or maybe three days a month, would be ideal. But going from working at home to working in an office -- especially if Yahoo does the open office concept -- is going to be incredibly difficult for anyone who needs to focus. Think developers, writers, editors, etc. After you've gotten used to the quiet of a home office, an open corporate office is unsettling - productivity will take a hit. Lorna Garey, IW Reports
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
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2/28/2013 | 1:42:09 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
I tend to agree with many of the comments made here -- that working from home does not necessarily mean someone is unproductive, and in in fact, the extra hours that the employee gains from not having to commute, are in most cases, given back to the company in extra hours of work. I think this is a fair trade.

That being said, I do tend to agree that nothing can replace face-to-face collaboration, if only once a week, and employees can really build good working relationships with each other in person. But to require it in our increasingly remote working environments makes her seem out of touch.

Mayer could have taken a different approach: perhaps she could have asked that her employees come into a Yahoo office once a week. This way, they could still get that face-to-face collaboration one day a week but continue to have the flexibility of working from home on the others. Obviously there would have to be exceptions for remote employees who live too far from the nearest office, but this could have been a compromising start -- one that maintained at least some level of trust and respect from her employees. Now, though, she has to work really hard to develop their buy-in to any new initiative.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
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2/27/2013 | 11:32:56 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
Thanks, David. I appreciate your kind words. I like to think I was a bit of a pioneer in those days in terms of the working from home thing, and I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity--and the trust. The more I think about all this, the more I think that is the real issue here. If Mayer does trust her employees, she hasn't shown them that. I think that will come back to haunt her.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 11:29:27 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
Thanks for the comment, Drew. I am with you--there are many benefits to working face-to-face in an office. And I also agree with you that social for social's sake doesn't do any company any good. I think a lot of organizations that rushed into social business solutions without any kind of plan or goals are finding that out now.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 11:27:02 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
Paul, I said the same thing in a between-you-and-me email to a colleague! I wondered, in a "modest proposal" kind of way, whether this was a move designed to get Yahoo workers so mad that they would quit and Mayer could start fresh. I was kidding--I think.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 11:24:31 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
Thanks, Bryan. At this point I have worked from home for years, and my work day starts before dawn and ends literally right before I shut my eyes to go to sleep. Do I throw in a load of laundry during the day? Yes. Have I caught my daughters' track meets and soccer games after school? Yes. But, on balance, I would guess that my total working time per day is close to double what it would be in an office.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 11:20:46 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
I totally agree with you about the office/nursery part, Melanie. I even started to go there in my column, but I found myself going down a path that veered too far from the focus of the story (and of The BrainYard). I just don't get how such a smart woman could have such a tin ear.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
2/27/2013 | 11:12:45 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
Gosh, wouldn't it be sweet to be able to build a nursery next to your office - what a perk. Guess hiring a nanny wasn't cost effective.

I have known senior management staff that would not only NOT use social media, nothing of significance would be in writing such as email responses. Email was simply for general announcements and notes. Stated reason, plausible deniability and auditing. Nothing would be put in writing that could possibly incriminate. So, work from home was a non starter.
Richard Hughes
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Richard Hughes,
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2/27/2013 | 10:05:32 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
From the outside it looks less like "a slap in the face of", more "ignorance of the benefits of" social business software. What I have found most astonishing in the coverage of this story was this quote from a Yahoo "source":

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

It struck me how very difficult it would be for an employee to "hide" in an organization that had implemented an effective enterprise social network. That's what prompted me to write "On an enterprise social network you can run, but you can't hide": http://enterprisinglysocial.co...

It sounds like there are all sorts of other reasons driving this decision for Yahoo, so the mistake here would be to draw any conclusion about the effectiveness of social software from Mayer's decision.
David Berlind
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David Berlind,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 8:50:53 PM
re: Did Yahoo's Mayer Slap Social In The Face?
I'd be a hypocrite if I even remotely sided with Mayer on this one. I've been working from home .. and the same exact "cave" .. for over a decade. Of course, who am I to judge my own productivity or ability to influence the organization. I guess we'll have to ask my bosses about that one. But I can certainly reflect on my own experiences with people that have reported into me. For example, the author of the story --- Deb Donston --- used to report to me in the early 1990s. Knowing Deb, I know that if I had a team of Debs all working from home, we'd probably get more done without sacrificing any quality. If anything, we'd get more since none of them would be spending two hours or more a day commuting. Often times, telecommuters give that recovered time back to their companies as a part of a fair exchange (I certainly do).

We have plenty of other amazingly productive and organized people that get stuff done without coming into the office and their teams are no less of the wear.

In my years of covering or being involved with startups, I've come to learn how many founders hire employees without ever having met them personally. They begin their venture as a purely virtual corporation with most of the employees being scattered all over the world.

In Mayer's defense (OK, I'll go there), it's highly dependent on the people and perhaps the size and geographic distribution of the company. If you have great people that you know you can trust, I don't think it matters (so, like with any company, it's ultimately about the team, isn't it?). It reminds me of these various software programs designed to tattle on employees...like how much time does employee X spend on YouTube or something like that. It's as if software can be a substitute for a well-managed company. If an employee consistently exceeds expectations, does it really matter whether they spent an hour on YouTube on Tuesday?

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