Yahoo, Don't Ban Telecommuting: Just Hire Better Managers

job interviewI've deliberately waited to weigh in on the Yahoo work-from-home ban; others have covered the story more than capably. What I am interested in, though, is why Yahoo doesn't just hire better managers. Let me back up a bit.

Kara Swisher posted the full internal memo sent to Yahoo employees last week. Here's the part that irked me:

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.

no catWorking in close proximity to team members definitely has benefits -- sometimes. As a high performer, though, I detest that environment when I need to rally and crank out work. It's like clockwork: the moment I need to focus on something, I'm interrupted by an innocuous question or a colleague's conversation. And nothing irks a ridiculously efficient person more than being made inefficient.

On to management. A few ex-Yahoo employees have said that the new policy will hopefully weed out unproductive folks who were working on side projects while on Yahoo's payroll.

Let me be clear: An effective manager can figure out whether his or her employees are doing what they're supposed to be doing no matter where they are: in the office down the hall, at home or on vacation halfway around the world. That same manager can set concrete expectations for communication and availability, hire people who "get it" and fire people who don't.

This isn't a telecommuting issue. It's a management issue. And if Marissa Mayer is going to focus on remote workers, she should also focus on her managers, the expectations they're setting, and how they're communicating with their teams.