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No more remote work at Yahoo (37signals.com)
323 points by mh_ 1610 days ago | hide | past | web | 206 comments | favorite



I worked for Yahoo in the years surrounding the Microsoft debacle. Let me tell you in no uncertain terms that Yahoo was the worst company I worked for.

I had very little work to do. Period. End of statement. I spent most of my time doing practically nothing except playing ping pong and foosball and getting paid for it. A lot of my coworkers and a lot of Yahoos were in the same boat. Needless to say, that once the Microsoft acquisition failed and the layoffs started happening, most of us were out of there.

On top of that, there was very much a prima donna attitude around Yahoo, with a great deal of self-entitlement. I remember a couple of threads on devel-random complaining about the lack of ping pong balls, and how that insulted us as Yahoos since it meant that management didn't trust us. Oh the humanity of not providing everyone with $2 worth of ping pong balls!

Yahoo was filled with lazy workers, and an extremely fat layer of lazy management. I vaguely remember Rasmus running a script that calculated around 70 employees per VP. As well, the internal politics at Yahoo was astounding. One of my friends worked on an iPhone app on his own free time, and when he tried to get approval, it was held up for months because people were arguing over things like color schemes, and which group should own the app. It was pathetic.

I like what Marisa Mayer is doing. I think by getting rid of some privileges like remote working, it is enforcing a discipline that hasn't been at Yahoo, at least during the years that I was there. Showing up to work is a small price to pay for being paid a great wage and having the opportunity to work for what will hopefully become a first class company again. People need to show up and work and interact with their peers, instead of hiding at home and people not knowing wtf is going on with them. Sure, some people will quit, but quite bluntly, anyone worth their salt would have already left Yahoo by now. Anyone who is happy working in the environment that was Yahoo over the past 5 years is not an A player by any stretch, so it's safe to assume that you can afford to lose them.


Anyone that has worked in the Valley that knows ex-Yahoos have heard crazy, crazy stories of what it was like. I remember hearing a story about an employee who worked there who wanted to quit to do a startup. Her manager panicked, saying, "you can't leave. If you leave, we will lose the headcount because we won't be able to backfill it fast enough." So what happened? The manager made an off-the-books agreement with the person for her to "work from home" for a few more months while the manager scrambled to backfill, still collecting a salary, while doing absolutely nothing at all. I never followed up to see what came out of this. I probably should.

Contrary to the flame-baiting you might see, Marissa is making some progress in turning Yahoo back into a desirable place to work again. I'm hearing from good engineers I know at respectable companies that have either considered it after talking to recruiters or have actually accepted offers. I suspect there is some method to the madness around the remote working policy - we'll just have to see over the long run what shakes out of it.


The way to "fix" entitled, lazy employees and management is to "light their shit up," so to speak.

Give people work, set goals, and hold them accountable. You can't get a completed app approved and on the street in months? Fire the managers involved. Somebody complains that they don't have ping pong balls? Take away the ping pong table.

Stopping remote work will not improve performance. Firing poor performers is the solution, not chaining them to their desk.


Firing people left and right and taking away perks is a fantastic way to run morale that's probably already pretty low. I see what you are saying with regards to the need to light fires under people, but there's other, more positive and more productive ways to go about it.


If you fire the people who deserve to get fired you actually increase morale.


That's not necessarily true. Office politics matter. If you fire popular people - even if they are under-performers - then it will hurt morale.

Firing is always messy business. It's a good idea to avoid it unless it is absolutely necessary.


Agreed. However, I'm running a business, not a social club.

If I have a few bad apples (the lazy, self-entitled employees of a previous post) and they're not responding to being held accountable, the whole staff needs to know I will use all tools available.

Frankly, if you manage properly, there's very little firing you have to do. Most bad employees, when they see you hold people accountable, will find another job. The only ones who stick around are the one's who are holding out for unemployment.


"Anyone who is happy working in the environment that was Yahoo over the past 5 years is not an A player by any stretch, so it's safe to assume that you can afford to lose them."

Great comment.


It's high-grade snark, but the people who implemented Hadoop or Yahoo pipes do not seem to be particularly stupid.



Aren't most of those people gone? :) Doug Cutting (Hadoop) is at Cloudera now...


"Anyone who is happy working in the environment that was Yahoo over the past 5 years is not an A player by any stretch, so it's safe to assume that you can afford to lose them."

Ah but you're not just chopping off the right edge of the bell curve, you're shifting the entire curve to the left. A non-innovative company like yahoo can trivially survive shedding the innovators, but can't survive a system wide forklift downgrade.

Maybe "in this economy" they could have gotten a C- grade dude who needs to work at home on Fridays for whatever reason, well, now they'll be lucky to get a D+ grade dude.


The author asserts that the new policy is based on "flimsy foundations". How does he know if the foundations are flimsy or not? Does he have inside knowledge of the productivity of remote vs. local employees at Yahoo? Is he assuming it's the same as at 37signals? Might it not be?

He writes that Yahoo employees should be "angry" that the new policy was declared "without your consultation". How does he know there was no consultation? How does he know local employees didn't give feedback to management that the extra communication overhead with remote workers didn't create difficulties in collaboration?

He also writes that this policy change reveals that "Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not.". Why is this assumed? Why isn't it plausible that management studied the problem and found that having collaborators in disparate locations hampered progress?

The entire article seems needlessly reactionary and assumes things about the working culture at Yahoo that may not be true. Perhaps this vehement reaction is due to the fact that the author has a new book coming out advocating remote working?


Without agreeing or disagreeing with your first three paragraphs, I want to share with you that the very last sentence puts your arguments at risk of being derailed by accusations of Ad Hominem Tu Quoque--that you are speculating about the author's motivations with exactly the same lack of insight that you decry. Worse, that line is also likely to distract people who notice that it's an Ad Hominem Circumstantial.

I personally think your argument would be best served by saying something along the following lines:

The author asserts that the new policy is based on "flimsy foundations". He writes that Yahoo employees should be "angry" that the new policy was declared "without your consultation". He also writes that this policy change reveals that "Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not."

What evidence is there that any of these conjectures and speculations are true?

That would make the point about the lack of evidence in the post rather than about the author.


I appreciate the input, but on the contrary, I don't think an author's history and interests should be ignored when evaluating their argument. The world is full of people who excel at making compelling arguments for whichever side of an issue suits their interests. Personally, knowing that an author has a upcoming book whose thesis might be undercut by the decisions he's criticizing makes any doubt cast upon this article much more compelling. Which is why I mentioned it :)


Well, then you end up with threads very much like the ones associated with anything John Gruber posts. They end up being about John Gruber rather than about his opinions. Which is great for people who find discussions about people interesting. I do the first time all those points are raised, but I can't help noticing that they become repetitive.

But to indulge you, consider whether you are confusing correlation with causation. It could be that he writes this post to promote his book (causation).

Nevertheless, it could also be that the post and the book are correlated, and that the root cause is his own personal success with remote working arrangements.


That's not an ad hominem, it's pointing out a relevant conflict of interest. DHH is heavily invested in promoting remote work arrangements. It doesn't invalidate his arguments, it does help explain why he's flying off the handle over this.



From that link:

Conflict of Interest: Where a source seeks to convince by a claim of authority or by personal observation, identification of conflicts of interest are not ad hominem – it is generally well accepted that an "authority" needs to be objective and impartial, and that an audience can only evaluate information from a source if they know about conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the source. Identification of a conflict of interest is appropriate, and concealment of a conflict of interest is a problem.


If you can look past DHH being DHH, his points are valid. That said, I think he missed the main thrust of Yahoo's decision: they are looking to increase collaboration, and they believe face-to-face collaboration is more advantageous than remote or semi-remote collaboration. I would assume this is because they think collaboration is an important part of the overall productivity of their staff.

I've been a remote or semi-remote [1] for 8 years, mostly for smaller organizations under 50 people. As a developer, I LOVE working remotely, and it creates a huge increase in my personal productivity. It also enables a saner work/life balance.

That said, enabling productive _collaboration_ does take work. My guess is Yahoo is so far behind the eight ball, they want to take this out of the equation until they can right the ship.

Rather than "you're an idiot" sort of post, I'd like it see 37 signals write up how they enable remote collaboration. [2]

Trust is the foundation of great collaboration, but you need more than that to actually make it work. And, scaling that up to thousands of people would be even more difficult.

[1] Semi-remote being three days in the office, two days at home.

[2] My guess is they still use campefire, but it would still be an interesting write up in 2013.


Collaboration requires coordination and clear expectations. You can't expect blind face time to result in productivity gains. A company without remote collaboration probably wont have onsite collaboration either.

Like many people above noted, global companies do this all the time.


"He writes that Yahoo employees should be "angry" that the new policy was declared "without your consultation". How does he know there was no consultation? How does he know local employees didn't give feedback to management that the extra communication overhead with remote workers didn't create difficulties in collaboration?"

I'm sure they consulted every remote worker before they effectively shitcanned most of them.


I don't really see why Yahoo of all companies would earn this kind of benefit of the doubt.


our quarterly review process is very through and includes a minimum of 3 peer reviews.

our forth quarter reviews just finished


Any one of us could go off on a diatribe on why DHH is right or wrong (and some of us have) but I think this issue is actually much simpler and we're missing something crucial here.

Whether remote work is a good practice or not is besides the point. I'd say, when done intelligently, it's a great thing. But don't you think Mayer knows that already? The bottom line here is that Mayer has to take a floundering company and turn it around. There must be something going within Yahoo! that makes this decision the right one. Yeah, there's going to be some blowback from employees and the media but at the end of the day it wouldn't be surprising if Mayer is reading all these articles and saying "Oh if you only knew what remote work is doing to this company...".

Remote work as far as I'm concerned is a great thing - but it's probably hurting Yahoo! more than helping right now. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mayer turn this thing around and reinstate the remote work policy when the dust settles.

It's easy to play armchair CEO, especially if you're a CEO, but what DHH is saying is basically "remote work is working for us therefore it should work for others". Well, it's great that it works for 37Signals but Yahoo! is a different beast and Mayer is not an idiot. It seems like she's willing to take some damage now to avoid a catastrophe down the line.


Great comment. In such a dysfunctional company such as Yahoo I would bet that the majority of "remote workers" are just coasting and doing nothing. It's a shame for those productive remote workers who will either leave or be forced to start coming in, but if for every one of those people there are a hundred pieces of dead weight then I think the cost benefit analysis is pretty clear for a CEO to make.


Exactly. You said it better than I could in less words. The way I see it there's definitely a lot to discuss when it comes to remote work but as it applies to DHH's criticism I think what he says comes off as more of a way to kind of say "hey we're awesome and we promote remote working" and completely ignores what may be happening within Yahoo! to prompt this change. I wish DHH had framed his post differently because it comes off as very know-it-all-ish and doesn't seem to take into account that there might be anything else going on at Yahoo! other than what he thinks.


You make a good point that Yahoo and 37signals are NOT in the same place. Yahoo needs to throw cold water in their faces, wake up and make some big changes, 37signals appears from the outside to be doing well.

Very different situations.


I'm a remote worker. I've worked remotely for teams based in the US for one of those big names you know and more recently for a London-based company with offices just a couple of hours commute from my house deep in the Swedish countryside. I've worked about 6 years full-time remote in the last 10.

Working for home is not for everyone but for some of us its speeds us up not slows us down. The days I go into the office for meetings are the days I get nothing real done.

Here and in all the remote-working threads people come along to say it doesn't work and that you need to sit together to be a team. Well, I guess these are inexperienced people who haven't worked out how to do it effectively is all.

I hope there is a new enlightenment in remote-working for us programmers. There's so many diverse companies and meaningful organizations I'd be happy to dedicate my thinking hours too if their management could just consider it possible...


> Working for home is not for everyone but for some of us its speeds us up not slows us down. The days I go into the office for meetings are the days I get nothing real done.

It seems like you've drawn a particular conclusion from this, but I think you are missing an entirely different one. If you "don't get anything done" every time you come in to the office, that would suggest there is something more important than your individual "getting things done" that doesn't get addressed when you aren't in the office. When you are there, taking advantage of the opportunity to address this exceeds the value of what I'm sure most people would describe as your primary job function.

> Here and in all the remote-working threads people come along to say it doesn't work and that you need to sit together to be a team. Well, I guess these are inexperienced people who haven't worked out how to do it effectively is all.

I would agree with this. Obviously remote working can work. That isn't to say that there aren't trade offs. There absolutely are. Like all trade offs, the exchange is a bargain for some contexts and an unacceptable price for others.


When you are there, taking advantage of the opportunity to address this exceeds the value of what I'm sure most people would describe as your primary job function.

I think it's more a side-effect of the typical meeting. They tend to be so low bandwidth, that most people view any way out of them as increasing their productivity.

I've not found remote meetings much better in this regard.


But given that one can have remote meetings, the fact that one is deluged with meetings when coming in to the office kind of suggests something, no?


Yes, it says the the OP's company doesn't have a good teleconferencing setup.


Well, more generally it says that there is value in having on site meetings.

I think it is fair to say that the OP's measure of his net productivity doesn't match that of his coworkers/employer... else they'd leave him alone when he came in to the office. Now, you can argue whose perceptions are accurate, but in the end the employer's perceptions are kind of all that matters.


It's not just the meetings, some of it is also useless distractions like non-pc gossip about how exactly someone got promoted even though they lack both skill and experience. It's distracting and it takes time for people to repeatedly tell their coworkers that they're busy and they need to work without offending anyone.


Those "useless distractions" tend to be more important than one realizes. Random conversations on random subjects actually can serve a purpose.


That would be highly dependent on the quality of the company culture. For example, the following is good random interaction:

"Hey did you know there's this cool company that's planning to mine asteroids?"

"Check out the new strategy for expansion"

"Look at this cool new library"

The following is stuff I just don't care for:

"She got to where she is by sleeping around"

"Why haven't they promoted me yet? I've been here x years"

You can argue that the former is useful to know, but I don't have ambitions of going the managerial route. I just want to build cool stuff.


> That would be highly dependent on the quality of the company culture.

Bingo.

> You can argue that the former is useful to know, but I don't have ambitions of going the managerial route.

While there can be significant advantage in knowledge exchange, most of the big wins are from random moments of inspiration that come from interactions with people.

I think more importantly than that though, if you have a huge organization that has a dysfunctional culture you have a major problem of inertia that is only magnified if significant chunks of the organization disengaged from day-to-day interactions. Your odds of turning that ship around are tremendously improved if you have people interacting day to day.

By no means do I mean to let Yahoo's management off the hook: this decision is entirely the result of bad management, and I think upset employees would be perfectly justified in blaming poor management for the change. That doesn't make this decision a bad decision or one that reflects a lack of trust or respect for employees. If one has any respect or trust for employees, one ought to want to see them as part of the solution (something that I'd argue hasn't always been the case at Yahoo), and one ought to have the willingness to be take drastic measures to effect change, and be honest with them about what those measures are, in order to help the organization get out of its quagmire.


I distress that a flippant bit of colour can derail my point.


Perhaps your point wasn't clearly presented then, because it seemed to me that the substantive argument you made was about notions of your own productivity and the value you consequently provided to your company, and I responded with a serious attempt to address that point in context that was broader than peculiarities of your own situation.

If that was actually a flippant remark, I'll be happy to focus the conversation on your intended point, once I grok what it is.


Because I am just a couple of hours commute from some of my workmates now I do head into the office and do the social bit sometimes.

But when I worked for moto I spent years in teams I never, ever met.

I wouldn't want you to be under the impression that the social bit is necessary for a good effective team nor good effective work.


"The days I go into the office for meetings are the days I get nothing real done."

I think that has more to do with the meetings than the office.


When your in the office is much easier for you to be pulled into impromptu meetings.


I don't understand how serious software engineering is done in a lot of the start up offices I see in photos.

These offices look like an Apple store. They are open floor plan. Instead of desks they have tables where devs sit across from each other working on 13" to 15" laptop screens.

The ergonomics of these set ups are awful, and so are the economics.

Real estate is expensive in this economy. Why double pay for space? Why have 9-5 work space and 6-8 home space?

I know there is a separation of concerns argument, but in a competitive global economy I find that takes a back seat.

I look at not double paying for space as one of the business advantages my consultancy has.

A nice home/office with floor to ceiling windows slightly tinted to reduce glare and UV in a high rise building with panoramic view, a proper standing desk, a Kinesis Advantage contoured keyboard, Evoluent vertical mouse and dual 27" monitors is an incredible mood and productivity booster.

The ratio of window area to wall area in non-luxury buildings in NYC is an abomination. In my far off utopian vision a glorious and massive urban renewal project demolishes all soul crushingly dark tiny windowed apartments and in their place stand gleaming solar powered monuments to the human race where our creative class toils happily producing works of the head and the heart for global consumption and a breath taking view is never more than a side-long glance away.


Well, the short answer is: they mostly don't do "serious software engineering" - they do a lot of design (UX, mostly, but to some degree product design and graphic design) - and shuffle the UI around. The software engineering happens in short spurts, tucked away in conference rooms with the door closed, or after hours when the managers have gone home (...assuming the managers go home. I worked in an office where those people tended to still be there at 8pm)


I don't see what this scrutinization of stereotypical trendy startup environments has to do with remote working. If a company has budget for it and wants to make its employees comfortable with open space, and the employees like it, it's their business. To suggest that "serious software engineering" isn't occurring because of how you suppose their workspace is setup is, frankly, offensive. In software engineering, most of the work goes on inside the minds of the developers. Most of the remainder goes on in a keyboard and a screen. If you wanna get down to it, having more whiteboards and less fancy computer equipment is an indicator of better problem solving, not less. I sit with three 19 inch monitors on my desk at work. At home, I use a 10 inch netbook most of the time. I have not seen a difference in productivity because when I am focused, I don't need screen real estate for more distractions. Everything just tunes out. If you consider phd-level university computer science research as "serious software engineering" then I'd note that most research labs I came across in my days in academia were largely empty rooms with some tables and some work desks. Most of the students (phd students, mind you) worked on whiteboard and did coding and writing on whatever laptop they had. The workhorse machines w. big monitors were usually time-shared and dedicated to running heavy processing jobs.

As far as working from home goes, it seems you each agree that being comfortable with ones workspace and environment impacts productivity. That said, one is more likely to have a comfortable and productive work environment when it is up to him/her to decide what equipment to use and where, which a home office lends itself to more than an office, especially on a corporate cube-farm level. Sure, some individuals may not be as productive at a comfortable workspace in the home, but that is the individual. Working from home is not for everyone, but those who find they are more focused and productive in the home environment ought to have that choice.


a classroom full of PhDs may be architecturally similar to an open-floor plan startup office, but the quality of sitting in one and thinking is different - mainly, it's quieter in a classroom. Quieter is good for thinking.

The startups I've seen don't particularly use whiteboards.


We've had business relationships with Yahoo in the past and everyone we dealt with there had a complete lack of accountability. No one seemed to care when we found problems, and it would take months for simple things to be fixed on their side.

This change will no doubt cause some loss of talented people, but if they want to drastically change the culture at Yahoo I don't see any other way. They need to get everyone working together both physically and mentally.

Hopefully they'll move all development back home as well. Their dev teams in India were dreadful with turnaround times and bugs.


> if they want to drastically change the culture at Yahoo I don't see any other way

Surely you can imagine other ways to make people accountable, dedicated, empowered and effective than focusing on the place and hours they work?


Can you? If the situation was truly bad at Yahoo, I can't. That if is an important if, of course, but the question stands.


All of the comments I keep reading that criticize this decision assume that the A-players were working from home, and that the A-players will hate the decision. Possibly true.

But a lot of the anonymous internal feedback was that over the years, previous management had filled Yahoo up with B-players. If that's true, I can easily imagine that there's quite a large overlap between those who work from home and the B-players. It's such an easy way to slack off if you're not motivated or capable. And nowhere do I read people saying, "Hey, maybe this was what the situation was." I only read people saying, "Yahoo is boneheaded for not respecting their people." Let's consider all the possibilities.


As I posted on the 37s blog:

Management paranoia is not the only reason why someone would want to decrease the amount of remote work. There are team spirit benefits to bringing people together physically, and depending on the type of work being undertaken, remote work may have more downsides than upside.

I don’t see this as an aggression against remote workers, or an attempt at controlling remote workers more closely based on some paranoid perception that “they’re slacking” – it seems more like a change meant to help strengthen the culture at Yahoo by making it easier for teams to bond.


I'm sure that's how the executives in charge of this boneheaded decision explain it to themselves, but try applying just a pinch of real world logic to that thought and it shrivels like a slug under salt.

Do you really think that people who have been forced to start working in the office under threat of termination are going to form a positive, collegial bond? If they form a bond at all, it will be one based on shared resentment of the Dilbert-esque reality they now inhabit.


> Do you really think that people who have been forced to start working in the office under threat of termination are going to form a positive, collegial bond? If they form a bond at all, it will be one based on shared resentment of the Dilbert-esque reality they now inhabit.

I think that in hard times, you either do form a bond or you go form a bond somewhere else. I think that's the decision that was just taken at Yahoo.

They could just have fired all the remote workers - but that would have been truly stupid.


Just firing the workers would have been even more stupid but what they did was already stupid.


From what I've seen, Yahoo doesn't seem like a "work from home if you want" kind of company. It seems like each person who is working remotely had an exception to a general policy, and now those exceptions are just blindly cancelled.

In this case, "saying no work from home" just means many of those people are not going to work for Yahoo anymore. That's pretty terrible for team spirit.


I don't know, if it's true that their team is not very accountable and I was one of the top on-site folks I'd be relieved to see the dead weight go.


There are team spirit benefits to bringing people together physically, and depending on the type of work being undertaken, remote work may have more downsides than upside.

This "team spirit" argument makes no sense to me at all. What group on Earth has more "team spirit" than the contributors and maintainers on major open source projects?

For someone in Mayer's position, effective leadership means acting more like Linus Torvalds than Bill Lumbergh.


For me I think it's actually a clever marketing move by DHH and 37 Signals to create a "stir" around the issue. My guess is they don't really care what Yahoo's reasons are behind it but are very pleased with the timing...you can't help but notice at the bottom of the post - Interested in learning more about remote work? Checkout our upcoming book REMOTE: Office Not Required.


I think it's likely that you're missing a layer. The book is really just marketing for the DHH/37signals/RoR brand.

Developing that brand makes people more loyal to their products and ecosystem, which probably makes them a lot more money over the long run than book sales.


The following (from the posting), "When management has to lay it on so thick that they don’t trust you with an afternoon at home waiting for the cable guy without a stern “please think of the company”, you know something is horribly broken.", reminds me of this quote...

How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?[1]

[1] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/111168-how-in-the-hell-could...


37signals comes down against a decree of no more remote working. I am shocked (shocked that there is gambling going on in this establishment).

Much like hiring practices this is and will continue to be a divisive issue. This one however seems to be largely driven by personal preference: if you want to work from home, you can't understand why anyone is against it. If you don't, then you do.

I fall in the camp of not necessarily being against remote working but it's not something I want to do, I understand why companies don't want it and I don't think working remotely scales.

The last is the most important point. Many take the view that they can be much more productive with flexible work schedules and when people don't bother them with trivial stuff and when they don't waste time on the commute.

Firstly, working from an office doesn't not exclude a flexible work schedule. I've gone through phases where I don't get into work until 3pm. A guy I know decided he would take Thursdays off and work on Saturday instead. My manager forgot I was going on vacation for a few days and I didn't get a call or email asking where I was until midday Tuesday (having not shown up on Monday).

As far as not being bothered, this can certainly be true. This is actually part of the reason why I often wear headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones do a pretty good job of filtering out a lot of noise but just the act of wearing headphones I tend to find acts as a psychological barrier from others bothering you.

As for commute, this much is true and is a particular problem in the Valley. For me, my commute is a 7 minute walk to work (in NYC). YMMV. :)

But a lot of people make the same mistake with this issue that they make with hiring practices: they tend to think that the individual case matters. It really doesn't. If a hiring process weeds out some qualified candidates, it doesn't mean it's broken. Whether or not it's broken is determined by whether the company finds a suitable candidate, how long it takes and how expensive it is. False negatives don't matter (to a company) as long as you get a positive result.

The same goes here. The individual thinks they can work from home and they may well be right but there are bigger issues. For teams--particularly large teams--to work together requires a certain camaraderie that is orders of magnitude easier to manage when physically colocated. This also applies to teams that are geographically split. All other things being equal, a team in N sites will perform better than a team in N+1 sites.

The other issue, and this particularly applies to large companies, is one of culture. Culture like team cohesion is orders of magnitude easier to spread when physically colocated. For a company the size of Google (my employer), IMHO this is far more important than any individual perceived benefits about permanent remote work.

Google has (IMHO) done a remarkably good job of maintaining cultural consistency such that transplanting an engineer from one team to another is relatively seamless. This isn't just about common tools either.

Chris Dizon wrote a great post called Twelve months notice [1]. I like it because it articulates the primary difference (in my experience) between those who work remotely and those that don't. In my experience, those who work remotely tend to be far more in the transactional work category. While there's nothing wrong with this and I think it's particularly suited to freelance consulting, IMHO it is at odds with running and maintaining a large engineering organization.

But I know I'm not going to convince anyone. This another polarizing issue. Just be aware there are bigger issues than the individual not wanting to drive to work.

EDIT: Also, I disagree with the position that this "punishes" good employees. Yahoo wants to build (or rebuild) an engineering culture. They've decided this is easier to do with engineers physically colocated. This doesn't preclude workers from working from home on an occasional basis (eg waiting for the cable guy). It simply means the default is you come into the office.

[1]: http://cdixon.org/2009/10/23/twelve-months-notice/


I don't think working remotely scales.

Scales to what? I don't understand how this argument can be made when most companies have multiple, globally distributed offices, which turns their workforce effectively remote on the grand scale.

On all on-site jobs I've done so far, the remote offices were effectively other companies as far as communicating is concerned. People who're used to in-face communication have a huge barrier to overcome. This is a big difference from working remote, where it doesn't matter, because the communication channels are set up.

I simply don't see how this claim can stand even basic scrunty.

Firstly, working from an office doesn't not exclude a flexible work schedule. I've gone through phases where I don't get into work until 3pm.

This works fine until something urgent comes up and a meeting is called at 11am, and management wonders why you are "late". Maybe Google is better at avoiding this than your average company, but maybe at some point in your career you'll find they're not :)

The rest of your argument is either very questionable (false negatives are OK as long as the result is positive - a more positive result is better than a barely positive one), or very squishy (camaraderie, team cohesion, culture) with no hard data to back it up, so no point in arguing over it.


having different offices usually doesnt split up teams between onsite and remote, so its not really comparable. If a whole team is in another location, they are effectivly on-site. Sure, communication with other teams is harder, but that doesnt happen as often as internal team communication.

Trying to scale a company were everybody is remote and on their own, is a very tough task.

So when working remote (as in from home) and your project manager calls you for something urgent at 10am but you are still sleeping/doing stuff with the kids etc. How would that be different to not being in the office ? Meetings/communication dont go away just because you work remotely.


Sure, communication with other teams is harder, but that doesnt happen as often as internal team communication.

The question was about scaling up. It's obviously possible to manage entire teams that are offsite, as many companies now do it. Is there some other way to scale up than to have other teams? You aren't seriously suggesting to have bigger teams, are you?

If you accept you need teams in multiple teams & locations (due to labor-market limitations, physical limitations, cost of office space in some areas, etc), then companies that are organized for remote work have a massive advantage because they are much better at communicating between them.

Trying to scale a company were everybody is remote and on their own, is a very tough task.

What arguments are supporting this statement? Is there any? What does "on their own" even mean here?

So when working remote (as in from home) and your project manager calls you for something urgent at 10am but you are still sleeping/doing stuff with the kids etc

I put down the phone, turn on the PC and am available 2 minutes later, instead of 60 minutes later while I commute. Exactly the same thing as when an emergency happens outside office hours in an on-site job, except that I'm actually guaranteed to have all the stuff I need for work available at home.

Some of the arguments here make it sound as if these are fairytales, yet this is exactly how work is and has been done for years, at least at some of the more enlightened employers :)


> So when working remote (as in from home) and your project manager calls you for something urgent at 10am but you are still sleeping/doing stuff with the kids etc

Worth noting that working from home does not mean you work any different hours from anyone else. In fact, your point is more of an argument FOR telecommuting than against it. At any given time that you're not "at work", it's far faster to switch to being "at work" for a telecommuter than for someone that has to head to the office to do so.


>> The question was about scaling up.

Having multiple offices in different location isnt working remotely. The teams that work together still actually physically work together.

All i am saying is, having for example a team of 15 engineers, marketing guys, sales guys who all work from home creates more communication overhead per person. Add to that totally flexible schedules where the people i need to talk to often arent available and vice versa, i dont think it scales well. Its a total mess.

>> I put down the phone, turn on the PC and am available 2 minutes later

What if you have decided to go grocery shopping, take your kids to school, your dog for a walk when something urgent happens ? It basically the same as not being in the office at that point, you just are not available, no matter if on-site or remote.

I have been working remotely for several years, but i enjoyed working in a team with other engineers and the overlap of private and work life doesnt really leave me feel relaxed at home. So its not for everyone and remote-work certainly isnt the one-fits all future of work imo.


All i am saying is, having for example a team of 15 engineers, marketing guys, sales guys who all work from home creates more communication overhead per person.

I'm not sure I agree with this. I was going to say that it could perhaps be true for sales/marketing (not my area), but I just realized that at my last on-site job the sales guys were actually the only ones remote. So my practical experience seems to point the exact opposite as your claim.

Add to that totally flexible schedules where the people i need to talk to often arent available

Don't confuse flexible schedules with working remotely, they really are entirely different things. I already pointed out how flexible schedules cause problems for on-site work in the parent posts.

Different time zones are even more of a pain for both local and remote, but I'd rather stay awake late at night for a meeting if I can do so at home.


scales to FTSE 100, DOW 30 or Global 500 size one place (British telecom) I worked at had a division had more developers/engineers than google has employees.


How do you feel about working from home just part of the week? At my current company most of my team works from home two days a week. While we aren't required to do so, most of us sync our days so we all work from home Tuesday and Thursday. That way we are in the office at the same time for the most part.

I've found that I really enjoy this arrangement. I still feel like we have team cohesion while at the same time I can get done my transactional work two days out of the week without being disturbed. We schedule meetings where we need to collaborate for M-W-F. If we do need to get together on T-Th then we fire up a Google Hangout.

For me it seems like the best of both worlds. I reduce my commute and transportation costs 40% without really losing a lot in return.


Having worked the full range of situations (full telecommute, full office, and everything in between) I can say that, for me at least, an arrangement like this is optimal.

- Working in the office every day is a complete productivity drain for me.

- Working from home every day makes it more complicated to collaborate with coworkers (especially over highly visual whiteboarding situations.

- Splitting the difference has worked really well. Generally we picked one day where we were always in the office (as much for social interaction as meetings). In addition, each of us was perfectly willing to come in 1-2 other days a week if there was a need.

Splitting the difference is by far my favorite mode.


I worked on a team last year that did this. Wednesdays and Fridays.

It worked so well that I am trying to get it implemented at my current place. If I ever become a manager, I will probably implement this among my team, too.


Same here (Mondays and Wednesdays), much better than coming to the office everyday IMO.


>> Yahoo wants to build (or rebuild) an engineering culture.

Then say that. Say it loud and proud.

Say we want to build an engineering culture of excellence. Talk about how programmers will rule the roost once more. Talk about the open sourcing of the Yahoo libraries, how Yahoo will never let a piece of code go without review and tests.

And then say "In my opinion as the CEO we can only do this by being in the office at the same time, no flexi-hours, no mucking about, everyone in."

One could respect that.

This, this is just "I'm in charge, everyone in because I say so"


>This, this is just "I'm in charge, everyone in because I say so"

I doubt it's like this. From all the articles I have read, everyone seems to just be vilifying Mayer in standard linkbait form. Mayer could have said that ("In my opinion as the CEO we can only do this by being in the office at the same time, no flexi-hours, no mucking about, everyone in.") but it wouldn't matter because everyone would twist her words.

Even the whole issue is sort of overblown. AFAIK, Mayer has only said you can't always work at home. There is nothing she said about cutting flexi-hours, or working from sometimes.


OK, finding the original is hard work - in fact not possible

  YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT 
  FORWARD
...

  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, 
But ... it just does not make sense ...

1. If we take as read that working in physical proximity increases communication (often, not always certainly) then why have multiple offices? Who exactly is supposed to work together with whom? Why is the San Francisco office not the one and only office? Why have a Beijing office if people there cannot work with people in Bangalore

2. I hope I am not villifying Meyer - I think she has taken on a difficult high profile role. I have never run a 10,000's people company. Its probably quite difficult.

3. Scaling remote working. No organisation seems to effectgively scale past the dunbar number - communication and collaboration drops alarmingly. (Its not intra-group comms that drops, its the inter-group comms.)


Here's the deal which I see - this isn't what anyone here is making it out to be.

It's a wide strategy with its real target a set of managers. I'll bet money on it.

The secondary benefits and even the primary touted reason are great things to have, but they aren't the main goal.

This is based on what I'm seeing from looking at CEO in a non tech firm doing.

The aim of a new report or designation being created so far has is always aimed at getting and succeeding to get, multiple targets achieved, with the real target being buried somewhere inside and discrete.


I'm sorry but I don't get it - who are you saying Meyer is "really" targeting and why?


> 3. Scaling remote working. No organisation seems to effectgively scale past the dunbar number - communication and collaboration drops alarmingly. (Its not intra-group comms that drops, its the inter-group comms.)

Do you have any data on this? What about organizations like Canonical who are almost all full remote workers? Surely Canonical cannot have less than 150 workers.


... I've gone through phases where I don't get into work until 3pm. A guy I know decided he would take Thursdays off and work on Saturday instead. My manager forgot I was going on vacation for a few days and I didn't get a call or email ...

With that statement, you're really highlighting the trust your company has with you. Unfortunately, it seems Yahoo is communicating that it no longer trusts any of its employees working from home. And there may be valid reasons, such as significant lost of productivity, but punishing the "good" employees with the "bad" sends a negative signal.


Having worked mostly remotely for a company that was going slowly down the drain, I can say that I was more productive.. But I was the first to jump ship when their buyout looked unfavorable to engineering.

Companies in yahoo's state don't necessarily care about current output (what good is more of what isn't working?)

A report I reviewed in the past indicated remote workers are more likely to walk away when a bad changes are occurring. For yahoo, that means now and/or soon.


So the aim of this was to shake loose the less loyal employees and/or to encourage 'fence-sitters' to be in an environment where they would be less likely to leave as the company circles the drain?

I don't now that doesn't seem like the purpose behind this.


The main point DHH article wasn't a debate about whether co-located or distributed teams are better or more efficient. The article states that Yahoo does not have a management team in place that they can trust to supervise a remote team.

If the people overseeing the work teams have to resort to making sure that everyone is in their seats for roll call in order to manage them, Yahoo has some much deeper problems than remote workers that need to be addressed.


You make a really good case against remote work. The only thing I can say about it is that you make a case from the point of view of an employer, or maybe an extremely loyal employee.

It may well be true that it's easier to enforce cultural homogeneity on colocated teams, which makes it easier to treat individuals as interchangeable cogs that can be transplanted between different parts of the wider machine.

Whose interest that's in is an interesting question. It's a obvious win for the employer. And employees who want to work for an "apex predator" employer are better off because in their case, utility for the employer is utility for the employee.

The point of the 37signals post is that only "apex predator" companies like Google can legitimately demand this sort of dedication. Given your statement that you actually work at Google, I think perhaps it makes sense that your opinion is what it is.

My point - to sum it up - is that productivity and cultural homogeneity aren't the only important metrics to optimise for.


cultural homogeneity, actually, can be extremely dangerous.


"As for commute, this much is true and is a particular problem in the Valley. For me, my commute is a 7 minute walk to work (in NYC). YMMV. :)"

I might be going way out on a limb here, but I think this kind of thing is a subtle driver of age/family discrimination.

What kind of workers are more likely to live by the office, and thus able to drop in on a moment's notice? Young, single workers.

What type of workers are less likely to do this? Older workers or workers with families who have to deal with commute/spouses/children/etc.


My gut feeling too.

If I were living within 7 minutes walking-distance from work, I sure wouldn't mind coming in, especially if work is so flexible that I can come in at 3pm and nobody lifts an eyebrow.

My workplace is actually not that far away, around 25-30 minutes of public-transport commute. I still see lots of benefits for remote-working. Striking a balance is the key. I wouldn't want to exclusively work from home either.


If your job is such that it requires you to be on site, for example mowing lawns, being a cashier, dealing with customers in person, then yes I agree that you should be on-site every day because it makes sense.

However, if your job is "software engineer" or any other job which 100% of the work can be done over instant message, email, teleconference bridge, screen sharing, etc then No, I don't agree that you should be on-site the majority of the time.

The decision that a manager makes to allow one of their staff members to work remotely is done on a case-by-case basis and is done on the merits of their work and their previous ability to get the work done remotely or off-site.


"I don't think working remotely scales."

Funny, I feel it's almost the opposite. Remote work can be very difficult for a small business or startup, especially for the early team. Generally speaking, you want everyone within earshot and available for ad hoc ideation sessions, discussions, debates, or projects.

The larger the company, the more likely it'll be organized into discrete functions, work scope, teams, deadlines, and so forth. And hence, each employee will have a clearer sense of what he or she is accountable for on each day, with less moment-to-moment variance. This situation makes remote working easier and more scalable.


I agree that it's possible to scale a large company working remotely. I think in the next 20 years we are going to see some significant breakthroughs in the scale of companies that operate virtually. I think we will see companies with 10,000 employees that are 90% virtual (working from home or meeting in an office only one day per week). The whole notion of driving to work each day to sit in an office is such an antiquated 20th century concept.


"If a hiring process weeds out some qualified candidates, it doesn't mean it's broken. Whether or not it's broken is determined by whether the company finds a suitable candidate, how long it takes and how expensive it is."

Absolutely. But changing terms and conditions after a person has been employed is different, and, in the UK at least, may be illegal. I suspect it is the change for existing employees that surprised people.


One thing may be possible - that they actually took a look at who worked remotely and who worked on site. From that they decided that the 100% remote workers were not producing as well, or were acceptable to lose.

It could be that Yahoo didn't set up their remote work procedures very well and so it lead to poor productivity from remote workers.

Obviously they're willing to risk losing employees so I would guess they put some thought into it.


This was speculated in the following article. Compared to announcing a round of layoffs, reigning in remote workers is probably much less damaging to morale, and they can always ease the restriction or set up a more rationale policy down the road.

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Why...


The article actually makes a lot of sense. In the case of an organization that wasn't set up properly for remote working and then grew out of control for many years - there's probably a lot of people who simply aren't contributing. It saves Yahoo the negative attention that a round of layoffs would bring.


"From that they decided that the 100% remote workers were not producing as well, or were acceptable to lose."

I'm getting the picture that US has few employment rights! It will be interesting to see if any of those directly affected by this break cover and discuss it in public.


> This one however seems to be largely driven by personal preference: if you want to work from home, you can't understand why anyone is against it. If you don't, then you do.

That's pretty condescending. If I don't share your view then I don't understand the situation?

I do prefer working from home but I perfectly understand the disadvantages, and I understand the advantages of working in an office. That doesn't mean that they weigh out to the same preference for me as they do for you.

> Firstly, working from an office doesn't not exclude a flexible work schedule.

You can have a flexible work schedule while working in an office, but that does undermine the major reason companies usually want people to work in an office; being accessible. If you're not there while other people are there you might as well not be there at all. In fact, if you are remote but working the same hours as your coworkers, you are more accessible than someone who is working in the same building but at different times.

> As far as not being bothered, this can certainly be true. This is actually part of the reason why I often wear headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones do a pretty good job of filtering out a lot of noise but just the act of wearing headphones I tend to find acts as a psychological barrier from others bothering you.

Again, if you're going to make yourself more isolated and inaccessible, why work in an office to begin with? You're citing reasons you should be working from home rather than reasons why working at an office is advantageous.

> The other issue, and this particularly applies to large companies, is one of culture. Culture like team cohesion is orders of magnitude easier to spread when physically colocated. For a company the size of Google (my employer), IMHO this is far more important than any individual perceived benefits about permanent remote work.

There are plenty of companies who work in person that either have toxic or no real culture. OTOH, there are plenty of companies that work remotely that have a great culture. You can do plenty while working remotely to spread culture; it's either there in everything the company does or it's missing.

There's nothing special about working from an office w/regards to culture, especially when personnel are working random hours and wearing headphones to isolate themselves.

> Also, I disagree with the position that this "punishes" good employees.

Well, you're wrong, and this goes far beyond working remotely or not. If you hire somebody with a given benefit -- whether that's the opportunity to work remotely, free cafeteria, health care, paid overtime, etc. -- and then you take that benefit away, that's punishing your employees. There's no two bits about it. Whether you personally would take advantage of that benefit or not does not matter. It is punishing the people who did take advantage of it, and that's simple fact.


I agree with most of your points.

But this:

"Again, if you're going to make yourself more isolated and inaccessible, why work in an office to begin with?"

Working with headphones signals "don't bother me unless important" and does provides protection against a degree of interruptions and noise but still provides accessibility and potential closeness that you can't get when working remotely.


Tell that to Linus Torvalds. Rails core. Ruby core. Give them an ultimatum: move to where HQ is, or lose commit access. See how quickly those projects die.

Microsoft has an in-person team whose Win32 user land APIs are confusing, some of which came from Win16 bolted to the side of Win32. Which is made bigger with the WinRT APIs, which also keep all the Win32 APIs thereby making Surface unwieldy. And I imagine Ballmer likes to keep his team on site for chair throwing...

And yet Linux is eclipsing many kernel projects not just in share but performance. Hell, Torvalds is fully capable of flaming people to tears via email! They're half a world apart and he can still rip a new one :)


That observation about work as transactional vs social is great, thank you. It has summed up a problem which I hadn't found an adequate definition for.

It tallies with my experience that remote workers, integrated into a mostly office based environment does largely end up being transactional. Another problem is that there can be transactional workers in the office, and I would characterize those folks as usually the least likely to participate with remote workers too. So you can get a double hit.

However, the best remote setups I've seen have been where someone who largely works remotely is heavily social usually using their occasional time in the office effectively.


The truth is that only smart people can make remote working work. What medium to big companies can afford to hire only - or even mostly - smart people? Not to mention that smart people who really want to dance at their own beat start their own businesses. Hence, for medium to bigger companies, the cost of catering to smart people surpasses the advantages.


The only policies that truly do not scale are those that reward compliance over productivity.


I think that this is all being blown far out of proportion, when people are in the office, there is a lot more intent, you are there to work, sure you could spend it surfing HN, or whatever, but you are under more pressure to produce results.

In my experience, having someone there in person is a lot more productive, I get immediate responses to my queries and they get immediate responses to their work, no waiting around for emails to be responded to.

We are seeing a company taking away something we - as employees - like, in addition to our $120,000 per year wages, our paid healthcare, our free office snacks and clothes washing and our free donated dairy cow.

I wonder if, in a few years if the bubble pops, we will look back fondly on the days of decadence and wish things where still the same?

-------------

Also, totally unrelated, just realized I've been a member of HN for 6 months, cool landmark :)


...but you are under more pressure to produce results.

No, really, it is the opposite. You're fine as long you as you sit on your computer from 9 to 5. Working from home, there's a constant pressure to produce actual results, because that's what you are judged by. I find it more stressful and there's more tendency to do overtime (you're already home anyway, right?).

I get immediate responses to my queries and they get immediate responses to their work, no waiting around for emails to be responded to.

There are many ways around this, chat clients being the most obvious. Also, continuously interrupting people can be very counterproductive, specifically if you do intellectual work.

We are seeing a company taking away something we - as employees - like

There's many people for which working remotely isn't actually a choice, barring a change of employer.

I wonder if, in a few years if the bubble pops, we will look back fondly on the days of decadence and wish things where still the same?

I've done consulting jobs both locally and remotely, and if you ask me, in a few years time we'll consider non-remote working (when it isn't necessary for the job) a thing of foolishness.


I think this is exactly right. It is easy to measure 'time in chair', but that isn't a metric of productivity. Productivity is harder to measure so 'time in chair' is often the substitute.

When you work remotely you don't have 'time in chair' as a proxy for productivity so you have no choice but to prove yourself through your output.

When in an office you can stare at the wall all day and have it considered "work".

Working remotely isn't for everyone. Some people do not have the self-discipline. Don't allow those people to work remotely or don't hire them at all.

There are other benefits to working in the same meat-space: culture, easy collaboration, etc. I don't believe pressure to produce results is one of them. I also think that most of those advantages are disappearing or gone with chat, email, skype, google hangouts, and other collaboration solutions.


> In my experience, having someone there in person is a lot more productive, I get immediate responses to my queries and they get immediate responses to their work, no waiting around for emails to be responded to.

More productive for who? You? Better hope that person wasn't in the middle of something important when you broke his/her train of thought that will take a good half hour for them to recover.


No train of thought takes half an hour to recover, that is massively scaled up to make my point sound ridiculous. That aside, if I feel it is important enough that it required an immediate response prompting me to go all the way to their desk, then it's most likely more productive for the entire company.

I should probably post-face this with the fact that I am one of only 2 devs at my company, the rest are content production / design / marketing.


Actually studies suggest that for "knowledge workers" like programmers 25 minutes is the average amount of time it takes to recover from an interruption to a task. So half an hour lost to an interruption isn't that bad an estimate. Anecdotally I've certainly had times deep into debugging complex problems where an interruption has needed a lot longer than 30 minutes to recover from.


This. I find I can generally get back into feature writing within 5-10 minutes. Debugging can take much longer. This is the number one reason for staying late, because I know that if I leave this issue now, it will take me half of tomorrow just to get back to this particular spot.


> That aside, if I feel it is important enough that it required an immediate response prompting me to go all the way to their desk, then it's most likely more productive for the entire company.

You must have some incredible judgment then. Do you trust all of your coworkers with having that same level of judgment?


This is an old debate, but you getting immediate responses to your queries and them getting immediate responses to their work means that you're interrupting each other when an email would've been non-intrusive.

That's basically my #1 problem where I work: we're in big open-spaces and you get interrupted all the time. Sometimes just having someone talk next to you can be enough to break your train of thought.

That being said, I agree it's very helpful to be able to talk in person sometimes. I think the solution is just something hybrid, you work remotely a certain portion of the time and get to the office for the other days.

I would be interested to hear yahoo's reason for giving up on remote work though. This article is a bit unsubstantial.


At my company, we have a place called Quarantone, where people can go not to be disturbed for a couple of hours, that aside, if you are at your desk, it generally means that contact is fine :)


That seems like a good compromise. But then you need quite a bit of spare room in the office dedicated to your "Quarantone". That can be quite hard to find if depending on where your company is located.


> In my experience, having someone there in person is a lot more productive, I get immediate responses to my queries and they get immediate responses to their work, no waiting around for emails to be responded to.

That's great that this is the case for you in the situation you were in; but the assertion that "people who work in an office together share instant communication, and people who work remotely have slow communication" is obviously false.

I've worked plenty of real world offices where communication was done only via email and took ages.

On the other hand, the job I work at now, I work remotely 4 days a week and communication is instantaneous. We have a company IRC server and if you're working it's expected you'll be on there. There's always phones but IRC + email work 99% of the time.

Remote work is the future; the reasons to work in an office together are evaporating. As remote video conferencing improves (and as someone who uses it every week, let me tell you, it still sucks) the benefits of being together in person disappear.

This is an idiotic move by Yahoo!, and shows that they have no clue what the are doing.


I get immediate responses to my queries and they get immediate responses to their work, no waiting around for emails to be responded to

It really depends on people/culture, but I find a shared IRC channel where people idle and are reasonably responsive to be the #1 way to have relatively friction-free quick coordination, even with people in the same building. Physical colocation is 2nd-best, email/Skype 3rd-best.

In fact, I think local is superior to remote mainly in the opposite case: where you need lengthy meetings, especially with more than two people. In that case, videoconferencing and email get unwieldy. But for routine quick queries I find IRC a lot better than walking over to someone's office, to the extent that someone local who doesn't use IRC (or isn't responsive on it) feels more distant to me than someone remote who does.


I think of it in another way: The ship is sinking. It's bad. Time to throw out the gold crates. Time to throw out the limping crew.

Sure the limping fellas can spot land. Maybe hes even good at it. Better than others. However the ship is going down, its time to try whatever possible in hopes of saving it.


You're unfortunately being down voted because others don't agree so I uprooted since you're on topic.

I was a remote employee for the last almost two years at Cheezburger with many others. We had a culture of emails not taking forever and a day to respond to and if you needed a response now you could Skype, google talk, jabbr, phone call whoever you needed.

The whole organization was committed to it.

On top of that, everyone I knew worked like mad. There were definitely pros and cons and I'm sure the pros outweighed the cons.


I'm finding the swinging karma quite humorous to watch, in any case.

I agree mostly with your point, but the problem is this - the gargantuan size of the company leads to problems, there are always going to be a couple of ass holes who sneak under the radar, the people who do the minimum amount of work possible, working from wherever they want and being paid for it. It's a shame that the actions of these people can make employers naturally suspicious of hiring people to work remotely when I'm sure most are decent and hard working.


This seems like an overly broad sword to cut with though - an explicit assumption that working in the office is by definition more productive than working remote.

Employees can be unproductive in the office just as much as remote employees can be super-productive at home. Yahoo just seems to be taking the easiest to see metric for "productive".


>In my experience, having someone there in person is a lot more productive, I get immediate responses to my queries and they get immediate responses to their work, no waiting around for emails to be responded to.

Corporate IM is one solution to this.


It sounds like you don't have very much experience working as a remote employee or with remote employees. I feel like I'm under more pressure when I'm remote. I'm constantly trying to stay focused because I'm paranoid that the company will say "you aren't doing anything" and remove my WFH privileges. In the office I spend more time on HN and other time wasting because it's much harder to make the argument that you aren't getting your job done when you are physically in the office for 9-10 hours.


sure you could spend it surfing HN, or whatever, but you are under more pressure to produce results

As someone who has worked independently and for others in offices and remotely, the above statement is the exact opposite of reality.

When people are in the office non-production is perversely seen as production. Where warming a seat and having lots of busy work meetings and filling white boards full of inanity is "the gears of work".

When working remotely, the sole indicator of accomplishment is actual production. All of the bullshit is pushed aside.

We are seeing a company taking away something we - as employees - like, in addition to our $120,000 per year wages, our paid healthcare, our free office snacks and clothes washing and our free donated dairy cow.

As humorous as that is, your "heed the man" advice is quaintly archaic. A business like Yahoo is nothing but the combined work of a bunch of smart people. We've seen -- time and time again -- that many such companies are driven and succeed because of a subset of those people, so it is dangerous, dangerous ground to offend them. Because they become the upstarts that grind places like Yahoo into dust.

The world has changed. We all have the tools, the technology, the capacity to scale, the communications mediums, and the audience. It is nothing like it was.

EDIT: Places like Reddit, Digg, Slashdot are by far busiest during the North American work day. These are by and large people working in offices.


It's worth noting that the author doesn't really know how Yahoo arrived at that decision. Yahoo very well may have evaluated remote work productivity or be aware of other situations or metrics that make it clear, they needed to terminate remote work programs. I feel pretty confident that Marisa Mayer didn't just wake up and make a rash decision to terminate remote work without fully evaluating and understanding the situation, the impact and the benefits.


Working from home is boring. I spent 1 1/2 years working from home but now much prefer working in my client's office with the team. It seems no one else is either willing to admit this, or I am the only one who prefers the social interactions and the ability to resolve and issue face-to-face in 2 minutes rather than struggling on Skype, or waiting for emails.


Boring for you, not me.

What I find boring is being told about how drunk some lad got at the week end, or some one's latest recipe, or how a hubby is a git, or how the immigrants are taking all the jobs or how benefits claimants are scroungers or how blah, blah, blah............ all of with puts me off working in an office, well, working at all. And even if I politely make it clear I'm not interested, the drone of social BS continues in the back ground.

Others thrive on that, but in my experience, spend a lot of time gossiping and not working. Meanwhile, I'm at home working twice as hard because I'm worried other will think I'm being lazy and watching TV or some such. But that is just my experience.

Truth is it all depends on culture, personality, role and circumstance.


the ability to resolve and issue face-to-face in 2 minutes rather than struggling on Skype, or waiting for emails.

If you're not coordinating your remote workers on an IRC-like system, you're likely doing it wrong. (That's my experience, if someone else has successfully used other systems I'd like to hear about it)

Also, if most of the team is on site and the remote people are a small minority, things are going to suck, unless management is also off-site.


I think you are spot on - I've done a lot of working from home, but it's by far the most satisfying when there's a chat room (or IRC) system setup. It makes it fun, I feel more connected, and I think we are more productive that way.


There's advantages and disadvantages to both but I think you're in a minority if you overall prefer working in an office all the time.

Personally I like working from home as the default and meeting in person when needed/appropriate.


Your priority isn't everyone else's priority. The luxury you exercise in walking over and disturbing someone to enlist them to help you fix your problem comes at a price of latency to them in how long it takes them to get back on task after you walk away happy that you got your problem fixed and that you had a social interaction.


I worked a year from home and came to similar conclusions. It was fun for the first month or so, but after that I was missing the face-to-face conversations, the happy hours and the general "buzz" of an office.


As someone working remote, it's telling to me that the fun part of working in an office are all things that are...not actually working :)


i'm not sure i would describe myself as a remote worker but instead, a worker that comes in when there are advantages to coming in: a set of meetings, a day where I need tons of facetime to nail things down, things that that are worth the commute.

This is about 2x a week. I consciously batch these days up with as much of this as possible. I work at home the other 3 days (on average again, some weeks I'm in the whole week, some week I am at home the whole week).

I find this incredibly productive. I crush the people that work in the office full time. I have time to be healthy with the regained hours from commuting (40min in my case). I can afford a house.

Sorry, but the butts in seats mentality is crazy and I'm not going back. Even for Google (where I've worked), which was nice, but failed on this score.


I'm Sorry, but I would prefer to live in a place where on the hottest day in summer, the ocean water is not freezing cold. Or a place where my kids can grow up and not have to worry about drinking polluted groundwater. Or a place where even though I live 5 miles from work, it still takes me an hour each way to get there. Or a place where the housing is not so out of touch with reality that a 2 bedroom shack costs $600K, when in any other part of the country that same house would be less than $60K.


What better place do you have in mind? I don't live in the bay area anymore because of some of these very problems. I moved to the New York area instead and am somewhat regretting it. The bay area has problems but it is a pretty decent place for tech folks. I'm genuinely interested if you have done your home work and know of better options. The other place we are considering is Austin. Chicago would be there too but we have had it with cold weather.


Well, my take on this is unique only because I did work for Yahoo for years, and in the beginning I worked on-site, but then for years after that I worked 100% remotely from my house in Spring Hill, Florida. The way I work is remotely, and I will work on-site for a small time, and after trust is built up, the work is largely done remotely from then on.


People at Yahoo need to "work" first to qualify for "remote work". I think this is the right direction. Get the team together, develop team spirit and then transform the company.


Firstly, I'm a huge fan of proper home working. Simply, it works for me.

The general "vibe" I get from this is that that new management has arrived and is concerned about productivity. I assume that if new management has arrived, they would or should know what productivity levels should be and that yahoo remote staff are lacking. If so, then from a management POV, it does seem quickest and simplest to notionally get everyone back to base and kind of hit a reset switch.

If yahoo is now a low ranked place to work, then I can well imagine that in general its employees are a bit low ranked too, and perhaps some of the more lazy ones looking for a lax easy life. Presumably the quality people will have left. In which case, remote working cant work well at all.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the employees, this can only happen or go wrong if management lets it. But, I think one should support a new regime that is presumably trying to sort it out. Presumably, and if it were me, they will assess the situation and bit by bit allow people out of the office again, but with new procedures, guidelines or what ever.

So, to be honest, I think I can see what yahoo is doing. Yes it is painful for the good remote employees that are left there, but if thing are going wrong, they need to support the attempts to fix it.

Or...... I've missed the point somewhere.


> I assume that if new management has arrived, they would or should know what productivity levels should be and that yahoo remote staff are lacking.

That certainly sounds like what most new management thinks they know.


I SSH to REMOTE servers form home OR from office. So what difference does it make? Well, yes, it may change some interaction because you could grab a coffee with people. And I kinda like to work in office but I DO work from home a lot. And even if I am in the office I still talk to most people on IM. Yahoo's new policy is garbage. Or explanation why they do it is garbage.


Sigh, not this sh*t again.

Yahoo's problem is (and always has been for quite a while) bad middle-management. (See my earlier posts; like Punxsatawney Phil, I come out only on occasion). These middle MF'ers have been running the company into the ground with their lack of vision, petty infighting and sheer idiocy. This has led to MM and her cohorts to basically not trust the lower half of the company.

So the rank-and-file are paying the price for MM's inability to weed out the rotten layer of middle managers.

Instead of cracking down on the WFH crowd, she should crack down on middle managers.

1. Get rid of any manager who has less than 8 direct reports

2. Anyone of the level 'director' or above must justify their positions (there has been severe rank inflation in Yahoo in the past)

3. Anyone who has been at Yahoo for more than 2 years and in a position of authority must be forced to analyze why their property declined over that period, and what they could have done to avoid it. There is too much of 'shoot and scoot' at Yahoo: managers jump on any hot item, botch it up and then move on


I would guess they're changing culture, then firing those that don't fit (or have lost all intrinsic motivation) through performance reviews, then making the rest sing and dance until they get burned out, finally replacing those that left or were fired with new blood baptized by the new regime.


New article from Business Insider with "inside information" for what that's worth:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ex-yahoos-confess-marissa-may...

"'For what it's worth, I support the no working form home rule. There's a ton of abuse of that at Yahoo. Something specific to the company.' This source said Yahoo's large remote workforce led to 'people slacking off like crazy, not being available, spending a lot of time on non-Yahoo! projects.'"

"Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won't want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It's a layoff that's not a layoff."


Are none of their teams distributed? I'd imagine if you have a distributed team, what's the difference if an employee works from home occasionally. The theory being that their boss or most of their team isn't in their location already.

I can understand if Yahoo is making a shift to shore up some things in house. Hopefully if that is the case, they return to a policy that allows more work from home.

This is a battle that Gen Y'ers are going to have with aging management who can only manage people they can see/touch/watch. I thought we as an IT culture were doing better moving away from those old tenants but news like this doesn't make it look good.


I have absolutely no data on this, but it struck me as a lazy and sneaky way of making layoffs. It looks tough and decisive "She has a vision!" without spooking Wall Street with the "Yahoo starts the layoffs!" headlines.


Sometimes Wall Street responds favourably to shedding employees. I guess it just depends on the general outlook of the company. If the outlook is good, then they are just 'cutting costs' and 'shedding cruft.' If the outlook on a company is shaky or bad, then it's just seen as a desperate move to keep the company afloat.


Not allowing remote work seems as out-of-touch and inflexible as the types of companies that impose 3-year minimum laptop leases. It smells of an organization that is run by manufacturing MBAs and not creatives.

These are the companies that straddle the past - vision-less, fearful, and clinging to hierarchy and control instead of embracing risk and riding and harnessing waves of change. These are the types of companies that see their employees as cost lines in a P&L spreadsheet, instead of as untapped resources with limitless potential for creation.


I'm generally a fan of 37 Signals and the way they treat their people. I also don't have any knowledge about any of this other than what I come across on the internet. My current company doesn't have a set WFH policy, it varies by department and sometimes seems hypocritical when you realize that there are overseas contractors. This is my disclaimer.

I disagree with this post. From everything that I understand from what I've read it seems like one of the major issues at Yahoo is a culture thing. This doesn't seem so much like a trust thing to me. It comes across to me as a way to rebuild an identity by changing the environment and you can't control the environment when people don't come in to the office.

It does seem to me like there is potential to lose some good employees up front, for sure. I don't assume this decision is a short term move. Whenever management makes a decision that is more restrictive, or against popular opinion, there is always out lash. Then it dies down. New people start and it's the only thing they know so it's not a big deal.

The people are going to be the ones who change the company, and to change their mindsets, and reinvigorate them it seems like a culture change would be a good thing in the long run. The current policy clearly isn't working, how bad could this really be?

I love the idea of working from home, being independent and working autonomously, but it has its place. It's situational at best and this might be the perfect example of a place where it's not currently working. This by no means is saying that it doesn't work for 37 Signals. It seems to work fantastically for them and for many of the customers who use their software. I loved Rework, and I'm definitely looking forward to Remote.

Not everything is black and white.


I am a full time telecommute developer. I am slowly travelling around the world while telecommuting. The job is awesome and all that anyone has to do to achieve this is just to demand that any job they take be 100% telecommute.

There are, however, a couple things that one should keep in mind.

1) Your competition is global and intense. (How many of you have worked with some of the better Russian or German developers? How do they get so good?)

2) Your pay must be set and comparable to a global standard so forget about silicon valley pay.

3) You are usually a contractor and have no safety nets. So save large chunks of your pay.

Ok, that said, maybe I can relate this to the original article by saying that I've literally seen projects completed about 3x faster and at least 3x cheaper than any other corporation I've worked for that required the workforce to be in-office.

Why? Well, I don't really have the answer. I can speak to my own experience in that I'm judged solely on deliverables. I don't really have a face and as far as the company is concerned I exist as my deliverables... so they better be up to par. The other reason is that working this way requires projects to be organized ON PAPER. Those who have worked at any corporation will understand why that is important. So many managers bullshit their way around doing things like clearly documenting requirements or tracking deliverables. This simply won't work in a telecommute environment.

I really do believe that if I were to hire a team to complete a project I'd do so on a telecommute basis. It's simply cheaper and faster if done correctly and thus gives any company that does so an advantage.

One last point: I don't believe any manager who is not him/herself an engineer is suited to manage such a team.


I think we need to give Marissa a little more credit here, surely she's aware of the adverse immediate effect of such an announcement.

Here is my interpretation: this is a way to flush people who are not productive enough. Yahoo expects them to have left the company by June.

Once this is done, Yahoo will announce that it is restoring work-from-home policy and will offer some very attractive packages to attract talent.


I think a mandate having everyone work from home for a month would be more telling at who the real producers are. This would force succinct communication and everything is on the record. Working remotely forced you to communicate in a more transparent way and actually gives a good manager more evidence to judge an employee by. Of course counting hours is easier for a manager to do.


I do not understand the general uproar against this. I have been working remote alot in my life and i find its not the ideal way to work productive for me and it certainly isnt the ideal way to build a great working culture.

Its more like everyone cooking their own meal, communication is hardly ever as good as it should be in remote teams and you are just more disconnected from the core.

Personally i like my time alone and i get alot of stuff done in less time, but i enjoyed sitting in an office with 4 other engineers alot more. It was alot more fun and not alot less productive, if at all... Working remotely from home makes me feel alone after a few weeks now, i might even call it depressed.

While i think working remotely for some time (1-2 days a week) is awesome, i dont see the future of work as being remote only... I dont want to mix private with work life too much, which happens alot when working from home and i want to feel relaxed at home and not always think about getting back to my desk to get some more work done. And i know alot of people that think the same.


I'm currently working from "home" 100% (since about a year), and to remedy or alleviate this problem I rent a space in a coworking office full of other (mostly non-IT) entrepreneurs/remote workers. It's been working pretty well!


exactly what i will be doing from March onwards, just got the keys :)


I do not understand the general uproar against this. I have been working remote alot in my life and i find its not the ideal way to work productive for me and it certainly isnt the ideal way to build a great working culture.

This can be true, but for those whom it is ideal, why shouldn't there be uproar about it? Can we move your office to the basement, next to the drilling machine, while we take your stapler and forbid anyone to talk to you? This works for me so why are you upset about it?

Working remotely from home makes me feel alone after a few weeks now, i might even call it depressed....I dont want to mix private with work life too much...not always think about getting back to my desk to get some more work done.

These are valid points, and something important to take care of if you're working remote. I'd go batshit insane without friends on IRC, and it takes discipline to maintain a regular working schedule that doesn't venture into the night (too often). Nobody said working remotely is great for everyone. As long as you accept that on-site working is very suboptimal for others too.


Sure, no problem if it works for you. When i was younger it certainly worked for me too, but i now see alot more value in being able to talk to other like minded people during the day, where talk doesnt mean sending messages to an irc channel. That said, i am by no means extroverted and like being alone but i believe that things like working culture, team spirit and motivation are alot easier with people in the same room. Also depends alot on the company, for startups i think its essential that the core team shares the same space, while a corporate programming job an easily be done remotely.


Not surprising comming from a workaholic who sleeps 4 hours a night and thinks a woman should have a baby and get back to work the same week.


I didn't bother to read the original announcement but this line stands out for me:

it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices

Seems to be a statement that good collaboration is only possible when employees occupy the same physical space.

Yahoo has offices across the glove, don't they? Are they going to also ban teams/employees in different offices from working together?


Presumably the idea is that teams are collocated which is where most of the value of team bonding comes from.


Here's a thought, why doesn't Linus Torvalds tell all the Linux core committers that if they want to continue to have commit access, they must show up at the office?

When I was a kid, I learned most of my programming through IRC channels. I worked on projects on Campfire, Skype, Hangout. It's not only possible, but provides a written log and account of decisions made. As well as giving people time to reflect.

The bottom line is that if you don't trust the people you hire, you've already hired wrong. Remote works if you trust your team. I had people working in person playing video games in the office. You can't coerce someone to work; you can only control this at hire time, not runtime.

Yes, it's impossible to tell who will work well remotely. But it's usually pretty obvious. People who will look for new things to do will do so, and people that will steal time can probably only keep up the con for only so long.

Hire right, and remote working works. That also includes in-person hires; they might be sitting there in seat...


Not surprised by 37 Signal's opinion as they've gotten remote to work because of their passion for creating tools that foster communication.

For me, there are 2 ways to look at Yahoo's decision.

One is they are flat out wrong, but thats OK, because they are making decisions (Steve Jobs spoke of this)! Decisions are what moves companies in directions, good or bad, its better than being frozen and stagnant.

Two, I can attest to the cross pollination of ideas when you're together as a team, sharing lunch, sharing experiences, seeing each other in person, reading each other's body language, etc that just doesn't seem to happen at the same level when you're remote. If I were building a team from the ground up I'd want my team to be hanging out everyday ...the other meta of working together doesn't happen over Skype :). I can't tell you how many solutions were dreamed up on the walk to Starbucks. There is just something there that is hard to replicate with software.


A couple observations about this situation:

Yahoo will likely be better off with a an all local workforce. Having spent time working both locally and remotely myself, being local and present with the rest of the team has significant benefits.

That said, the personal costs for the employees in question are likely to be very high, particularly for those that telecommute from places that aren't in driving range of the Yahoo office. My hope is that Yahoo is treating these people as gently as they can.

> Companies like Google and Apple can get away with more restrictive employment policies because they’re at the top of their game and highly desirable places to work. -DHH

The causality my be wrong here... it may not be the goodness of the employer that enables the restrictive employment policy, it may be the restrictive employment policy that enables the goodness of the employer.


One crucial piece of info missing from this article is how long this "no more remote work" policy will be in effect.

Yahoo's cut a lot of staff and (acqui-)hired a lot of new people over the past few months, and so for the sake of team re-building, I can see why they might want to have all staff in one place for a while.

Even if staff are working remotely, it's always better for them to have met and bonded in person at some point - more trust, camaraderie, and goodwill. Maybe this is Marissa Mayer's way of getting everyone on the same page for a few months, and then afterwards people will be able to work remotely again as usual.

If this is a temporary measure to team-build more effectively, then it makes sense. If it's permanent, then I agree with the author DHH that it's a foolish and shortsighted move.


If I now move my family close to an Yahoo office, only to learn that the measure was just temporary, I would be quite angry.

Sure, invite all teams to meet at an office for 2-3 weeks of networking, team-building etc. That's a great idea, but not what is happening here.


What works for a company the size of 37 signals may not work for a company with thousands of workers.


It works quite well at IBM, head-count around 400k.


While I agree with many points in the post, there are some things the author is missing.

I have several friends who have worked at large floundering companies cough Best Buy cough. As soon as a new CEO comes in, this is usually the first thing to go in terms of perks to the worker bees. They try and frame it up in many ways, but overall, it's an attempt to try and focus your work, and rally the troops in order to help stagnate morale.

The ironic part was the lower managers immediately convened a meeting of developers after the CEO's announcement, and told everybody, "Yeah, this isn't going to affect our group - carry on and continue to do what you need to do. Even if it means working remotely a good part of the time."


At my corp of 40,000 souls we are, year by year, diminishing the number of full time resident workers in favour of mobile workers and home based workers, all as a way to cut costs, save office space and increase the bottom line.


DHH points are valid, and I agree with him that this move shows how much Yahoo trusts its employees. That basically means they have no clue why they're falling appart and think the answer is "people need to work more".

But we have to keep in mind that 37signals is a very differend kind of company. I'm not sure remote work is that suited to big companies. So they may be right in principle but they're handling it poorly.

tldr of the article: http://tldr.io/tldrs/512b80b57ad42f2e2500000a/no-more-remote...


works fine for IBM


My sense is that Yahoo is about to start doing some reorganization.

- There might be some trial and error runs of different managers (ergo, a period of quick reorganization) - Leadership might want to simply make their mark on the organization - It might be about establishing a culture of secrecy a la Apple (this is a stretch)

I do sense it's a symptom of a serious cultural problem. Layoffs might be coming. However, I'd expect more people to just to be straight up fired, without the big "we're reducing headcount" sort of announcement.


I worked for a company that's 100% remote workers. It didn't work for me, because I had too many distractions at home & my friends thought I wasn't working and always asked me to do errands during the day. On the other hand, it obviously worked for a lot of people, since they've been in business for 20 years doing custom programming.

That taught me that I actually prefer working in an office, as long as I don't have to drive to work.


I think Ms. Mayer is doing the right thing for Yahoo! at _this_ time.

Yahoo! needs to be in high-contact mode for a time while it gets its company culture sorted out. There is no room for people who aren't willing to commit to full participation in the company and its day-to-day functioning in the highest bandwidth form there is; being present.

This is not a strike at working remotely in general, its Yahoo! dealing with Yahoo!'s issues.


in this day and age the notion that remote work hinders communication or scalability is absolutely absurd. Sure, it may hinder certain types of social interaction and communication, but in terms of collaborative engineering, it does not. Open source projects have managed tens, hundreds and even thousands of developers on single projects using rather primitive mailing lists, irc channels and source control. These days we have hangout and facetime, skype, hipchat... endless lists of intuitive textual, audible, and visual communication tools, project management tools, team management tools, code management tools... Using the right tools and practices, remote working is FAR MORE scalable than in-office working, because you can leverage a mass of employees from all over the world without the need to build out office space, infrastructure and other overhead to facilitate physical colocation.

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/02/why-we-still-believe-i...


Open source projects tend to be almost entirely remote. That’s qualitatively different from a company like Yahoo!, which I imagine to be majority in-office, with some remotes.

From the link you shared (which I strongly agree with):

There’s no halfsies in a distributed team. If even one person on the team is remote, every single person has to start communicating online... no more dropping in to someone’s office to chat, no more rounding people up to make a decision

So the in-office members are forced into contortions to accommodate the remotes. That may be OK if the team is committed to the practice, like stack exchange is. But if Yahoo! is run like a traditional company, designed around in-office work with occasional exceptions made for remotes, then those remotes burden the in-office team members, and absolutely hinder communication.


I get the stigma of "cool companies" that have chefs that serve organic meals 4 times a day, but are those benefits really all that superficial? As a new graduate who has to move to likely a very expensive part of the US to work for them, making the transition easier by eliminating some worries from my life (like doing lots and lots of grocery shopping) is a pretty nice benefit.


No, not at all. Serving meals makes it much easier to convince your team to go to lunch together (though many folks will eat at their desks, PLEASE DISCOURAGE THIS). Lunching together with your team frequently is the single best benefit of a company that offers cafes for employees. It's one of the ways non-urgent but important information propagates around an organization.


It is possible to believe both of the following:

(A) Remote working is a good thing, and the best companies will embrace it, now and increasingly in the future.

(B) Ending remote working arrangements is the right thing for Yahoo right now.

There is a path-dependence in corporate structures and cultures. Yahoo needs big changes. Even somewhat arbitrary changes with collateral damage could help re-form habits of interaction.


I some times wonder if this is a test. We've all been looking at it from the engineering perspective, but I sometimes wonder if its a test of management. Is somebody trying to see if there is any manager inside of Yahoo that can justify remote team members? It is those managers who are going to lose people when those remote people quit or have to be laid off.


Wow. Why are we all of a sudden so interested in what Yahoo is doing these days? They aren't a leader in, well, anything, but now the internet is in a frenzy about this work-from-home recall.

How's this for an idea? Let's see if Yahoo is a company worth looking at for leadership. They aren't? Oh. Then let their policies die with them.


Well, people who like the idea of working from home don't like the bad publicity remote working is getting from the ban at Yahoo.


Exactly this. As a full time remote worker, I fear the "monkey-see-monkey-do" fallout that could come of it. Yahoo may not be a "leader" in anything, but their CEO is one of the most respected people in Silicon Valley. When she makes a move such as this one, people notice.


I get that. It's just a dead horse at this point. The only ones keeping it alive seem to be the defensive work-at-home people.


This reminds me of of my college. There are so many times when I want to study myself but they have a strict attendance criterion which I have to fulfil.

I do not like this new decision. Yahoo looked on a nice path after Merrisa coming back but this is a bad decision for workers. No matter they will leave soon!


I see a lot of people whining about trust and dictatorship ... but perhaps the situation is worst then it seems from the outside, and that Yahoo is actually full of complacency and laziness, and getting them all under the same roof is the only way to clean the place correctly.


> Yahoo already isn’t at the top of any “most desirable places to work” list.

Yahoo ranked #8 on this list. http://www.businessinsider.com/best-employers-in-america-201...


This article seems like an excellent response to OP. It was posted 496 days ago.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3123135


Basically, remote working works and is good.

At Yahoo it was nor working - being abused, bad habits and policy engrained over years.

Doesn't mean it won't be back down the road. I think they're just cleaning house.


That doesn't make any sense. If a person is unproductive or abusing a policy, you fire them, publicly. You don't ban the policy.

Now everyone who wasn't abusing the policy but was only still working at Yahoo because of it will leave. This is called throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


I'd like to see ratio between remote and office employees for 37signals. My bet is they're not, contrary to the popular belief, mostly remote-work company.


I wonder if someone's going to try to call this constructive dismissal. Probably somebody in a different state with a spouse who can't just up-and-leave.


I'm in a wheelchair. Transport and accommodation is tricky. These policies really, really suck.


We all love a sensational post!

"Of course not, you’re going to be angry at such a callous edict, declared without your consultation" seems a bit out of place when the pull quote from Yahoo! reads: "If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps"


it's really not, just less bs


on twitter my interaction with dhh me: @dhh been to yahoo office and things are recovering, just reserve your judgement till 3rd quarter results are out , hoping for a miracle

dhh: @senthilnayagam No miracle forthcoming will be due to killing remote working programs.

me: this one is a boomerang, it is targeted at yahoo management team and managers who are comfortable in their old ways me: those who wanted to abandon the yahoo ship have already done it, yahoo has to float first before it can sail again


Get'em Dave


I don't think he goes by Dave, any more than he drinks beer. :p


This is an excellent analysis of the situation. I generally prefer to work in the office over remote work, because it's preferable from a networking perspective, but a zero-tolerance approach to it is ridiculous.

My personal hunch is that this is a move to reduce headcount. Yahoo's top management doesn't want to put the company through a layoff, and they're not organized enough to know which projects to cut, so this is their hail-mary complexity reduction step. It's a way to shave off a few percent without having to terminate people. Unfortunately, the cultural side effects are going to be massive. It's bad for the executive image as well. "We're out of ideas."

WFH exists for sociological reasons in addition to the obvious benefits (geographic reach, lower stress levels). Engineers are smart. They know they're not all going to climb the ladder and become top dogs. Not everyone wants that, either. The right to WFH gives people the tacit ability to "grow away" to a 10-hour work week, taking pressure off the competition for visibility and rank and allowing the organization to actually function. It gives people a path whereby, instead of climbing the organizational ladder, their efficiency gains are paid back to them in the ability to retain employment with a reduced work footprint. If you're twice as efficient as a typical office drone (which is not hard) then you can work a 20-hour week.

When you go back to the ass-in-chair regime, management has more control and the social stakes are higher. People aren't going to be happy putting in 40-50 dedicated hours and not having control. To a myopic executive who thinks everyone should be like him or her, that seems like a good thing because it makes people "hungry", but it's actually dysfunctional because the competition for rank is extremely counterproductive.

Next up is the Micromanagement Death Spiral. Macroscopic underperformance leads to individual overperformance by managers, the problem being that managerial overperformance (heightened control, micromanagement) is toxicity. That will exacerbate the company's macroscopic issues and lead to more micromanagement... the vicious cycle.


No doubt will this reduce head count but on what expense? My guess is that it pushes more talented people out which can start the downward spiral. This is something we have seen in Finland with Nokia: when the company decided to give people the choice to leave and get a severance package, it meant that the best people left to join startups and to do something else. After you start to bleed talent like this it's hard to go back.


I know that is typical, but in this case Google didn't approve of it either and Marissa came from Google.


Agree weed out but Y likely met with their top employees well ahead of the announcement to discuss strategy, intent, duration (almost certainly temporary) and get feedback?

If Y and MM indeed did have those discussions ahead of time then I like this - shake things up with change and maybe even some chaos - it is needed - even if there are some negative consequences mixed in.

x weeks from now, post weed out, we will see Y go right back to standard WFH.


I think your analysis is correct in the case of convex organizations, but Yahoo is probably primarily concave. In that case 19th-century management "move towards the median" techniques actually are effective.


TL;DR: Here's the thing: All engineering is "working remotely" because being "remote" is simply a matter of isolation. This is why even people in the same room use headphones, IM, etc. Everything that's not working remotely (eg: isolation) is "meetings" and the overhead of distractions. The only advantage of having engineers in the same office is a lower cost of meetings. The disadvantage is it makes engineering harder.

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This decision shows me that Meyer doesn't respect or understand engineering culture. She's bought into the management BS "accidental collaboration" rationalization for industrial age butts-in-seats ideology.

Engineering culture comes, to a great degree, from the way you treat engineers and the process of engineering.

Treating engineers like cubicle bunnies who just can't wait to get interrupted by their Pointy Haired Boss is not conducive to building a good engineering culture.

In fact, requiring people to be in the office shows an anti-engineering mentality, because engineering, an effort of the mind, requires situations that are best for the mind.

Two key things enable good engineering: Collaboration (which requires communication) and coherent thought (which requires silence or peace or the isolation from interruption necessary to do it.)

This means that even if every engineer is in the same room, they're going to start "working remotely" by isolating each other via the use of headphones, and a preference for non-interruptive working (Eg: send email, or an IM rather than walk over and tap the engineer on the shoulder.)

It's true that in an office getting together in a conference room to has something out is easier and more convenient, but the tradeoff is that even with all the isolation people try to put into effect interruption creep is a real thing- eg: meetings, etc.

Working remotely prevents these interruptions at the slight cost of a higher level of effort needed to have a "meeting" (using a virtual whiteboard or just a phone call or whatever.)

So, if you spend most of your time in meetings, then you need everyone together.

If you value engineering and spend most of your time engineering, then whether people are together or apart physically, they are all isolating each other and effectively "Working remotely".

IM, Email and other collaboration tools that allow engineer isolation work as well whether the engineer is in the office or across the country.

Plus, lets not forget the minimum 2 hours of lost productivity that comes form requiring people to go to an office- either the commute (and the resulting need to get into work)-or the long lunches at those free cafeterias, and the endless cycle of distractions that are accepted non-work in offices. A "15 minute coffee break" at the office really has a 20-40 minute work interruption, because it often involves other people, while that same break working remotely can easily be exactly 15 minutes, and likely will be shorter because 10 minutes is enough to get the same level of relaxation from the day.

Almost everything in an office is designed to distract you from engineering, and the cost of this overhead is significant.


Great reasoning, it certainly resonates with my experiences.

Two additional notes:

1. Working remotely demands the ability that you can assess each-other's work. Most managers are not capable to measure how SW developers work, so they fall back to measure the hours you spend in the office.

2. Moving information is much cheaper today than it was even 5 years ago. It is certainly cheaper to have a regular daily videoconf / whiteboard meeting, than move everyone in the same location. And we haven't even mentioned that moving families across the country or across countries is not cheap either. I'd really love a honest analysis on how these aspects compare to the perceived loss in office communication. My guess is that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.


> Meyer doesn't respect or understand engineering culture

I think somebody doesn't understand where Mayer came from.


I know exactly where Meyer came from, and a fair bit of inside baseball about her time there.

If you disagree with my argument, please make a counter argument. Snide comments are useless.


She IS an engineer. What else do you need to understand engineering culture, other than to have been one for years?


She was an engineer, very briefly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Mayer




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