MyFondia VirtualLawyer
March 8, 2013

Listen up: you are allowed to read from a location of your choice!

Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer draw some perhaps not all positive attention last week as she instituted a policy which says that Yahoos (that is employees with Yahoo) are no longer allowed to work from home. Marissa’s decision put some important issues on the spot, both from the perspective of employment law, human capital and communication

Employment Law : what are the possibilities for an employer to decide on these matters? Could an employer change already agreed terms on where the work is to be performed? Well, the answer to the legal questions will differ depending on jurisdiction, which really limits my possibilities to have an opinion in this case. I know how it works in Sweden and I will be happy to discuss that with anyone interested.

Human Capital : the human beings creating the foundation of each business, the worth of many know-how businesses – you know which ones I am talking about; the employees. I have this annoying feeling that Yahoo made this decision not to allow working from distance from the top down, without the employees having the possibility to understand the rationale behind the decision (which very well could be good arguments). This is such a decision were the employer has everything to gain from an “inside and out” decision process. Let the Human Capital of your business be a part of the development. For many well educated employees this is fundamental for their commitment to the employer. My sincere apologizes to Yahoo if I have misunderstood your decision process.

All-over-the-globe-and-above communication : it is astonishing how news on Yahoo’s decision travelled around the web-world, providing us all with some personal thoughts and pictures of this employer. I am not sure this was the best marketing activity in the life of Yahoo. It really makes me consider the possible impacts a decision regarding Human Capital can have. The power of good-will shall always be a part of an employer’s aspects prior to an action of this sort.

So, was Yahoo right in their decision? Where the trend is; “work from wherever, the technique will do wonders “, Yahoo seems to go in the opposite direction. My opinion is that Yahoo is both right and wrong and that really put the pressure on the way we manage working life.

Just because it is possible to work from distance, it is not necessarily good; not always for the individual employees, not always for the team and especially not always for the business. I do understand the company’s argument that “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side”. I also see the difficulties for the employers (read the managers) to keep up the relation with the employees, to check if they are alright, if they need assistance or if they are doing what they are supposed to do. On the other hand, I do see the fantastic benefits for the employees and the employer where there is a balance between all these factors and the employee can work from distance sometimes. It can be quite effective.

So what is the lesson learned? It is not just what you can do from a legal perspective, and this is of course very important, it is also how you want to be perceived as an employer - hopefully an attractive one!