It all started with MM at Yahoo telling all the remote folks they can come to the office or they can quit. Maybe it is more nuanced than that but the gist is Yahoo is trying to clean up and purge some employees. Of course everyone and their dog has jumped on the bandwagon to proclaim what a fuckup it all is and that Yahoo will destroy employee morale and such. I worked at Yahoo for a few years and had the opportunity to bounce around the globe doing cool work. I also had to deal first hand with remote employees and the Yahoo remote is very different from the remote I know and practice.
Yahoo remote is mostly about some long term employees who are resting and vesting. For sure it is not all – and yes MM is probably throwing out a few babies when she dumps the bathwater but I think that will be okay. The signal to the masses is very loud. Yahoo is in a turnaround (yes the stock is up but this is mostly optics. Yahoo has yet to ship anything cool or new and their reach is going down. Not up). Yahoo has WAY TOO MUCH FAT still. Losing hundreds if not thousands of employees would be okay. Yahoo needs to reinforce that some people actually do work hard and come to the office – these people have to constantly hear about overpaid employees who don’t come to the office. Nothing to boost your morale more than the employee who never shows up and actually says no to your ideas even though you have never met. Yeah – that shit happens at Yahoo.
So MM is trying to purge, force change and reinforce some sort of work ethic. The rumors you hear about empty parking lots and people not VPN’ing in are true. Trust me folks – you can’t do shit at Yahoo if you are not logged in to the VPN. No email, no code and none of the glorious Yahoo tools like twikis. I think MM did a bold thing and I think it will help. Sure – down the road when Yahoo is doing better I am sure they can look at this issue again.
The main point is I don’t think what Yahoo is purging is the remote work that others talk about and practice. Yes – there could be a few star employees that need to work remote, still produce and are not the problem. I am not sure how MM and team will deal with this people but my guess is this is not the norm or the bulk of remote workers.
What Andy is doing at Impulse Flyer is not what Yahoo is doing. Andy is building a new company and has a tight, integrated team. So it works. Although he highlights some of the issues that may come down the line – like scaling it with the growth of IF, how to deal with junior employees (engineers or not really) and just the complexities of growing a startup when people are not all sitting together.
I myself have these same issues. At spuul we have some employees remote and I work usually a week or so in Singapore, where spuul HQ is, and then a week or so in Thailand – where my family is. In general I am the remote one most of the time and then when I am in Singapore I try to work like I am always there. It is a tough trade off but my little one, the cutie strapped to my frontside, will only be little once. I didn’t want to miss out on the magic of being around her when she is young.
It is not easy to work sometimes when she can stroll into the office in her walker but at the same time – I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It is also not easy to be in Singapore missing her 4am feeding time. I get a lot done when I am in Singapore and my focus is all about work but I miss my family.
These are the trade offs but fortunately I work with some seasoned founders who know that it is a marathon versus a sprint and that family is #1.
So for me – remote is an amazing lifesaver. For Yahoo, who needs saving, remote might just be too complicated at this stage of a possible, but highly unlikely, turnaround.