Yahoo!’s work from home ban all about rebooting its ‘dysfunctional’ culture

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There’s been much written lately about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer pulling back workers from their home offices as if it’s an attack on telecommuting and the productivity of home-based workers.

It’s neither, it’s Yahoo! trying to reboot its company culture, which has been kindly described by one observer as, “notoriously dysfunctional and disorganized.” It’s been going on for years and it’s time to press the reboot button.

But company culture can’t be remade through telecommuting, it has to be done physically and emotionally.

Mayer knows that changing Yahoo!’s culture is key to success and that she faces a very rocky road.

Successful company culture change at IBM and Hewlett-Packard provide some good case studies and useful pointers but the first place to start has to be to get all staff onto the same page, into the same rooms, and just be together. Company culture is built by a people-to-people mesh network that always works best in the flesh.

Groups create culture, and successful groups create a winning company culture, which can spread and help motivate all parts of an organization. I’ve seen that happen at several Silicon Valley companies.

Also, there is also an opportunity to crack the whip a lot harder and bake that into a new corporate culture. John Gapper, writing in the Financial Times, sees a broad trend by many companies trying to boost staff productivity.

…this is an age of harder work. From intense teamwork at the top to monitoring and surveillance at the bottom, managers are squeezing more from employees than they previously would have dared.

And having staff in an office together creates a peer-pressure effect that pushes them to work harder.

This isn’t a bad thing. Gapper notes, “I would prefer to work hard at a successful company than idle at a demoralized, lethargic one.”


This article by Tom Foremski originally appeared on Silicon Valley Watche, a Burn Media publishing partner.

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