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Opening Arguments

Work, work, work

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer caused a major freakout this week when it was reported she was barring employees from working at home. In a time when the trend is for more workplace flexibility, this seems like a major step backward.

This move will either 1) reinvigorate the company by fostering greater collaboration and "serendipitous encounters" that bring out the best ideas or, 2) Doom the company by crashing employee morale.

I'm more inclined to the latter view. It's OK if workers don't have certain benefits -- they can't miss what they never had. But it always creates ill will when benefits are taken away -- who doesn't resent the removal of something they've come to expect? Furthermore:

Schwartz calls the centuries-old practice of companies trading money for workers’ time outdated, since time spent working doesn’t accurately reflect the real value that worker is or isn’t generating. He argues instead for a system based on autonomy and accountability, in which companies set clear goals for employees, who then have wide leeway to reach those goals in whatever way works best for them.

Under such a goal-oriented approach, an all-or-nothing policy on working from home doesn’t really make sense. The issue isn’t so much the effect working from home versus the office has on performance and productivity. It’s the irrationality of trying to enforce uniformity when different goals might require different ways of working.

Just tell me what the company's goals are and what my part is in reaching those goals, then leave me alone to do it in my own way. Don't measure all those silly inputs but judge me by my outputs. That would be pretty much my dream job.

Of course I've never actually worked for a company that was run that way, so I'm only speculating. Very few of us have. I suspect the problem is with middle managers. They're not only measuring our performance but also aware they've being measured all the time. It's all very well to assess outcomes, but measuring the inputs like hours worked is a quick way to prove they're doing their jobs when they have to.