Managing remote workforce

Yahoo came under fire for their no-remote work policy recently. There has been a lot of criticisim from various sources — namely people who depend or invest heavily into are supporting the model of remote work. The media from CNN to Twitter have been flooded with opinions siding either with those who benefit from remote workforce and those who feel like they’re being short-changed. Many missed the point that the change behind Yahoo’s policies has nothing to do with either side of the argument. The simple fact is that for some remote work policy might work, for other companies it wouldn’t.

Clearly for Yahoo remote workforce meant that more freedom was left to their employees to make their best judgement. Yahoo felt like, being a company depending on creative efforts, it would do best if allowed the maximum freedom to its employees, at the same time trusting that creative types work best if left unmanaged. Clearly, Yahoo was wrong on that, at least in their own case. The impact of mismanagement of the remote workforce has a direct implications in on quality of Yahoo projects. Most of all mistakes in management translate into delays, resulting in Yahoo lagging behind its competitors, and also its own expectations.

The whole argument has nothing to do with either supporting or rejecting the sole concept of working from home. It has a lot to do with the management and the ill-conceived concept that the best people left with their creative powers deliver the best results if left unmanaged directly. They don’t. Many of Yahoo’s employees were left alone with the projects and in effect they didn’t even bother to check their e-mail once a week or log-in to the corporate portal at all. It’s not that remote work has killed the model. It’s not that lack of talent either. It’s the lack of management, or lack or management systems to be precise.

The lesson learned for Yahoo is very clear. All employees were called in. Even more so this could work as a lesson for many other companies leaving the science and arts of management to the “best judgement” of their employees. Creative types or otherwise cannot be left totally unmanaged as it quickly translates into project delays or lack of progress in general. You can’t just throw a task management system at people and give them access to e-mail and remote desktop and hope for the best outcome. It just doesn’t work like that. Charismatic managers like Meyer or otherwise, people produce best outcomes if managed wisely.