Strengthen Workflex. Don’t go after Marissa Mayer
It took me all day to make this call.
Yahoo announced that it is seeking to relocate its remote workforce in the office. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer was under scrutiny all day. My first reaction was also disappointment. But the more I thought about the issue, the more complex threads kept emerging. Here are some thoughts.
CEO Side Story: Anyone who has built a product company will tell you that sleeping under the desk and 3am code deployment makes it happen. If you are a company that is finding its way and working on rebuilding the pieces of its puzzle, you would like all hands on deck. You need a settled internal organization and clear process flow to figure out employment and work formats. Workflex might not a possibility in an amoebic and evolving business scenario. Telecommuting and remote work is an investment most companies are not prepared to make into their future at this point, mostly because either they are not clear or they do not know how to do it well.
Yahoo Internals: At heart it is a Yahoo internal business matter, with most of us having little or no information. The details might seem totally different to us from what they actually are. Yahoo needs to downsize and everyone tracking the company will tell you that. The remote worker might be another way to take a crack at this. We have no info about various employees’ productivity, effectiveness or integration into the Yahoo fold.
Gender and the Workplace: Success and likeability are inversely proportional for women was never proven so true. There might be a bias in the way how people percieve successful men vs successful women. When a man is seen as as aggressive, it is sign of confidence, competence and when a woman is seen as aggressive, it is seen as overbearing, shrill. I am not sure if we would see the similar level of reaction had a testorone heavy top team taken the same call. We have different standards of tolerance for men and women, almost on the verge of being sexist.
Workflex Fit: When we say that workflex is good for families, we are assuming that there is institutional capacity and competency to make flex employees first order contributors. If it not configured appropriately, both personal and professional equations can go haywire. Remote is still challenging at many levels. A lot of us are working on making it better. Intense movements in a company’s life cycle are not most suited for workflex or remote work arrangements. If you are pivoting or are in extreme moments, then flex work might not be the best option. It is a good go-to option when the ship has sailed onwards from crises moments. Remote cultures build their organizations to suit workflex. There is an investment in capacity building for workflex and hiring appropriate talent. Brick and Mortar bias makes it hard to break habits and change mindsets.
Future of Work: It is true that progressive, open, responsive companies know the value of finding the best brains and unlocking their discretion. Workflex is perhaps the strongest tool in their armour. The high end of tech, the global organizations, the leaders of the sharing economy, the innovators, the inspirers, the story tellers, the entrepreneurial organizations – all know the value workflex and open responsive organizations bring to them.
Workflex Practices and Formats: WorkFlex is a mindset before it becomes a format, and remote work is just one of the many workflex formats available. Businesses and professionals need to be able to make the choice that works for them. As workflex leaders and evangelizers, we need to bring the progressive adopters to the forefront and help others to adopt workflex towards their business goals. A certain level of evolution is required to become the company that values what you produce and not how often you show up. It is also a function of leadership clarity and awareness about skills at work that enhances the workflex adoption. Opaque corporate cultures and workflex do not go well together.
The world is an oyster for open, responsive, agile work cultures. The cubicles can stay in their place.