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Yahoo started this week. My guess is that this decision will soon be revised and changed - to some extent.
I think Yahoo's move is a bad one: lazy employees will usually be lazy at home or in their cubicle or wherever they are. But there are exceptions: some not being lazy when at home or the other way around - Yahoo should identify these employees and put them in the best environment. But laziness is more correlated with "lack of passion" than to location, I think, so "lack of passion" must be addressed first. And maybe lazy employees are more likely to request telecommuting, thus penalizing all telecommuters including the good ones.
You need to fix the telecommuting issue rather than ban telecommuting to all employees. The first step is to perform a root cause analysis. If well managed, telecommuting is a big win-win. Maybe Yahoo allows the wrong people to telecommute, or for the wrong reasons, or at the wrong time (when face-to-face is really needed).
This brings interesting questions:
Bad analytics is just like Target selling garden accessories between June and August because springs starts in June in Minnesota (where headquarters are located) while most of the country experiences spring much earlier.
That's where you need more than just basic, general statistics, but deeper HR analytics, with higher granularity and good metrics, good measurements to assess employee churn, value and productivity and how this interact and relate to team efficiency, company morale and telecommuting (broken down by gender, age, function, commuting time and other relevant factors such as having young children). Also, this data should not be stored into an independent silo, but blended, correlated and analyzed together with other company data (e.g. finance, cost savings due to telecommute) and external data (are great employees refused telecommuting switching to another company? Or are you effectively weeding out the poorest performers?)
Frankly, do geeks really need frequent face-to-face interactions? These meetings (be it over the phone or in person), if too numerous, are perceived as a waste of time by many geeks. Here's another analytic project for HR: how to improve communications and time use. In my case, I've hired mostly people working on a different continent. People that I've never seen, that I've never talked to, that I will never talk to, yet it is working well, a win-win both for the employee and me. Likewise, when I offer consulting services, I never spent more than a fraction of my time face-to-face. Indeed, I'm a full-time pure telecommuter working with clients worldwide, with no desire to become a cubicle dweller ever again. I suppose it means that I will never work for Yahoo, as long as the company is managed by the current CEO.
Great job seekers will be more likely to work for Yahoo's competitors. Or maybe they are one of the few employers that have no problems finding great talent. I doubt.
I believe this has more to do with the "Agile methodology" that is sweeping software development-dom than anything else. The philosophy holds dear that co-located developers are more productive even to the point of co-locating into the same room if possible.
I don't agree with it, but it is the current "paradigm" if you will.