yahoo sign

Yahoo sent a memo to employees yesterday, letting them know that they were expected to show up at the office every day. Shocking!

After All Things D reported the new policy yesterday and then followed up with the full memo, literally hundreds of people commented and tweeted to express their disgust with Yahoo’s management.

The new policy will most directly affect several hundred people who had negotiated work-at-home agreements (out of a total workforce of about 12,000) and who may not be able to work in a Yahoo office without relocating. It will also limit the ability of Silicon Valley-based employees to take the occasional work-at-home day. So we can expect other Valley companies will capitalize on this memo by trying to poach disgruntled Yahoo employees.

Is chief executive Marissa Mayer crazy? Is her chief of human resources, Jackie Reses, who sent the memo, just another corporate slave driver? Are the masses going to rise up out of their cubicle farms and revolt?

The answer to all of these questions is surely no.

To be sure, flexible work hours are a treasured perk of working in Silicon Valley. Many startups — and a few larger, more established companies — take a very liberal view towards employees taking time off, working from home whenever they choose, and generally doing whatever they want as long as the work gets done.

And granted, Yahoo’s work-at-the-office policy doesn’t do anything to make the company look more hip or cool. As one commenter quipped, “Yahoo continues its impressive drive down the fast lane of the information superhighway. In your father’s Oldsmobile. With the left blinker on. At 45 kph.”

But Reses’ memo makes an important point:

Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Some companies have figured out how to replicate that rapid, person-to-person information exchange using virtual tools, like Basecamp, Campfire, or even Skype and various IM tools. But it doesn’t work for every company. That’s because the bandwidth of these virtual tools is lower than face to face contact.

It takes a real effort, and widespread support from the company culture, to make up for the shortcomings that virtual communications impose. Some companies can pull it off. Others can’t. But that doesn’t necessarily correlate with a company’s ability to do business progressively, inventively, and quickly.

How does your company handle working remotely versus working in the office? What works best? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Yahoo employees will be seeing a lot more of the corporate sign, above. Source: Acme/Flickr

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