Employees at Yahoo have had a rough decade. The company has been drifting aimlessly with little vision, an endless parade of CEOs, and a flatlined stock price. That’s not exactly a conducive environment to be inspired and motivated within, let alone do the stellar work that Yahoo needs to pull out of the rut.
So it’s no wonder that they’ve been suffering from severe brain drain for a long time. But Yahoo is a big company, and there are surely still lots of talented people who don’t want to leave (or can’t)—waiting for better times. Unfortunately, it appears they’ll be kept waiting, if Yahoo’s announcement of “no more remote work” is anything to go by:
Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.
The leadership vacuum at Yahoo is not going to be filled by executive decrees issued on such flimsy foundations. Imagine you’re a remote worker at Yahoo and you read that. Hell, imagine you’re any kind of worker at Yahoo and you read that. Are you going to be filled with go-getter spirit and leap to the opportunity to make Yahoo more than just “your day-to-day job”? Of course not, you’re going to be angry at such a callous edict, declared without your consultation.
What this reveals more than anything is that Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not. In their blindness they’re reaching for the lowest form of control a manager can assert: Ensuring butts in seats for eight hours between 9-5+. Though while they can make people come to the office under the threat of termination, they most certainly cannot make those same people motivated to do great work.
Great work simply doesn’t happen in environments with so little trust. Revoking the “yard time privileges” like this reeks of suspicions that go far beyond just people with remote work arrangements. Read this line one more time: “please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration”. When management has to lay it on so thick that they don’t trust you with an afternoon at home waiting for the cable guy without a stern “please think of the company”, you know something is horribly broken.
The real message is that teams and their managers can’t be trusted to construct the most productive environments on their own. They are so mistrusted, in fact, that a “zero tolerance” policy is needed to ensure their compliance. No exceptions!
Who cares if Jack is the best member of the team but has to live in Iowa because his doctor wife got placement at a hospital there? Or if Jill simply can’t deal with an hour-long commute anymore and wants to spend more time with the kids? With a zero tolerance policy, there’s simply no flexibility to bend for the best of the team, and thus the company. The result is a net loss.
Now imagine all the people who actually have a choice of where they want to work. Does management really think that the best Yahoo employees currently on remote work arrangements will simply buckle and cave? Why on earth would they do that given the wonderful alternatives available to remote workers today? No, they’re simply going to leave, and only those without options will be left behind (and resentful).
Yahoo already isn’t at the top of any “most desirable places to work” list. A decade of neglect and mounting bureaucracy has ensured that. Further limiting the talent pool Yahoo has to draw from to those willing to relocate to Sunnyvale, or another physical office, is the last thing the company needs.
Companies like Google and Apple can get away with more restrictive employment policies because they’re at the top of their game and highly desirable places to work. Many people are willing to give up the improvements that remote work can bring to their life to be part of that. Yahoo just isn’t there. It’s in no position of strength to be playing hardball with existing and future employees.
The superficial trinkets, like a free phone or free meals at the cubicle compound, are simply not going to serve as adequate passage for a zero tolerance work place that’s still fumbling its way out of a haze of disillusion. In fact, it cheapens those initiatives when the things that really matter, like the power of teams to recruit and retain the best, are curbed.
The timing of all this couldn’t be worse either. Remote work is on a rapid ascent, and not just among hot tech companies like Github, Automattic, or thousands of others. It’s been taking hold in supposedly stodgy big companies like Intel, IBM, Accenture, and many others. Worse than simply being late to that party is to try to turn back the clock and bait’n’switch your existing workforce.
Yahoo deserves better than this. It’s one of the classic brands of the internet and it’s painful to see it continue its missteps, especially on something so fool-hearted as trusting its employees and attracting the best talent.
But if recent history is any guide, I guess Yahoos without options to leave can console themselves with the fact that the average CEO term in the past six years has been a mere one year. So the odds are good that a new boss will be in place within long.
Interested in learning more about remote work? Checkout our upcoming book REMOTE: Office Not Required. It details all our lessons from more than a decade working remotely along with those from the growing list of other companies reaping the same rewards.
Signal vs. Noise is a founding member of The Deck advertising network
A fine line exists between spelling out company culture and inadvertently engraving it as policy.
Culture offers your staff the company blog’s “publish” button 24/7 so that they can write when their own iron is hot. Policy forces topics and a posting schedule to chip away at the company marketing quota.
Culture inspires your programmers to discover typographic rhythm and scale in their free time. Policy puts a “lunch and learn with designers” meeting on your calendar at 12:00 PM.
Culture nurtures pet projects so that they grow into everyday company tools. Policy steals 20% of your staff’s work hours to gamble on forced research and development.
Culture does. Policy says.
Culture encourages. Policy requires.
Culture empowers. Policy mandates.
Culture simply happens—it isn’t created.
We’re working on a new book called REMOTE: Office Not Required. Get on the book mailing list and we’ll send you exclusive excerpts from the book before it’s released. There may be a few other bonuses, too.
As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can. REMOTE shows employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any space, in any place, anytime, anywhere.
Like REWORK before it, it’ll be a collection of short essays. It’s a quick read. Something you can finish in just a few hours. To the point, clear, no jargon, and no filler.
REMOTE will be published by Crown (Random House). Expect to see it on store shelves and eBook form fall 2013.
Find more opportunities on the 37signals Job Board.
I can’t imagine anything less interesting in business than maximizing shareholder value. Yet this is what public companies are pressured – if not legally required – to do. A lot of non-public companies follow the same path towards performance and results.
To take it further, maximization as a concept just isn’t interesting to me. I don’t care about maximization. Not maximization of profit, revenue, people, reach, productivity, etc. Not interesting.
I feel like this makes me an outcast in the business world. Part of the minority, the ones who simply “don’t get how it works”.
I get how it works. I just don’t care. I’m not interested in squeezing something so tight that I get every last drop. I don’t want, need, or care about every last drop. Those last drops usually don’t taste as good anyway. My thirst is usually well quenched far before that final drop.
Am I interested in increasing profits? Yes. Revenues? Yes? Being more productive? Yes. Making our products easier, faster, and more useful? Yes. Making our customers and employees happier? Yes, absolutely. Do I love iterating and improving? Yes sir.
Do I want to make things better? All the time. But do I want to maximize “betterness”? No thanks.
I don’t mind leaving some water in the cloth, some drips in the glass, some money on the table. I like knowing there’s headroom. And once in a while it’s a fun challenge to chip away at that headroom. But that’s not for maximization’s sake – it’s for curiosity’s sake. “Can we do it?” is a lot more interesting to me than “we must do it because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Having fun, exploring ideas, creating, solving, building great things for you and your customers, being proud of your work, challenging yourself, learning, growing, building a self-sustaining company on your own schedule, adding something useful to the world, and working with great people – that’s what this is all about. Not maximization of a metric.
When you’re building a new product, you’re often thinking about all the new things people are going to be able to do with it. Now they can do this, now they can do that. Exciting!
But there’s a better question to ask: What are people going to stop doing once they start using your product?
What does your product replace? What are they switching from? How did they do the job before your product came along?
Habit, momentum, familiarity, anxiety of the unknown – these are incredibly hard bonds to break. When you try to sell someone something, you have to overcome those bonds. You have to break the grip of that gravity.
So, when you’re thinking about your product, think about what it replaces, not just what it offers. What are you asking people to leave behind when they move forward with you? How hard will that be for them? How can you help them overcome everything that’s tugging them in the opposite direction?
Take a tour to see why others use Basecamp every day.
Back in November I said we were looking for an iOS protoyper. I probably heard from about a hundred people who were interested in the position.
In the end, one guy stood out above all the rest.
His name is Travis Jeffery. Today is his first day at 37signals.
Travis and I have already started working on an app together. We’re excited to see where it goes.
Everyone, say hi to Travis.
Since the beginning, Basecamp has been marketed as a collaboration tool for small businesses (or small groups inside larger businesses).
However, over the years we’ve also heard from many thousands of people who use Basecamp outside of work. They’ve turned to Basecamp to help them manage home improvement projects, hobby projects, volunteer projects, school projects, weddings, etc.
But one complaint we’ve heard is… Basecamp is priced for businesses, not for personal side projects.
So today we’re going to make it easier for people to use Basecamp for their non-work projects. Today we launch Basecamp Personal.
Basecamp Personal is priced for personal projects. Instead of paying a monthly subscription fee, you can buy a Basecamp Personal project for $25. That’s a one-time-fee. Just $25, and it’s yours. Need another project down the road? Buy another one for $25. Buy one, buy many – buy just what you need, as you need it, and never have to worry about paying a monthly subscription.
How else is Basecamp Personal different from Basecamp?
Basecamp Personal projects include 1 GB of file space and you can collaborate with up to five people. There are a few other differences, too. Here’s how Basecamp Personal compares to the full version of Basecamp.
Available exclusively for current Basecamp users
For the next few months, Basecamp Personal is available exclusively for current Basecamp users. You don’t have to be the Basecamp account owner – you just have to be a user on a Basecamp account, any Basecamp account.
Down the road we plan on opening up Basecamp Personal to anyone. But for now, it’s just for people who already use Basecamp.
Start a project today
So if you have a Basecamp account already, and you have a personal project that could use some Basecamp-style organization, hop on over and get yourself a Basecamp Personal project today for just $25.
Lately I’ve been spending some time with local entrepreneurs who are looking for business advice. Inevitably, the topic of pricing comes up. “How do I know how much to charge?”
There are lots of answers.
You can make up a number and see if it works. You can test a few different prices at the same time. You can do traditional market research and see what you find. You can read pricing books and academic papers on pricing approaches, techniques, and behavioral psychology. You can see what others are charging.
The good news about pricing is that you can guess, be wrong, but still be right enough to build a great sustainable business. Maybe you’re leaving some money on the table, but, like my dad always says, no one ever went broke making a profit.
However, you are not allowed to ask people:
- “What would you pay for this?”
- “Would you buy this for $20?”
- “How much do you think this is worth?”
- “What’s the most you’d pay?”
And these are the questions I hear people asking over and over. You can’t ask people who haven’t paid how much they’re willing to pay. Their answers don’t matter because there’s no cost to saying “yes” ”$20” “no” ”$100”. They all cost the same – nothing.
The only answers that matter are dollars spent. People answer when they pay for something. That’s the only answer that really matters.
So put a price on it and put it up for sale. If people buy that’s a yes. Change the price. If people buy, that’s a yes. If people stop buying, that’s a no. Crude? Maybe. But it’s real.
You can dig into the why’s more deeply over time, but you have to start somewhere. And the best place to start is with real answers. This is why we picked $10 for a Basecamp Breeze email address.
When visitors come to our office, one of the first things they notice is how quiet it is. Naturally, one of the first questions they ask is “how do you keep it so quiet?”
My answer is “library rules.”
Everyone knows how to behave in a library. You keep quiet or whisper. You respect people’s personal space. You don’t interrupt people who are reading or working, learning or studying. And if you need to have a full-volume conversation, you hit a private room.
So if you want to keep things quiet at the office, treat it like a library. It works surprisingly well.