Yahoo's Work From Home Policy Memo Wasn't Well Received -- Could Better Communication Have Helped?


In February 2013, the Yahoo HR department sent a memo to all Yahoo employees. The memo changed the lives of many “Yahoos” who up until then had worked from home. The announcement no one wanted to hear: “Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices.”

The memo itself – a brief three paragraphs and short closing statement – attempted to explain why Yahoo suddenly shifted its stance and required work-from-home employees to either comply with this mandate or quit. However, the reasons were empty and vague:
  • “We want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum.”
  • “I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.”
  • “[We want] to become the absolute best place to work.”
  • “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
These empty statements didn’t explain the real case for change. What were the real problems Yahoo was looking to solve? Had business slowed due to a lack of in-office collaboration? Were there significant issues with employees telecommuting? Did Yahoo explore other solutions to whatever the real problem was and conclude that this permanent change (as opposed to a trial period) was the only option? If so, Yahoo didn’t make mention of these things in the memo.

Many employees were furious that Yahoo didn’t disclose the real, meaningful reasons that must have spurred the change, and instead tried to spin the move as a morale booster . All the “energy and buzz” in Yahoo offices definitely experienced a buzz kill after the announcement. Morale plummeted, which certainly impacted productivity. Could better communication have lessened the blow?

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