An Open Letter to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in Response to the “No Working From Home” Memo

Dear Marissa,

At Heidy Maldonado’s wedding 10 years ago at the Stanford Memorial Church, I shared with you my dream of creating a simple tool that lets people work remotely with the same productivity of physically being together.

I am now the CEO of VSee – a video chat and screen share tool for creative teams to get things done. Our team of 30 people is spread around the world in 10 cities, with half in the SF Bay Area. Our local team comes in to work 1 day a week – to socialize, get a free lunch, and just to have fun. We’re our own lab rats to help us understand why remote work doesn’t work.

In the beginning, we suffered the same productivity issues cited by your head of HR Jackie Reses. We have overcome those productivity issues with these 3 Golden Rules of Remote Work:

1. Have a 50 – 80% work time overlap with your remote teammates.

Your teammate must be able to reach you for a quick decision as fast as if you are sitting next to each other. If a teammate can never be quickly reached, then let them go, since you will have productivity loss.

2. Don’t make decisions over email.

Teach your teammates when NOT to use email. Despite IM and social network, email is still the default method of corporate communication and it becomes easy to slip into making decisions via email – this is when you start getting CC’d email ping pongs that go back and forth for weeks. The text medium hampers our brain’s decision-making processes which is better handled by visual cortex.

3. Use the right tool for creative teamwork.

Although Webex is a great presentation tool, it requires too many mouse clicks when doing work, such as critiquing a design or hacking out some code. Skype is a great communication tool, Google+ Hangouts is a great hanging out tool, but neither are designed for teamwork. Creative teamwork requires seeing faces AND being able to share any application with a single click. Every extra click needed adds to collaboration friction that will slow down your team decisions.

Today, VSee serves 8000 enterprises from IBM and Navy SEALs to high energy startups. If Yahoo! follows these 3 Golden Rules – you will get the productivity you desire.

Why not hire VSee to be Yahoo’s remote work coach?  We can help structure your remote work processes from doing a design critique, to pair programming, to managing your remote teams. By June, you will find that your remote employees are actually more productive than your in-office employees!


P.S. As Richard Branson pointed out in his response to your memo, the world is becoming more connected. i.e. even if you go to work, your coworkers and customers will be in another location anyway.

Links to the “No more working from home” memo and some reasoning behind the new ban

Comments ( 4 )
  • milton
    Jessica Lipnack says:

    Milton, these are great rules. I’ll add them to my advice list — they’re superb. also wrote a “Dear Marissa” post that’s gotten more hits than anything I’ve posted in 8 years of blogging:

  • milton
    milton says:

    Dear Jessica, so great to see your post. Btw, I love your fact-filled writing – both this one and the ones over the years. thanks!

  • milton
    Seth says:

    Just a couple of quick notes:

    Both text and video are processed by the visual cortex. The sound from the video is processed by the temporal lobe (language is processed in the left temporal lobe).

    Neither the temporal lobe or the visual cortex handle decision-making processes, that would be the frontal lobe. The information processed by the visual cortex is processed by the left temporal lobe before being acted upon by the frontal lobe.

    Studies show that written language combined with verbal language improves retention of information (Johnson A, Sandford J, Tyndall J., 2003), though I don’t know of studies showing specifically whether verbal or written language is more effective in decision-making.

    I don’t think this changes whether email should be used for decision making, I think there are valid reasons not to, but it did make me pause and consider whether I should be concerned about the accuracy of other information when I read what you wrote.

    Johnson A, Sandford J, Tyndall J. Written and verbal information versus verbal information only for patients being discharged from acute hospital settings to home. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003716. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003716

  • milton
    milton says:

    Dear Seth, you are absolutely correct. My writing was quite sloppy. I was primarily thinking about creative team work – the kind of decisions that make companies such as yahoo innovative and get things done fast. in creative work, whether in design, hacking code, or brainstorming on sales or marketing strategy, we mostly look at visual information – where the ability to see this information helps us make decisions. In contrast, we could attempt to do the same thing via text – which would be slow and painful.

    In creative team work – we also naturally look at each other to gauge confidence, dislike, etc, where our brain’s visual pattern matching templates get the job done effortlessly.

    I should have been more clear that our brain’s visual processor helps us understand the presented information, which then enables us to make better and faster decisions.

    thanks for the corrections and your comments!

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