Anil Thakraney: Indians are poor home workers

08 Apr,2013

By Anil Thakraney


Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer doesn’t like her employees working out of their homes. So she’s turned the ‘tech connectivity’ clock into reverse mode, and it’s back to the good old ‘water cooler’ for thousands of rather displeased Yahoo! staffers. The HR memo explains Mayer’s rationale: ‘Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.’


I agree with Mayer in principle. It’s not just about speed, the best ideas happen when you collaborate face to face, and that simply cannot happen over e-mails, phone calls and Skype. I have been working out of home for some years now, and the one thing I miss the most (from my last full time job with Mumbai Mirror) is the fertile smoking zone (don’t know if it still exists in these hyper politically correct times). Not just because we used to bond there, but that bonding often resulted in leads and new angles for stories and opinion pieces. Now that I work on my own, there’s no one to bounce off ideas with, I have to rely on my own instincts. And admittedly, that’s not the ideal scenario.


Having said that, must say this arrangement works nicely for me. The peace (no loud phone conversations in the background) is a huge bonus. And there’s no chance of being distracted by pretty staffers traipsing around my cubicle. Not to mention the obvious benefit: Being able to duck the mind-effing Mumbai traffic jams. And of course, that biggest plus of all (for us men): Not having to shave every day. The productivity therefore shoots up, and am able to achieve more in a work day. And still have time left to do my own thing. Ms Mayer may have overlooked these advantages in her controversial memo.


And yet, I can say with some degree of confidence that in the Indian context, the ‘work from home’ policy will seldom work out. This is because we desis are natural shirkers, and when left unattended, most of us will go off track. Also, many Indians live within joint family households, and this can lead to many disturbances. In addition, India isn’t a nation known for its strong work ethic. Even while being on the employee payroll, I am certain some staffers would be using time to make a quick extra buck from elsewhere. Therefore, when viewed from our prism, Mayer does have a point. Perhaps she should have restricted the memo to Yahoo!’s Bangalore office. 🙂


PS: Congrats to Leo Burnett for scoring big at the Goafest. Was refreshing to see folks dressed in colourful clothes (rather than the usual all-black) in the Big Winner picture. However, with O&M backing out this year, and Lowe as usual not participating, does this victory really amount to much? Is it a big high winning a cricket World Cup when Australia and England don’t take part? I suspect not.


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