It is my firm and unshaking belief that the only reason a company ever alters its policy or creates a new set of guidelines is because there was one incident that ruined things for everyone. Each restriction might as well have a name appended reproachfully to the end: (“Don’t sit your uninsured grandmother on the eighth-floor copier, Dave.” “Never, ever tweet anything about Quvenzhane Wallis without checking with corporate, Martin.”)
There are some things you don’t think you need to explicitly prohibit until you realize that you do. Sometimes prohibitions backfire. In Florida, there is a law that expressly bans riding manatees. That, really, is the only thing I want to do with my life now. In Eden — we all know how that guideline worked out.
Still, given that Yahoo has had a culture of working from home for a while now, I can’t help but assume there was a triggering incident — or, more probably, a series of incidents — that caused it to end the practice.
1. The time Elaine sent a drone to a meeting on her behalf and everyone thought it was disrespectful.
2. That time no one showed up to a meeting because everyone thought they were doing it remotely, and a box of donuts was left to go bad in the conference room, and everyone agreed that it was a senseless waste.
3. That time Kevin accidentally didn’t mute his phone during a lengthy meeting conference call, and emitted what everyone now refers to as The Great and Terrible Flatulence of ’08.
4. That time everyone thought they were talking to Jim and it turned out to be a horse meatball.
5. The embarrassing day Marissa Mayer realized that everyone was communicating via Gchat, not Yahoo!Messenger.
6. The time Dennis Rodman took advantage of the lack of any requirement to be present in the office to make a diplomatically problematic visit to North Korea.
7. The day Clem left the phone unattended near his toddler and she actually made better investing picks than he would have.
8. The times Richard Cohen kept appearing on everyone’s porches urging them to “swap ideas, like Picasso and Braques used to do.”
9. The time snow was expected in D.C. and D.C.-based workers insisted on taking the day off from telecommuting because “it would be too dangerous and slippery, and the signal might not make it.”
10. Those awful weeks when Dave did not have WiFi in his apartment yet and in order to avoid the office, had to squat atop the washing machine in his apartment’s laundry room holding his laptop aloft in one hand in order to reach the building’s only unlocked WiFi.