Yahoo Bans Telework
Marissa Meyer, the new CEO of Yahoo, wants her company’s employees to come into the office from now on:
SAN FRANCISCO — Corporate America’s most famous working mother has banned her employees from working at home. Now the backlash is threatening to overshadow the progress she has made turning around Yahoo Inc.
Marissa Mayer, one of only a handful of women leading Fortune 500 companies, has become the talk of Twitter and Silicon Valley for her controversial move to end telecommuting at the struggling Internet pioneer.
From the start, Mayer, who at 37 is one of Silicon Valley’s most notorious workaholics, was not the role model that some working moms were hoping for. The former Google Inc. executive stirred up controversy by taking the demanding top job at Yahoo when she was five months pregnant and then taking only two weeks of maternity leave. Mayer built a nursery next to her office at her own expense to be closer to her infant son and work even longer hours.
Now working moms are in an uproar because they believe that Mayer is setting them back by taking away their flexible working arrangements. Many view telecommuting as the only way time-crunched women can care for young children and advance their careers without the pay, privilege or perks that come with being the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.
“When a working mother is standing behind this, you know we are a long way from a culture that will honor the thankless sacrifices that women too often make,” read one email sent to technology blogger Kara Swisher of AllThingsD, who first wrote about the ban.
Hundreds of staffers — including those who work from home one or two days a week — will have to decide if they want to start showing up every day at the office or be out of a job, according to a memo leaked to Swisher.
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices,” Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s human resources chief, wrote in the memo sent out Friday. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”
After speaking with a Yahoo executive, Business Insider cited a number of factors as influencing the decision:
- Yahoo has a huge number of people of who work remotely – people who just never come in.
- Many of these people “weren’t productive,” says this source.
- “A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo.”
- These people aren’t just Yahoo customer support reps. They’re in all divisions, from marketing to engineering.
- Mayer is happy to give Yahoo employees standard Silicon Valley benefits like free food and free smartphones. But our source says the kinds of work-from-home arrangements popular at Yahoo were not common to other Valley companies like Google or Facebook. “This is a collaborative businesses.”
- Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won’t want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It’s a layoff that’s not a layoff.
- Bigger picture: This is about Mayer ”carefully getting to problems created by Yahoo’s huge, bloated infrastructure.” The company got fat and lazy over the past 15 years, and this is Mayer getting it into fighting shape.
Walter Russell Mead makes the point that Mayer’s decision isn’t based simply on some perceived problem with telecommuting, rather it’s part of an overall restructuring of a company that has fallen badly behind its competitors. At the same time, though, it seems clear that a company in an industry that depends very much on collaboration between co-workers loses something when the workers aren’t around each other to, well, collaborate. This would seem to be most true on the creative side of the business. It’s also worth noting that Mayer came to Yahoo after many years at Google where, for the most part, there is no telecommuting at all and the company’s creative process is driven by a work force that works closely together. The same is largely true at Facebook. So, yes, I’m sure some Yahoo teleworkers will complain about the new work rules that Mayer is imposing, but they seem to be in the long term interests of a company that wasn’t in the best of shape when she took over the helm.