Discuss: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Says Working From Home Is No Longer An Option

The edict went out last week. From June, if you're not in the office, you're OUT. But will talking IRL really help productivity?

Staff morale at Yahoo may have dropped a couple of notches on the Wahey-ometer with the news that the firm is to recall all of its telecommuters. A memo sent out from the HR department on Friday (with the head, Yahoo! proprietary and confidential information - do not forward—oops, who forgot to read the bit at the top, then?) had all the details in it, which the lovely Kara Swisher thoughtfully reproduced on the AllThingsD website.

"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... We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together."

As someone who used to write a column for Fast Company about working from home, this is an odd step for a tech firm to take, admittedly. As the excellent 37signals blog points out, talent may not want to work for a firm that seems to be so backward-looking. The changes, which start from June, are compulsory. No office face time, no job. Asked by Swisher for a comment, Yahoo demurred.

What do you think? Is it a totally retrograde step for Yahoo to take, or does Marissa Mayer have a point? Would you apply for a job where your presence in the office was 100% compulsory? And what about our female readers? Would a telecommuting ban make your home-work balance impossible to fulfill? Let's hear your answers in the comments, I know it's going to be compulsive reading.

[Image by Flickr user Martin Nikolaj]

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31 Comments

  • Chuck Blakeman

    This is a classic failure of leadership issue. The leadership of Yahoo can't figure out how to hire and motivate self-managed adults who want to be productive for their own self-respect and as part of a vision for the company, which any good leadership would provide. They also don't have the courage to manage to productivity standards that any adult would find acceptable and challenging.

    Instead, they returned to the Industrial Age fetal position and basically called all their staff "children" who can't or won't self-manage because they are lazy or stupid.  All the lazy and stupid employees need adult supervision from the smart and motivated managers and from the day care center which is now Yahoo.

    In 1903, Frederick Winslow Taylor laid down the principles of Scientific Management, on which the fundamentals of modern management still rely. He said employees are two things 1) "lazy" and 2) "so stupid they more resemble the ox than any other type". That sentiment is being reflected by Mayer's actions. If employees are fundamentally stupid (can't figure out how to manage themselves) and/or too lazy to self-manage, then of course they need to be brought back into the day care center to be managed by the smart and motivated people like Mayer. Let's face it, we don't want the kids running into the streets or climbing the curtains. Putting them in a play pen is the easiest way to solve this; apparently for Mayer, much easier than hiring adults who will help her pull Yahoo out of the morass it is in.

    This is as fundamental a failure of leadership as has ever been exposed in a large corporation. Taylor was wrong at least in Yahoo's case - the stupid and lazy ones are not the employees here.

  • JohnRichardBell

    I think Marissa Mayer made a courageous call. Working from home was always about "me." Face to face interaction is about "us." I see some short-term pain for long-term gain. Yahoo as a company will be better for it.

  • Prasad Kulkarni

    At a time when the world, and especially tech companies are busting the work-boundaries, ya(wn)hoo decides to go back to the industrial revolution era.Well, she probably wants to be remembered as a CEO who brought disruptive (err,destructive) change and is getting there!

  • Thumpner

    Uh.....does anyone really care about YAHOOOOOO in the first place?

    This is clearly an attrition move and a clear sign this is a sinking ship. I hope they all show up with resignation letters and want payouts from the State of Ca. This woman is just another crass corporate raider lining her own pockets. 

    See what hubris she displays? My baby is more important. I have to have a nursery. I am allowed to see my child when I want. Others however are not as good as I am so let them eat cake.

    Lady, I sold my stock and have banned any member this household form uttering the name or more or less using YAHOOOOOOO!!

    Its now ABANDON SHIPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!

  • Gaurav Bagdi

    I for one. Welcome Yahoo's decision. This surely feels like a breath of fresh air. 
    I have a few friends, who are on "work from home" almost, most of the year. And, it is not good. Even, they feel like, it's hampering their productivity and apparently, making them even more careless. For what it's worth. I think, yahoo should publicize the productivity numbers and over-all stats after observing it for a few months. Cause, numbers. .at times, speaks volume.

  • DamoS

    Depends. Once had a job that expected me to be in the Singapore office from 8-4. In that office there were no colleagues or managers, just me and a computer. Everybody else was in Norway! This made no sense and after a few months of senseless commute in the heat of Singapore, I quit.
    However, homeworking - no matter how you look at it - can, and often is, be a great cover for sitting in your underpants watching Jeremy Kyle.

  • Brad Palmer

    I think it was a necessary step in rebuilding Yahoo's culture. A tough but necessary step to end entitlement and begin the process of reconnecting as a company. Working from home has plenty of merits, but it cannot work well when employees do not feel part of a winning team. More here: http://www.jostle.me/blog/yaho...

  • Sara Getz

    I totally agree that this seems to be a blanket response to a more
    nuanced issue of management that will have an effect on many people who
    are not likely contributors to the problem. If working remotely is still
    considered a privilege at Yahoo and not a negotiable part of their work
    life, then its a privilege being revoked, which communicates a lack of
    trust and punishment even if it is presented as an opportunity for
    growth. And it's not just women who are concerned with or benefit from
    an examination of work/life balance. Let's stop pretending that it is!

  • tkstrickland

    The announcement from Yahoo that all remote workers will be required to return to a traditional office underscores that training is imperative for Managers as well as Virtual Managers.
    If employees were disconnected to the point that Yahoo had no validation that the employees were even contributing to the organization, their managers should be held accountable for lack of leadership and oversight.   However, enforcing the management of an employee’s time in the office will not solve the productivity issues.  Virtually or on-site there is a requirement for a manager to understand the results of their teams and this does not equate to time spent at work.  
    Even more concerning for the future of Yahoo is that a competent manager manages by results whether the staff is Virtual or on-site so general management training may be a good point of beginning.  I am not confident that bringing all employees back to a traditional office will even begin to solve Yahoo’s productivity issues. 

  • ajzurdo

    I think what Citrusmedia comments is a good standing point. Smartly enhance the way people interact and feel about their work. Marissa Mayer's move might be Strategically right in many ways, but it's cost -for their good value employees and for the people that believe in accountability and good work- is far too great.

  • Bippy831

    I think that the right thing to do, especially in a tech company is to provide "flexibility" and enforce deliverables with consequences for non performance.  Most people don't like to work remotely 100% of the time but they LOVE the flexibility to make the decision to work from home when necessary.  It isn't just Working Mothers that struggle with work/life balance by they way...

  • Arman Nobari

    A company is only as credible as their ability to utilize talent and planning to bring a superior product or service to market. This will, in all likelihood, drive talent away (and out) of Yahoo. In the age of mass-connectivity there is no reason something like this should be mandated.

    The whole idea of innovation and business creativity in tech is depending less on exact "how", and instead focusing on the end results. This is, in my opinion, focusing "only" on the "how", without taking sufficient account of the less than desired end results this will be sure to bring. That is, of course, as long as Yahoo didn't have some ridiculously low TC-rate, like 99% of all employees VPN'ing in.

  • PaddyMcF

    As long it's not one rule for management and another for employees and all are treated equally then why should it be a problem?
    If people want the flexibility of working from home and find another job with a similar/equative package then they will leave, if they are not bothered then they wont find it an issue.

  • WrongProblem

    The issue they allegedly need to solve is not an "in office" issue, it is a performance management issue. Yahoos managers need to have the courage to manage out low performers/low contributors who are remote. Now, besides all your low performing remote employees, you just ensured that you lost your remote HIGH performers. Trust is everything and you just told your high performers that you don't trust them to continue delivering. You could have worked out a new scenario for increased office time with them without creating the ultimatum that sabotaged Trust. And, you just lost a whole lot of female talent, Yahoo--your current talent, and even more going forward due to the new reputation you just created. Your employees, and the world will be watching to see how you handle the blunder you just made.

  • Shawn

    I read various complaints that led to this decision: people working side projects, hiding, not performing, etc.    Sounds like a management issue.   If managers are not in touch with their teams, it sounds like they need to be fired.     

  • GiveMeARaise

    Remember, there are two facets of telework: FLEXIBILITY (technology empowering workers to make decisions over hours/location, within agreed-upon boundaries) and TETHERING (technology creating the expectation of 24/7 on-call).

    That's been the grand bargain. Workers submitted to tethering but were granted flexibility in return.

    Yahoo! expects to keep its tethering - you will still be required to monitor your email/log in remotely to fix problems from wherever you might be on a weekend - but is taking away the flexibility.

  • TheyGetBusy

    This could be a temporary move to build a stronger foundation and "one team, one goal" mentality.  Once it's set, and everyone is moving in the same strategic direction, the policy can be changed.  It may just be an experiment.

  • GiveMeARaise

    Aww, Yahoo! will do fine. In fact, I hear that Ozzie Nelson and Ward Cleaver are first in line to submit their employment applications!