IT Employment

Yahoo chief bans telecommuting at company

Yahoo's CEO has created a backlash by banning telecommuting at the tech company.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's CEO, has created a backlash with her recent ban of telecommuting at the tech company. The reaction in Silicon Valley has almost overshadowed the gains she has accomplished in turning the struggling company around.

Jackie Reses, Yahoo's HR director, issued a memo last week that said,

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. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.

Do you think Mayer is out of touch with the modern workplace with this edict? After all, particularly in Silicon Valley where many of the very tools that allow working from anyplace are created, it seems a little backward.

First of all, many companies have international offices (Yahoo being no exception), so how's that going to work? Second, and this is entirely a personal observation, I've worked in the same office with people who take days to answer email, while ones at home usually respond within minutes.

I agree that face time is very important in a company but I think there is more to be gained by allowing employees flexibility to get their job done where they want to.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

38 comments
alan_d2047
alan_d2047

I agree that working from home has many benefits to the employees, but it does not always provide increased benefits to the company. Face to face interaction can be a better and quicker method to solve problems and advance and flesh out ideas. Also, please remember that the company is directed and run by management, not the employees. If the employees do not agree with the terms and policies in place at any time, they are free to go elsewhere or to start their own businesses. Then they might get the the policies they desire; then again, why work for someone for 8 hours per day when you can work for yourself and only put in 26 hours each day.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Hey Ms. mayer! How about first fixing the hacking and spamming problems? "....almost overshadowed the gains she has accomplished in turning the struggling company around...." Meanwhile since her reign began, there seems to be an increase of spam. In one account of mine, 75% of spam originated from Yahoo servers or a reply to a Yahoo account. It take not even a minute to set up a spam account on Yahoo.

enatiello
enatiello

Sounds to me like it was designed to shake loose some employees. Nothing more. Most of them being replaced by less experienced and lower paid individuals, probably.

slipchuk
slipchuk

I will have to agree with the various comments that as Yahoo struggles, the team needs to be together develop a synergy to innovate. That's leadership. I think as the health of the company grows telecommuting will still be an option... the exception not the norm. The pro of working from home is that you can focus on your tasks in a comfortable environment while the significant cons are company disconnect (pending management abilities) and work/home culture clash (honey can you ...). Although telecommuting is innovative it is still relatively new and difficult for some to manage and control.

marcus
marcus

Not so surprising that the telecommuters on the board are up in arms. Sorry folks, but reality is coming to get you. Laying jn bed watching Maury while eating a bag of chips with the laptop sitting next to you is not work!! Yea.. rough comment, but sorry its the reality for a good portion of telecommuters, maybe not that exact example, maybe it's taking care of kids, or running some errands. Whatever the case, you're not getting paid to do whatever you want to do and work when you feel like it. You're getting paid to make the company successful. If that entails some face time then you better sack up. That said going from an everyday telecommuting policy to a ban is extreme. Cut it to one day a week, or 5 days per month, that's plenty.

jayqueue
jayqueue

I believe that diligent workers might be adversely affected somewhat by ending telecomuting. Most of my coworkers are not diligent. They should be required to be at the office at all times. Others could function better with some leeway. I believe that there should be a minimum amount of office time for EVERYBODY. If management sets different times for different workers or even different classes of workers there would be resentment that could adversely affect productivity. Bottom line, I believe in the golden rule. He who owns the gold (Pays your salary) makes the rules.

chiefski76
chiefski76

"Yahoo"? Got its name from its management team, I suppose.

jkstill
jkstill

As someone that works full time from home as a Database Administrator, the following words come to mind: * anachronistic * draconian * misinformed * orwellian The HR memo that was cited sounds like a coverup. Had I received such a memo I would have seen "We don't trust you to do your job unless we can see you" The whole premise of that memo is flawed, as you havee already pointed out; You can be sitting 20 feet from someone that doesn't communicate, proximity is not a solution.

2bczar4u
2bczar4u

I like the flexibility of being able to work at home when I need to. I didn't have to take time off when a family member was sick or I had to wait for the plumber. I also felt compelled to work longer and harder just because I felt it was a privledge to be able to work at home and did not want to be seen as a slacker - (the pajama and bunny slipper image). Maybe that's just me and a good work ethic. There are days however, when I am in the office where barely a soul talks to me and there are days when too many people feel the need to 'chat it up'. Neither situation has done anything to allow for better communication. If the company doesn't have good policies in place for communication and sharing/collaboration, visibility for the telecommuter and they don't instill an environment that inspires its employees to do so, then it doesn't matter if you sit 10 feet or 10 miles away from me. I think with Yahoo change is more of a case of using a hammer when a few turns of the screwdriver would have done.

andrew232006
andrew232006

I suspect the real issue is people aren't actually doing the work they're paid for. Of course the CEO can't come out and call those people lazy, so everyone loses the privilege.

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

What underlying management problems is this designed to solve? And it IS a failure of management...

tavent
tavent

aside of the obvious implications that when people were hired they were told whether their job could be done from remote locations or not, and now those rules have been changed by someone who a) does not know their job; b) has not been running the company very long either; c) may well be "solving" an non-existent "problem", this: such a stunt has been done before by certain IT management, ultimately for the purpose of getting staff to leave the company so he did not have to admit that his aim was to lay them off. Many of those were IT pros who were hired to do jobs that could be tele-commuted and they lived in a wide variety of places, far from a corporate office including entirely out of state. Such a "change in policy" amounts to a violation of an implied agreement, if not a formal contract and frankly represents an ethical ambiguity that is not altogether uncommon in corporate culture in the larger sense.

jturner
jturner

It's possible to accomplish the face time objective with periodic meetings without forcing people into the office. That isn't to say in this case there may have been a work ethic issue causing the reaction that occurred. People can be very productive working from home if they are diligent. It should be a telecommuter's manager's job to keep them engaged by employing creative techniques. Frequent contact and concern for the work items being performed needs to be on the agenda for manager and worker. Discipline should be enforced with lapses leading to probationary actions and dismissal if goals cannot be met. The baby is out with the bathwater if the manager is not up to the task of establishing a sustainable system of telecommuting work efforts.

polaski
polaski

That is my big question. I don't want to debate the pro's and con's of telecommuting because everyone will have a good reason for or against. What was not working for Yahoo in her opinion? Why was such a huge and unpopular decision made to change when she knew it would cause employee uproar? Why? It obviously was not an effective method for creating the Yahoo that she has in her vision. Most likely to many people were taking advantge of the situation and not for the good of Yahoo. One bad apple...

lallen2064
lallen2064

While the new Yahoo policy of "in the office" may have aspirations of office effectiveness, the reality is telecommuting saves companies a ton of money. Moving employess into an office has a lot of costs. Unless Yahoo has been setting on a lot of empty office space all around its world wide operations, they are looking at absorbing the costs of acquring and maintaining office space. Add in utility costs for electricity, air/heat, phone, and networking and the costs can easily be hundreds of dollars per person. Some of you will say wait, where I live the employer has to pay for some of that stuff (i.e. phone, internet) even for a telecommuter. In many states (US) there are no such requirements and the employee pays for it all themselves. It is all about the money. Several years ago my company (Fortune 100) made the same decision and within 6 months reversed course. Today they have a policy of maintaing at least 50% of their staff being telecommuters. In fact they periodically check on office/desk usage and if an employee is not in the office enough days of the week, they are effectively kicked out and made telecommuters. They fully expect the management and employees will make telecommuting work, if not they will replace the non-productive. It will be very interesing to see how long Yahoo can afford everyone in the office. I suspect it will become a selectively enforced policy as money always wins out.

dklandry
dklandry

While this mandate is too extreme in my opinion I do agree with her attitude toward strengthening and making the company better internally. I would think requiring employees to be in offices for a day or couple days a week and telecommuting the rest would make more sense. Just because your in a office five plus days a week doesn't make you more productive, and certainly doesn't make you a cohesive organization. Sometimes when you create a huge disruption to policy like this it causes everyone to focus on everything except the problem your trying to fix.

waytoobusyforthisnonsense
waytoobusyforthisnonsense

I am part of a virtual team and live about 500 miles from the rest of the team. There are effective methods for managing a virtual team, although the 'rules' need to be established, boundaries set, and communication needs to be enhanced. If someone is telecommuting just to 'not have to see the boss', then he/she needs to step up the game - we do have a few team members who attend all meetings via webconnect - EVEN if they are 20 feet from the conference room.......now THAT is just being lazy - not telecommuting. -

debbie.deanr
debbie.deanr

She is definitely out of touch. The latest collaboration tools break down boundaries of distance, so why not employ them, let the workers stay home and require face presence once a week? Makes no sense to me, but it seems that many good, loyal employees will find work elsewhere.

*wjl*
*wjl*

Yahoo is going to be history soon - so who gives a ****?

333239
333239

If you need to concentrate on a task without interruption then working at home is great (assuming you get peace at home), if you need to collaborate with people then you need to be with them at the office.

hazmoid43
hazmoid43

Encouraging home workers to come into the office occasionally is one thing, but I think she is looking at this as an opportunity to cut the workforce without having to pay out redundancies. Many of the home workers probably do so to avoid the daily commute, to allow flexibility to handle their family lives and be able to put in maximum effort without interruptions. Many of the most productive people I know are able to work from home, and when the commute consists of walking from the kitchen to the desk, the ability to save those couple of hours that are lost in commuting is significant.

jobert1970
jobert1970

We are being paid to work. If the people upstairs prefers to have 100% face time with her employees onsite, then that's how it's going to be. If you cannot cope with it, then there's the door. It's as simple as that.

nate.irvin
nate.irvin

CNN's picked this up as well. I think their article made two very good points: 1) when a company is floundering, as Yahoo is, it's time to shake things up and get all hands on deck. Physical continuity helps [b]a lot[/b] with that. 2) It probably doesn't make sense for [i]everyone[/i] to have to do this. CNN link: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/26/opinion/fisman-yahoo/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_latest+%28RSS%3A+Most+Recent%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

jkstill
jkstill

Subject says it all - you don't know what you are talking about. I have telecommuted full time for 2 years, and work as hard as I ever have. The company I work for in fact could not exist without telecommuting, and about 30% of the workforce are telecommuters.

2bczar4u
2bczar4u

we actually use yahoo messenger as a means to communicate among staff both inside and outside the office - using the statuses to tell others what we are doing or where we are....hmmmmm

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"we do have a few team members who attend all meetings via webconnect - EVEN if they are 20 feet from the conference room" When they're at their desk, it's easier to play Solitaire.

greg_nw
greg_nw

but if employees are abusing telecommuting, they don't mean a thing. And before you claim her to be "out of touch" maybe you want to consider the question many have posed, "why". I'm sure she's smart enough to know the value in workplace flexibility. So "why" is she calling the flock back in?

pjunkel-pcmind
pjunkel-pcmind

If you are a tech company and need to collaborate, then no, you do not need to be physically present. As a matter of fact, this holds true tech company or not. Ever heard of Go-To Meeting, SharePoint and the like?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I can't work at home; there are too many distractions. The dog to play with, birds to watch, the fridge and pantry are always present, the blasted idiot box.

pjunkel-pcmind
pjunkel-pcmind

Jobert1970, I agree in one respect with your theory, but in general, I do not. Many people have work from home agreements because they need to have that flexibility. They may have even taken their job with that perk built in. A company should not arbitrarily renege on agreements made with employees, including the work environment allowed. I have worked from home before, and I can say from experience that I worked my tail off, and harder than 70% of my in-office coworkers. I especially felt a responsibility to avoid email checking and goofing off since I had been given the at-home privilege, whereas my co-workers in-office spent a huge amount of their work day online in Facebook, Twitter, their email, shopping, etc. The best thing to do at Yahoo is to reel back in anyone at home who is not doing their job (there is software that monitors this), and maybe even fire the people in-office and at home who are spending too much company time doing personal stuff.

Fistandantilius
Fistandantilius

Yahoo is going down the tubes and has been changing "people upstairs" so often. That might just make employees leave (and why wouldn't they? They can get the "work from home" perk elsewhere) for other companies and then who will Mayer blame for the continuous downward spiral?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I don't think Mayer is out to declare telecommuting obsolete, she's trying to shake things up in a company that has become complacent in their declining relevance.

pjunkel-pcmind
pjunkel-pcmind

Some women, when they get to be in charge, are just as non-sensical as many men in charge. Give someone a little power and watch the dumb-ass decisions fly, without the need for any rhyme or reason. And before anyone gets all defensive, I am a woman. I know women and men both, I have worked for both, and I have seen this behavior many times before.

mcmurphy510
mcmurphy510

If you think your people are 'abusing' the system, then you create some metrics and measure against them. Pretty much any job can be quantitatively and qualitatively measured with the right metrics (Story Points completed for developers, Tickets worked and Average Resolution time for IT folks). If the people out of the office are abusing the system, then chances are the folks in the office are as well. She's approaching the problem completely wrong!

333239
333239

I use these tools and they are great for sharing written and pictorial information, but many people spend many hours flying all over the world for face to face meetings, lunches and dinners because so much additional information can be shared that way, especially information that was not explicitly offered or requested.

mcmurphy510
mcmurphy510

Not Yahoo specifically, but Silicon Valley in general. It's not uncommon for folks to live 2 or even more hours from work. They've encouraged it (up until now), and now the're pulling the rug out from under people's feet. No wonder there's a backlash. Working from home, I'm able to put in a good 10+ hours of solid work. Add a 90 minute commute to my day and you'll get 8. No more, no less! Especially in a company where working from home was 'part of the deal', maybe not explicitly on paper, but many folks chose jobs in Silicon Valley, and Yahoo for that very reason.

Fistandantilius
Fistandantilius

At least I fully agree with what you said because I have that (minimum) 90 minute commute twice a day and working from home twice a week was part of the deal. Besides, if they dish out the reason of "when you're all here, we come up with creative ideas [that we hope can save the company!]", it simply means they're redirecting Yahoo!'s fall on their employees instead of upper management (that are the real decision makers in the end)

SirWizard
SirWizard

Cheap gas in Silicon Valley currently is more than $4 per gallon. And gas mileage goes down when sitting or creeping in the parking lot that is Highway 101. Traffic is always backed up at the Mathilda Avenue/237 intersecton, and there are lots of traffic lights along Lawrence Expressway. I don't work at Yahoo!, but I live 16 miles away. It would waste at least an hour of time and 32 miles a day. At current gas prices, that would be approximately $1,900 of after-tax gas costs for my car in a year.

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