The work-at-home world stood at attention on February 22, 2013 when All Things D revealed that Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, unceremoniously revoked the tech giant’s policy on telecommuting.In an internal memo sent to all company employees, Executive Vice President of People and Development, Jackie Reses, outlined Mayer’s new stance on telecommuting: “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.”
We understand Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t an attack on the telecommuting lifestyle in general – it’s a swift response to the organization’s lackadaisical culture. However, blaming organizational inefficiencies and sub-par productivity on telecommuting is as effective as filing for divorce because your spouse forgot your anniversary.
Whether she’s posturing for investors or is looking to trim the fat without the costs associated with mass layoffs, Mayer has lost sight of the big picture and is missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on the organizational and personal benefits telecommuting offers.
Tools of the trade. Collaborating with a telecommute workforce has never been easier than it is today. The variety of video conferencing tools alone is enough to rival Baskin-Robbins’ 31 Flavors, not to mention the host of productivity encouraging applications that make working independently practically effortless.
Blue Jeans Network, an online video conferencing service, wants to ensure Mayer gets the message about the ease of online collaboration: they created a billboard campaign along the CEO’s commuting path offering help. “CALL US MARISSA! We can help,” the ad claimed.
Humor aside, Blue Jeans Network is right. Telecommuting offers innumerable benefits such as saving money on overhead, decreasing pollution, boosting staff morale, and expanding the recruitment pool for talent.
Mama Mayer’s mixed messages. This is where I stumble with accepting Mayer as a credible CEO: while stripping her employees of the ability to work from home, she recently installed a nursery in her office, according to GlobalPost. I’ll give the woman a little credit – she paid for it herself, but what about all of staffers who aren’t earning a $117 million salary over five years? Will all Yahoo! cubicles be equipped with cribs and mobiles since many hardworkign moms and dads will be forced to commute? Mayer may shy away from remote work, but she she certainly doesn’t shy away from hypocrisy.
Really? As a full-time telecommuter, I can tell Ms. Mayer that I am far more productive working from home, distraction-free, than I ever was when I schleped to the office every day.
Coincidentally, Mayer’s alma mater, Stanford University, published their results on one of the first controlled experiments on telecommute productivity around the same time Mayer’s memo was leaked to the press. The study found that participants who worked from home four days a week for a period of nine months experienced a 13 percent increase in their work performance.
Final thoughts. If Yahoo!’s claims of work-from-home abuses are valid, then Mayer’s ban on telecommuting is likened to a teacher punishing an entire class because a few students didn’t turn in the homework assignment. Instead of instituting a unilateral policy against telecommuting, we suggest Mayer roll up her sleeves and address the real culprits: low performing staffers and middle management who is unwilling or incapable of reinforcing productivity standards.
Ms. Mayer: the world is watching, and the message you’re sending is misguided. Commuting to collaborate simply isn’t necessary.