Is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer right to ban working from home?

 

The later half of February 2013 has seen Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer make one of her most controversial decisions since taking the reigns at Yahoo! July last year. The decision was made that all Yahoo! employees who currently work remotely from home would need to find a way to work at the office by June later this year. The message was sent to the company’s employees from Jackie Reses, representing human resources at Yahoo! Part of the message sent from Jackie Reses read “Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices”. The question is, was Marissa Mayer justified in making this decision?

The working mothers at Yahoo! are, in particular, some of the more disgruntled members of staff with regard to this recent HR decision. Being unable to work form home will of course in turn cause problems with managing childcare. However, many of these employees feel an extra level of resentment that Marissa Mayer is unable to empathise with their situation. This is in light of the fact that when Mayer had a son last year she paid to have a nursery built into the Yahoo! office. The husband of a remotely working Yahoo! employee commented on this issue, saying “I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set em up in the cube next door?” (source: http://read.bi/XWJyMs).

However, there has also been a significant amount of support for Mayer making the decision to ban working from home. Former Yahoo employees have spoken of their support for the move saying that it is in fact desperately needed. One former Yahoo! employee commented “For what it’s worth, I support the no working form home rule. There’s a ton of abuse of that at Yahoo. Something specific to the company (source: http://read.bi/XWPEML)”. A second former employee of the company also commented “Working from home may be convenient for some but it represents a huge opportunity cost to the team, especially a team that’s trying to turn things around. The value in human interaction is greater collective wisdom as a result of improved communication & collaboration. It’s really all about improving the likelihood that meaningful interaction will translate to meaningful (shareholder) value” (source: http://read.bi/XWPEML).

In addition to simply trying to get people who work from home into the office, there may be an additional motive behind the recent move. Interestingly, employees were told that those who wouldn’t be able to comply with the ban on working from home, or those that would refuse to co-operate should find work elsewhere. It may be the case that an estimated proportion of those currently working remotely will in fact hand in their notice at Yahoo! In doing so a process of slimming down the company and making redundancies will then largely take care of itself.

It is also worth noting that Yahoo! is not a company averse to providing perks and benefits to its employees. It was reported in ADVO Group’s news section (news.advogroup.co.uk) only last September that Mayer had confirmed that all employees would be receiving a free new smartphone. Employees also given the option of choosing between the IPhone5, the latest offering from Apple, or a rage of cutting edge Android devices. It was also confirmed that the free smartphones would be provided to part-time as well as full-time employees. The internal memo from Yahoo! at the time of the smartphone announcement read “We have a very exciting update to share with you today – we are announcing  Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun!  As of today, Yahoo is moving off of blackberries as our corporate phones and on to smartphones in 22 countries.  A few weeks ago, we said that we would look into smartphone penetration rates globally and take those rates into account when deciding on corporate phones. Ideally, we’d like our employees to have devices similar to our users, so we can think and work as the majority of our users do. Moving forward, we’ll offer you a choice of devices as well as provide monthly plans for the data and phone.” It is also reported that Yahoo! provides many perks that are synonymous with other companies based in Silicon Valley such as providing free food to employees.

It has also been argued that Mayer may be trying to replicate certain elements of the working culture found at Google. It was at Google that she spent thirteen years and was involved in some of the company’s most notorious projects such as Gmail, Google Images and iGoogle to name but a few. It is argued that the emphasis on employees being able to engage in daily face-to-face interactions is one of the most characteristic elements of Google’s working culture (source: http://bit.ly/15fxVGD) that Mayer could be trying to replicate within Yahoo!

Do you think Marissa Mayer is justified in the decision to do away with working from home? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

 

 

 
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