February 26, 2013
Yahoo's CEO Stirring Up An Internal-Comms Mess with New Mandate to Ban Telecommuting: Mayer Catching Heat Across the Board --- From Analysts to Working Moms, Many Feel Move Is a Step Backwards
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who recently returned to HQ after a brief maternity leave, may be making headway with the tech titan's turnaround, but she's not scoring many points with Yahoo employees now that she has essentially banned employees from working at home — and the backlash may even threaten to overshadow the progress she has made at Yahoo.
In addition to company employees — many of whom rely on flexible schedules — working moms are also in an uproar because they believe that Mayer is setting them back by taking away their own flexible working arrangements. Many view telecommuting as the only way time-crunched women can care for young children and advance their careers, the LA Times reports.
"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 tech blogger Kara Swisher of AllThingsD, who first wrote about the ban. Now, 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, reports Times writer Jessica Guynn.
"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," she added, the article reports.
"Like a team huddling before a game, there are moments in a company's development when getting everybody to physically huddle together is a very good thing," said Paul Saffo, head of foresight at Discern Analytics. "The question is at what cost," he added, according to the article.
According to AllThingsD, Mayer has grown frustrated because the Yahoo parking lot was slow to fill up in the morning and quick to empty by 5 p.m. — something not typical of the Silicon Valley rivals that Yahoo must beat to regain its perch. Some observers speculated that Mayer was looking to trim unproductive workers without the costs associated with a layoff and in the process may have gotten more bad publicity than she bargained for.
The U.S. already lags behind the rest of the industrialized world in flexible work arrangements, said Jennifer Glass, a sociology professor and research associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin. "It's sad to see a large employer go in this direction. There is no functional reason that people who work from home can't work just as productively as they do from the office," she added, the Times reports.
A 2011 study by WorldatWork also found that companies that embraced flexibility had lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement. "This policy certainly goes against the grain," said UCLA management professor David Lewin. "That's one of the main reasons it is catching so much attention," he added, according to the report.
Mayer has some prominent defenders — Donald Trump praised her on Twitter, saying she's "right to expect Yahoo employees to come to the workplace vs. working at home."