Marissa Mayer: Why Her Yahoo! Telecommute Ban is a Mistake


There's so much to admire about Yahoo! head Marissa Mayer. She became CEO of the search engine giant while pregnant, doesn't feel the need to call herself a feminist simply because she happens to be a powerful and accomplished woman, and has held many impressive professional roles. 

But the Yahoo! president upset many when the company announced earlier this week that employees would no longer be allowed to work from home, as "communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side ... [and 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."

While Mayer is correct that teamwork and close contact are crucial to successful production, the new policy demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in workers, not to mention a complete disregard for reality.

So why would a smart woman like Mayer crack the whip on her workers? People were taking advantage of the telecommute privilege, according to a former Yahoo! worker, who told Business Insider, "For what it's worth, I support the no working from home rule. There's a ton of abuse of that at Yahoo. Something specific to the company."

The source added that the freedom resulted in "people slacking off like crazy, not being available, and spending a lot of time on non-Yahoo! projects." Even when Mayer tried to play nice and offer free iPhones and food, workers continued rolling in late and going home earlier than workers at other Bay Area competitors such as Google, Mayer's former place of employment.  

Mayer was probably right to dramatically discipline her staff, and in doing so, she sent a public message that she's serious about achieving a lot at the site, but an all-out ban tells us she doesn't trust her workers and is unwilling to ease up on them when they need slack most.

What happens when someone comes down with a terrible cold but can't afford to take any sick days? The obvious solution would be to let this individual work from home, but that's not even an option now. What Mayer may see instead could be an increase in people taking sick days, and that doesn't seem like a better alternative. 

Naturally, some workers aren't responding well to the change. An internal source told AllThingsD, "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." 

The husband of a Yahoo! worker seemed equally rattled, joking, "I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set em up in the cube next door?"

That doesn't seem like a bad strategy. Having grown up in Silicon Valley, I'm thankful that the technology company for which my mother worked allowed her to be there for her kids and grandchildren whenever she needed it. That's what makes the Bay Area culture so incredible, and by limiting work flexibility, Mayer is taking away one of the best parts of living in northern California.