Marissa Mayer: Yahoo CEO Banned Telecommuting Because Of Google Data


The drama mamas and daddies are certainly raising a huge ruckus over Yahoo!’s new work on campus policy in an attempt to turn the narrative into a productivity and working mom issue verses the true issue facing Yahoo: lack of innovation and quality decline.

The methodology behind Mayer’s decision has been consistently proven for decades. Face-to-face collaboration brings forward greater ideas and leads to the next “big thing.” Face time also brings faster resolution to complex problems, like a global hacking incident.  This isn’t a concept pulled from the “cloud” it’s based on fact and backed-up with data.

How can we be sure this is based on solid research? 

John Sullivan, professor of business management at San Francisco State University, explains it best during his interview with Gwen Ifill, “It turns out the more random interactions between people, the more collaboration you get, the faster decisions are made, and the more innovation you get. And innovation brings in much more money, much more revenue, much more profit. So, for example, Apple revenue per employee, the amount each employee produces every year is six-and-a-half times that of Yahoo!."

What kind of data could have driven such a pragmatic solution? 

Google data. One seemingly innocuous but key insight Professor Sullivan revealed during his interview with Ifill was the fact that Google studied the lines at the cafes. Low and behold, they learned that people dropped off of long lines, and didn’t collaborate as much on shorter lines where they essentially did a grab and dash. Lines in the mid-range brought forward collaboration and greater relationship building. 

This may be insignificant to some and, based on my work experience, problems are solved and solutions are found quicker when all team members are in the same room to brainstorm the challenge. It’s really an energizing experience, especially when you use every inch of the walls and the plate glass windows while hashing out a solution. This is the environment of Yahoo!’s competitors and you can’t get that rush and sense of accomplishment sitting at home in your undies. It just isn’t the same.

Another item to consider is the sheer volume of money Google, Facebook, and other giants spend on their campuses. From bowling alleys to free café’s, laundry service, and building layout, they’ve thought of everything and brought the cube farm walls down. The net results, both Google and Facebook have each been ranked the number one company to work for. Facebook was named Glassdoor’s best company to work for in 2013 while Google topped Fortune’s 2013 best list. 

Additionally, while Yahoo! struggled to get their hacking issue resolved, their competitors had a nary blip in the news or blogosphere. When the news finally emerged that their competitor had been hit, it was nearly a month after the incident had been resolved.

For those stirring up drama that this is the precursor to a layoff or it’s not pro-woman, knock it off and face realty:  

- As Yahoo! drifted into the same-ol-same ol, the layoffs started years ago as the company took a back seat to Google.

- The average remote worker is a 40-year-old man.

- As a new mom, Mayer completely understands what parents need and will work toward solutions that provide both the ability to work on campus and work/life balance that includes taking of their kids.   

While the remote workers continue to raise a fuss over having to report into the office and threaten to quit or accept termination, they may want to consider the following:

- If Mayer were the heartless witch many are trying to portray her as, the remote Yahoos would have been given their walking papers last year, shortly after Mayer took the helm.  She values them as people and is providing every opportunity to keep them in the Yahoo! family.

- If they think they can simply jump over to Facebook, they may want to think again.  I have yet to see a "remote" or virtual job posting for Facebook and they will have to go through Facebook’s on site boot camp, regardless of their experience level.

- If they think they can jump over to Google, think again. During a talk in Australia last month, Google’s chief financial officer, Patrick Pichette, stated, "The surprising question we get is: 'How many people telecommute at Google?' And our answer is: 'As few as possible.'"

Maybe it’s time to throw on a clean pair of pants, shirt, and your flip-flops and head into the office. You may actually find you like the changes that are on deck.