Yahoo CEO Mayer Now Requiring Remote Employees to Not Be (Remote)

Posted Saturday, February 23, 2013 in Innovation by Peter Horne

Fascinating! Kara Swisher of All Things D wrote:

According to numerous sources, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has instituted a HR plan today to require Yahoo employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities. The move will apparently impact several hundred employees, who must either comply without exception or presumably quit. It impacts workers such as customer service reps, who perhaps work from home or an office in another city where Yahoo does not have one. Many such staffers who wrote me today are angry, because they felt they were initially hired with the assumption that they could work more flexibly. Not so, as it turns out. A Yahoo spokesperson said the company does not comment on internal matters.



  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 24, 2013 at 10:57 p.m.

    Someone Might Want to Slip This Under Marissa Mayers Door!


    "People who work from home start earlier, work up to three hours longer and get more done, a Melbourne University study found.

    Staying in touch with the office by email or video conference gave workers more control and left them energised, less stressed and with fewer distractions, the study, published in the Telecommunications Journal of Australia, reported. Researchers surveyed people who had teleworked in the local government, banking, education and IT sectors. Two days a week was the most time workers preferred to spend at home before missing the social interaction.

    Paul Giles has worked for a Melbourne advertising agency from his home in Gordon, northern Sydney, for 11 years.

    'Now, when I go to offices, I notice how much wasted time there is and how much more focused you can be when you work on your own,' he said"

  • phorne
    Peter Horne on February 24, 2013 at 11:35 p.m.

    She might be willing to trade off one productivity against another... productive teams vs productive individuals.

    If you have truly creative specialists, then they will work productively no matter what.

    But I find developers work better in teams because they are less specialist and more resource in teams. And teams need to be next to each other if you want them to do more than tick off task lists.

    ... in spite of the fact that developers want to hide in corners and pretend they are specialists ...

    I like her more now because she is cutting across orthodoxy ;-)

  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 25, 2013 at 2:15 p.m.

    Don't Call Working Remotely a Comeback

    Another interesting article for the Marissa Mayers' of the world:

    The Information Age came, but work didn't change

    We've been in the Information Age for at least 25 years. We've made huge leaps in technology. Many of us would describe ourselves as Knowledge_workers: we don't work in factories, we work at desks in front of glowing screens. We don't make goods with physical materials, but rather things made out of bits. The great thing about bits + the internet is that the materials and means needed for production aren't dependent on location.

    But here's the funny thing: the way work is organized hasn't changed. Despite all these advances, most of us still work in central offices. Employees leave their computer-equipped homes, and drive long distrances to work at computer-equipped offices.

    It's management that's broken

    CEOs, like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Apple's Steve Jobs, think that a central office fosters more innovation and productivity. I think they're wrong. We're still early in the research, but recent studies seem to dispute their claim.

    Studies and data aside, we know, at least anecdotally, that distributed teams can create tremendous innovation. Automattic  created the world’s most popular publishing platform. 37signals helped create a programming framework that powers “tens of thousands of  applications”. At both companies, the majority of their employees work remotely (or have the option to do so).

    It’s not remote working that’s broken, it’s management habits that needs to change.

    Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
    Jackie Reses, Head of HR, Yahoo

  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 26, 2013 at 3:15 a.m.

    On the other hand... take a look at this commentary from Brennan Byrne:

    "Futurism • Why Yahoo's Decision Might Not Be So Wrong

    ..."I think that gut reaction might be coming out too fast and too loud. 

    Working remotely is definitely the trendy thing to let your company do right now, and I’m absolutely on board with any company that is benefitting from a program that gives their employees more freedom. But I would never pretend to know whether or not Yahoo’s program was working and worth maintaining. 

    The truth is that decisions like this one get made based on data, data that none of the people criticizing the decision have. What if the remote Yahoos were getting 25% less work done than those doing their work at the office? Other companies have seen different trends, but the nature of the work being done and the management structure of the company certainly have an impact on whether or not programs like this make sense.

    We’ve seen that Mayer and Yahoo are working to become more employee friendly in an attempt to make recruiting top talent easier. This announcement sacrifices some of the gains they’ve made in that area, and that is obvious to everyone involved—including the people who made the decision.

    That means they’re either idiots who have no idea what they’re doing, despite having previously executed consistently and positively on this goal, or that they have more information than we do. 

    I don’t know the answer, but I wouldn’t be quick to assume it’s the former."

  • phorne
    Peter Horne on February 26, 2013 at 7 a.m.
    I'm on her team... good on her for giving it a go.  She's certainly not gone in all MBA style and loud like Carly F at HP and Meg W...
    By definition at the end of this move she will have all the team players and none of the email bombers... that will change the culture.
    I also think there's also a hint of personal politics in this... some righteousness against her for no real reason other than not wanting her to succeed.
    Jack Welch was and is an ass* and he was celebrated when he sent pink slips home.  Marissa M always impressed me and all she is doing here is declaring she wants a team environment and is getting a blast.
    Go figure...
  • thagan
    Tom Hagan on February 26, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.

    I, too, found Yahoo's change fascinating and well worth watching. That there are no exceptions - for field service engineers for example, who have always worked out of their homes - seems a bit weird, but otherwise the move is interesting.

    At a recent talk the founder of VMWare described her subsequent work as a super angel investor and it was clear that she felt everyone at a startup needs to be co-located. This surprised me so I asked her about it. I said an old motto of mine had been "geography counts" but we had long ago allowed employees to live anywhere. She said co-location is necessary for team forming and even the one or two startups she was involved in who allowed people to work virtually got everyone together from time to time. So basically she said geography counts less than it once did, but it still counts. I have been puzzling over the issue of virtual employees ever since, and look forward to hearing results from Yahoo's extreme reversal.

    I wonder if this was just a move to mask a further reduction of ranks at Yahoo? Could be, but the field service, and sales, question remains: it wastes money to maintain an office with no one in it, though many companies did that in the past. Will Yahoo revert to that costly practice just to avoid exceptions to its new rule? Or will they really lay off everyone not near an existing office? And if you are a customer far from an existing office who has been being served by one or more Yahoo virtual employees, what are you to think? That Yahoo is pulling out of your area?

    Field service and sales employees should have been excluded from the new rule, it seems to me.

    - Tom

  • phorne
    Peter Horne on February 26, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.
    Another Mayer bash... but what got me rolling on the floor was the title of one
    of the "experts"
    "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?"

    I want to work in the foresight department. You find it just down the hall after the near sight department. But first you have to fight to get past the overcrowded hindsight department that is blocking the halls.\

  • pgibson
    Phil Gibson on February 26, 2013 at 6 p.m.


    "I want to work in the foresight department. You find it just down the hall after the near sight department. But first you have to fight to get past the overcrowded hindsight department that is blocking the halls."

  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 27, 2013 at 1 a.m.

    Marcus Wohlson from Wired weighs in....

    Marissa Mayer's No-Working-From-Home Rule Is Stupid -- Or It Could Save Yahoo

    "Yahoo's reported decision to bar employees from working from home has led to the predictable backlash: “Crusty old Yahoo just doesn’t get it!” And the predictable backlash to the backlash: “Today’s workers are so spoiled and entitled!”

    But let’s step back from the barricades for a minute. As much as people love to hate on Yahoo for its many missteps, it’s hard to believe one of the planet’s most intensely scrutinized CEOs would enact such a policy just because she wants to lord over a campus full of cubicle drones.

    'I think Marissa Mayer is way too smart for this to be the ultimate resolution of whatever challenge they’re facing,' says Tony Schwartz, the founder and CEO of The Energy Project, a consultancy to Fortune 100 companies that advocates for a more flexible workplace culture......

    Much has been written about the power of serendipitous encounters to fuel innovation, a serendipity encouraged by physical proximity and density. Yoav Schwartz (no relation to Tony) has been outspoken online in support of the new Yahoo policy and believes that’s the kind of environment Mayer wants to create. Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Uberflip, a 20-person startup in Toronto with a strict no-work-from-home policy. Schwartz says prospective employees learn about the policy up front, which means they know what to expect. Mayer didn’t have the chance to set that tone from the start, he says, which means having to make tough calls to reboot the workplace culture she inherited.

    “It’s about being part of an ecosystem. I think that’s what Mayer was trying to convey,” Schwartz says. “If you’re building a culture, a huge part of that culture is being present within it.”

    Update (February 26, 2013, 5:15 p.m. EST): Yahoo sent out a new statement on the work-from-home fracas: “We don’t discuss internal matters. This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home—this is about what is right for Yahoo!, right now.”

  • Patty_author
    Patricia Seybold on February 27, 2013 at 3 p.m.

    Richard Branson Weighs In! This is fun!

    From his blog--thanks Scott! Give People the Freedom of Where to Work

    To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision. It is the art of delegation, which has served Virgin and many other companies well over the years. We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen.

    Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.So it was perplexing to see Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer tell employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities.

    This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.Working life isn't 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.

    By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group

  • phorne
    Peter Horne on February 27, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.
    He supports this because he makes his Directors share their living time in Switzerland because they have to be domicile there for them to get the tax advantages of keeping his holding company there.
    His company is also less than 100 people, mostly on the road with partners.
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 27, 2013 at 3:41 p.m.
    I'm amused by the thought of pilots on Virgin Air demanding to work remotely.
    In this age of drones, it's possible, y'know...
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 27, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.

    A woman's perspective--from Kathleen Schmidt

    If Marissa Mayer Were a Man

    "I have worked as a high level executive through two pregnancies, and can tell you the ills of corporate culture when it pertains to women with children—but you already know much of them. You also know that men and women are treated very differently in the workplace. Now we find ourselves in a position where we are criticizing a female CEO for a decision that, if made by a man, would not cause as much as a drop in the corporate bucket. In fact, if a man were to have a nursery built in his office, he would be a hero. He would not be the target of criticism from other fathers; nor would he be representative of an entire gender.

    Marissa Mayer does not have an easy job. She has been charged with turning around a company that has been in flux for some time. Everyone knows that in order to shrink overhead, you need to get rid of dead weight; you need to review performances on every level. This is no easy task. One would think at this point in her career, Marissa Mayer has nothing to prove. Wrong. She has everything to prove, and being a woman makes it that much harder to do so. Granted, having Human Resources send a blanket memo was not the most prudent decision, but it certainly does get the message across that Mayer is a force to be reckoned with. My guess is if a man handled it the same way, he would just be doing his job.

    I understand the ramifications of Mayer’s decision, but I also think we have to examine the issue from both a male and female perspective. The success of a man is measured so differently than the success of a woman. Women are scrutinized in the workplace far more for taking time off to take a child to the doctor, attend a school function, or, God forbid, leave the office at 5pm. The majority of us are not Marissa Mayer. We do not have the same financial security, the fancy wardrobe, or the household staff. However, we do have one thing in common with the CEO of Yahoo!: our gender. While I may disagree with her tactics, a part of me feels like I have to support Marissa Mayer in her role as mother and CEO. After all, the path from the boardroom to the nursery is never a straight one."

  • phorne
    Peter Horne on February 27, 2013 at 5 p.m.
    I disagree with this article - the whole line of attach on Marissa M is that she is setting back what has been considered a gain for working mothers.  
    I also think that a male CEO would not make this call as the way.  If male execs have learnt nothing over the last 10 years it's that you don't step on things like this.  And it has been made is in a very condescending fashion; we don't trust you to work at home and grock the culture and if I guy did it the gallery would be all over him.
    I think she should be able to run the Co how she sees fit within the law; but she has gone outside of convention and popular wisdom.
    But she hasn't said the ladies shall serve tea and the men shall do the work.  But to read the papers today in Australia you would think that she has and sent equal opportunity employment back 100 years.
    All these opinions without accountability - who'd bother to be a CEO of a listed Co.
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 27, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
    Has Mayer explained what's going on here?  
    I'm not seeing it, not in Pete's original post (in which Yahoo specifically declined comment) or in anything subsequent.
    I can go either way on her decision depending on what her objective is for making it.  For now, that's tabula rasa.  This article is a good example: it's one author viewing the decision through the lens of a working mom.  Okay: so the article reflects more the world-view and priorities of that particular author.  ALL the commentaries do, in fact, because what they're missing is the world-view and priorities of one Marissa Mayer.
    Sure, Yahoo needed a shaking up.  A culture change.  A refocusing and a reduction in both force and in breadth of endeavors.  If a foundation of business is "find a need and fill it," it's not clear how the latter-day Yahoo is doing either.  Mayer's Job One is to fix that.  Okay, so how does this new policy fit in?
    I'm a huge fan of the Five Whys technique [].  So far the why-ometer is stuck at zero.
    IMHO, we (and the pundits) have insufficient data for analyzing this move, much less criticizing it.  
    But Mayer and Yahoo CAN be criticized for not getting ahead of this story.  Milton's Law: "In the absence of information, people will naturally assume the worst."  Insofar as that's in play, it's potentially damaging and difficult to control.  In that regard, I'm not impressed.
  • phorne
    Peter Horne on February 27, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
    The 5 Whys works with broken machines but it does not work with expert decision making.  Asking an expert to enunciate their wisdom behind a decision reduces their performance to that of a novice.
    Ie. wisdom sits in a non verbal space.
    If she's managing by gut feel, then her answers will sound dumb and she'll perform like a newb.
    But here is an article I found - via Yahoo search that does a good job...
    At least she's not sprouting MBA sh*t like most other new hire CEOs from the right school who deliver the wrong outcome.
    Yahoo is screwed without a non traditional approach.
    She may be the real thing - maybe she can run MS after she's fixed Yahoo.
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on February 27, 2013 at 5:44 p.m.
    On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 Peter Hornewrote:

    The 5 Whys works with broken machines but it does not work with expert decision making.

    Well, I'm a huge fan of accountability for "experts" too.  
    In fact: Is she an expert?  What successful turnarounds can she point to?  (Same goes for Meg Whitman.)  Her history as an original at Google (and Meg's at Ebay) does not map in an obvious way to being a Jobsian transformational or turnaround expert.  Maybe she's a great fit for that role, but the burden of proof is on her.  I would urge her to explain what's going on, is all.  Meanwhile we know very little.  That unsourced BusinessInsider piece is a start but certainly nothing close to a finish.
    I hope she succeeds.  But from a PR standpoint this hasn't gone well.
You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.