Memo Read Round the World: Yahoo Says No to Working at Home

New CEO (and new mother) Marissa Mayer says there will be no more working from home at the Internet pioneer. Puff goes two decades of workplace reinvention.

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In a memo read round the world, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has made it clear that working at home will not be an option on her watch. For a contemporary technology-driven company this is a striking position, one that appears to set back the modern workplace and working parents by about two decades.

Eliminating the ability to telecommute eats away at the core of what Yahoo, an Internet pioneer, and Mayer, a new mother, would seem to be all about. Predictably, reaction was swift. Mommy blogs expressed outrage at this anti-family policy. Technology blogs called it misguided. Workplace blogs said the ban might even be unlawful, though that’s hard to fathom.

No one should be surprised if Mayer reverses herself—like Netflix when it angered millions of faithful customers 17 months ago with a steep price hike masked in a plan to break apart its DVD rental and streaming services. Or, dare I say it, like New Coke. Such blunders surface from time to time in the corporate world and all one can do is marvel.

(MORE: Why Marissa Mayer Is Feeling Lucky)

Mayer’s edict went out to employees last week in an internal note announcing that starting June 1 all employees will be expected to report to work each day at a Yahoo office. At Mayer’s instruction, Yahoo HR head Jackie Reses wrote the memo, first reported at Allthingsd.com. The memo read, in part:

“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. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

Mayer took the helm at Yahoo in July. She’s been overhauling the troubled company and famously decided to take only two weeks of maternity leave when her son was born in October. So she is leading by example. Things need to change. But in eliminating flexible schedules she is swimming against a strong current. As business blogger Joe McKendrick writes:

“Many companies now work with highly distributed workforces. The reasons tend to be more practical than simply being a feel-good workplace policy: it’s often the best way to recruit the best talent, it saves on relocation costs, and it saves on real-estate costs. Even the U.S. government has an active telecommuting policy.”

A University of Texas at Austin study found that people who work from home “add five to seven hours to their workweek compared with those who work exclusively at the office.” A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that working remotely “seems to boost productivity, decrease absenteeism and increase retention.”

(MORE: Marissa Mayer’s Wall Street Debut Sends Yahoo! Stock Surging)

A Cisco study found that the company achieved “new levels of efficiency and effectiveness” after allowing people to work remotely. The study found that 60% of the time saved by telecommuting is spent working.

Sure, there are slackers and many suspect that what Mayer really wants is to drive away dead wood that’s been phoning it in for years. If some valued employees are driven away in the process, so what? The Yahoo workforce is too big anyway. But is this the right way to go about it? Isn’t it management’s responsibility to keep track of telecommuters’ productivity and deal with underperformers one by one? Already there is talk of Silicon Valley competitors using flexible schedules as bait to recruit Yahoo’s best and brightest.

Technology has revolutionized the workplace, allowing people to do their jobs while still caring for a child home from school with the flu or on weekends and vacations when urgent matters surface. Yahoo has a respected place in history as one of the enablers. Turning back the clock can’t be the answer.

130 comments
Workhomesite
Workhomesite

You are very correct that it is time for senior management to step up their game and make some serious changes. And you are seeing what they have decided to do to make yahoo better.

SheriffAbdou
SheriffAbdou

Huh. Against trends - but some good pts in her letter. MT: “@TIME: Yahoo says no to working at home. Outrage ensues ti.me\/ZGsLnInrt”

eCasinoHost
eCasinoHost

I completely agree with her decision. We tried the home-agent model at Custom-Contact and found 22% less productivity over or agents within our centers in Las Vegas and Lubbock. It takes a highly disciplined individual to virtually work from home and this does not couple in the normal distractions that happen. For myself, if I need my lawn guys to show up, I just work from home that day for they are sure to be running the leaf-blower during my conference calls.


SavvaPouroullis
SavvaPouroullis

are people actually irritated that they have to go to work to work?

Firehawk95
Firehawk95

I have, from time to time, worked at home and got a lot accomplished due to so many distractions at the office. However, being surrounded by, and interacting with, co-workers can be done much better in person. There is only so much that can be done over Skype and instant message, which is probably a surprise to a lot of 20-somethings. This is likely a decision based on the company's survival, and I doubt it was taken lightly. It's probably All Hands On Deck.



Amybrat522
Amybrat522

Yahoo employees don't like the changeslook for another job good luck because if something doesn't change you won’t have a job. Really not many businesses allow workers to work at home even more so if the company is losing money proof you are not doing your job well enough... If you work at home Tell me if you have children do you really get 40 hrs a week into your work children want attention and need feed and laundry needs done and house work unless you have a house cleaner, if you do get 40 how by locking yourself in a room all day and have a nanny so really you could go in to the office you won’t be losing any money and time with your children the only thing you save on is driving get over it that's why you have a car to go shopping, driver your kids around and drive to work... They didn't say they weren't a family supporting company if your child is sick take a vacation day like others do at other companies and nonprofits. My sister in law works for 4H for 18 yrs makes $45,000 a year this week will work 14 days straight and puts in 60+ hrs a week has night meetings 3 days a week travels to 5 counties and has two children if they are sick she has to take a vacation day she gets 21 vac daysshe also did this while her husband was deployed for 3 yrs (because the economy was so bad for jobs) in WI and now they took away work at home days.Her husband is Retired Army and couldn't find a job close to home only gets about $30, 000 a year travels about an hour one way and only gets 5 vac days a year and they are butt heads if he has to take a vac day if his children are sick or even a vac day to see them at an event at the fairgrounds for fair week they are involved in 4H.Our Soldiers and Sailors Male or Female married or single do this every day they are deployed in war zones and have to leave their children with family. Quite whining and see how the real world works. Why don’t you show Yahoo and find another job that way they can find a more productive worker and you can keep up the mediocre work to help another company lose business…

JanJoostBouwman
JanJoostBouwman

@NathaliaVasquez I don't! I do my best work either from home or at work when everybody has gone home! I prefer the first.

Ronnie_Matrix
Ronnie_Matrix

@TIME @TIMEBusiness I think it is a bad call by Yahoo maybe Marissa Mayer knows something we don't. We will see how this pans out.

deportacus
deportacus

@JuanIlundain afecta fundamentalmente a gente de US.

joeovip
joeovip

@edrex_ totally bad if you need to step it up and have total focus to turn things around.

ImeldaMcGrattan
ImeldaMcGrattan

.@TIME @TIMEBusiness Women MEAN Business ! Gives a new meaning, doesn't it !! What a MEANIE Marissa !!

peculiarblend
peculiarblend

 I have worked from home it is not difficult but my productivity had dropped considerably. It again depends on person to person but I'd prefer sometimes going to office even if I'd to travel in the mad rush of traffic and trains. 

http://peculiarblend.wordpress.com/

mye_myrene
mye_myrene

“@TIME: Yahoo says no to working at home. Outrage ensues | http://t.co/MCCnYnKUg9 (via @TIMEBusiness)” @mrclarkdarwin are u outraged too???

PeterM_Williams
PeterM_Williams

@TIME @TIMEBusiness working from home = not working.

dfcowan
dfcowan

@TIME @TIMEBusiness Wel that's ok, so long as I can wear my PJs to work

AlistairIanDgbBrownlee
AlistairIanDgbBrownlee

Win or lose, sink or swim. One thing is certain we'll never give in. Side by side. Hand in hand. We all stand together...

JaneRStanton
JaneRStanton

@trenaesimp I feel like this is something that should be implemented in stages. Seems abrupt for a company that desperately needs TLC #mi621

SawabKing
SawabKing

she just admitted that yahoo has no way to judge the productivity of its workers except by looking at their timecards!

cphartman
cphartman

Comparing a policy change that affects only a subset of Yahoo!'s employees, with the product blunders of Coke and Netflix, is a reason to question the interests of this author. Who outside silicon valley and those who want a work from home job really care about this? Mayer will stick to her decision, and this story will die in a week, Yahoo! will be better for it.

TesterJohnny
TesterJohnny

As someone who works from home, I can tell you I am FAR more productive having my starbucks and working in my UnderArmour gear than I would be at the office. I usually work 60 hours a week, 20+ what Im suppose to. Why? Im home, Im comfy, I can blare my music and get into the zone! I work in software and my thoughts are we should all work from home. 

The office is a distraction filled with politics, water cooler hippos, combo grazers, innuendos and of course--the dreaded Dwights. She'll (Miss tight Panties CEO girl) will reverse her decision. 

mbhposter
mbhposter

There are also studies that contrast the idea that constant contact, brainstorming, etc. is NOT the best way to be creative. These studies have show that often you sow some seeds into the heads of your creative folks and then let them go off in isolation, to an office (not a cube) or at home, and let their creative juices flow. For me, one the seeds are sown, the ideas come at different times, I could be driving, I could be showering, laying in bed, cruising the internet for non work sites, etc. What these have in common is mostly that I am alone, not distracted, not worrying about what others say, not listening to the hum-drum done of cubicle chatter, etc.

mbhposter
mbhposter

There is no need to monitor desk time or computer time or work time, what you measure is RESULTS. The best thing you can do to get the best results is to allow people to be as flexible as they need to be. You not only get results, you get loyalty. Everyone has productivity cycles. And I speak from experience. I was a full-time teleworker for 11 years, living in NC, reporting to a manager in San Jose, dotted line to a manager in Florida, workign with a group in Germany. I accomplished at least a much as I did in a traditional office environment, I had to travel rarely, I was always got the highest ratings on my year end reivews. The company got 11 more years out of me than than they would have otherwise! The day they removed the policyis the day I took a package and soon after the division was sold to a venture capital firm.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Yahoo's employees will "vote with their feet" on this issue.

In a hyper-competitive, globalized world, employees are free to seize opportunities anywhere across the planet.

ThomasLeavitt
ThomasLeavitt

An employee at one of my clients, a very critical technologist, just bailed, because he'd been promised the ability to work from home a significant percentage of the time, and not been given it... he had other options, so he took one of them. I bet a lot of folks were promised the ability to work from home consistently, as a condition of employment, and made housing and other decisions based on that promise. Revoking it, after the fact, is not likely to make them happy. There's no "entitlement" here, just a free market for talent... talent that values this highly (and many tech folks do), and can go elsewhere, will do so. I suspect that the volume of resumes and emails and the response rate to recruiter requests spiked shortly after this announcement was distributed. If Yahoo wants to cripple it's ability to fight for talent in one of the hottest employment markets out there, that's their choice, but very few folks in the valley are going to call it a wise decision.

gdata
gdata

It is amazing how people feel entitled to something, like working from their home when they want to. They do not remember who pay them, the employer. I think it is just fair for employers to expect your time in return of the money they pay you.

I think Marissa Mayer is doing the right thing here. Do not worry about those 'good' employees who are supposed to be 'genius' and 'smart'. If they cannot follow company's policy, then they are not valuable to the company. After those 'good' employees quit, Yahoo will be left with the dedicated ones.

Not saying that upper management is always right, but at the end, people have to follow the rule they are under or they have freedom to leave.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

The bottom line is that, all of you "indispensable" workers, who feel you are owed a paycheck from company, should just quit and let the company fail. A company does what it must to stay afloat or no one goes home with a paycheck. Time will tell how indispensable you are.

chrisx5566
chrisx5566

It is either she fires all remote employees or board fires her in 6 months. I put my money on later

SANMANx
SANMANx

Holy moly, no one said it was forever. Telecommuting for an established company works. A failing company needs to gather the troops and replan things. I think its a good move.

kimxiugp
kimxiugp

good luck Marissa, you will need alot of luck, but I think even with all the luck, it will not be enough to make this work.

you are destroying Yahoo company, hopefully you will figure this out soon enough before it's a dead end.


XalmanXhan
XalmanXhan

There could have been a better solution to this.. For example: Using cloud technology has the capability of complete and full-time monitoring of remote worker activity. This allows you to ensure, you’re operating at peak productivity – even if remote workers don’t reside at an office.

Read more: http://www.dincloud.com/blog/mobile-workforce-with-hosted-virtual-desktop

You can boost productivity, increase employee satisfaction – and drive better results; with a new strategy that’s quickly gaining popularity. Use remote workers, operating with cloud technology.

RenoGal
RenoGal

@Amybrat522 The tech world is different than the "real world"  Results are results, whether you put in 40, 20 or 80 hours a week chained to a cubicle, lying on your couch or in a prison cell.  Also, please learn about periods and commas.  Thank you.

NathaliaVasquez
NathaliaVasquez

@JanJoostBouwman I have a few friends like that... So interesting! Is it because of the noise? Are you also more productive at home?

edrex_
edrex_

@joeovip Interesting. Studies suggest home-working can be more productive, though. As with everything, I guess it's about finding a balance.

mrclarkdarwin
mrclarkdarwin

@mye_myrene no, I'm not. its actually good for prductivity.

RenoGal
RenoGal

@cphartman It's actually the entire tech industry, many of whom are living outside the valley, hence the advantages of remote working capabilities.  There is a larger concern that this will impact other work situations in the industry and be very disruptive to many people's lives.

Spozb
Spozb

@gdata no entitlement here, I work from home and as a result of that save my employer tens of thousands of dollars by not demanding a DC area living wage, but instead a very comfortable wage for the rural area I live in. That's part of the agreement. I am "entitled" only in as much as it is part of the employment contract. I suspect some of these people at yahoo did similar things and now the company is pulling the rug out from under them. Demanding that they now move to a new city, with no offer of relocation or cost of living adjustments for those who are being required to do so. Believe me, I know who pays my wage, but they need to understand that without people like me who actually produce the product, the ceo is just another unemployed middle manager.

sremani
sremani

@gdata Is Salary an entitlement, is negotiating the work conditions an entitlement? Please do not go over other people's work ethic without any idea. there are many companies big and small who are doing work from home and certainly are thriving. Some of these people took their job at Yahoo probably with the promise of Working from Home or work at a location that does not Yahoo office (so no relocation other stuff).

Yahoo has retracted its promise,  there is new sheriff in town and rules change and I think people get it. But what Yahoo is doing is a bit of weird, you start the policy in certain divisions and see how it is working out and gradually scale it. whoever did it, did for the shock factor.

Its Yahoo prerogative but this can done more orderly and scaled in much more sensitive way.

dennis.schmidt
dennis.schmidt

@SANMANx No kidding, we can see how much a mess Yahoo is on the outside, imagine how ugly it is on the inside.  Was anybody seriously imagining her turning the company around by doing everything the same way it was done before?

SANMANx
SANMANx

Nice ad, that cost more money

JanJoostBouwman
JanJoostBouwman

@NathaliaVasquez mostly because people come ask me for help all day long. Do like the interaction but when writing a memo it isn't helpful

mye_myrene
mye_myrene

@mrclarkdarwin naks... Good answer :)