Marissa Meyer Telecommuting and The Business Woman Reaction - #wgbiz
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Marissa Mayer, Telecommuting and The Business Woman Reaction
27 February 2013

Today's latte, Yahoo!The top story I’ve been watching this week was the decision by Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo, recently transplanted from Google, to end telecommuting at Yahoo by telling remote workers to come in or quit by June.

I’ve been slow to form an opinion on the matter for several reasons.

First, I know how hard it is to make difficult business decisions that affect more than just you.  You can’t always do what’s popular. And sometimes doing what you perceive to be right, or the least harmful, makes you the bad guy.

Second, I work from home a lot, and get much more done than I do in an office environment in the two companies I own now.

So I know my opinion is a biased one: remote working (mostly) works for me.

In short, I want to take my personal bias out of it, and look at the situation based on the information I have, rather than the feelings I have first. Of course, I later add human emotion back into the equation and reevaluate again because I’m a person, not a robot. As are the affected and reactive population.

In so doing, I’ve come to the conclusion that the backlash isn’t all about whether what happened was what is best for Yahoo! or not.

It’s the fear that a prominent company making this kind of policy change is a threat to American telecommuters.

In other countries, particularly in Europe, the role of work in life is embedded in the culture. Time off is often more lenient, productivity is valued above being physically present. It has been for years and a major company changing its mind is not likely to sway other business owners.

In the US, policy changes at major companies often ripple out to other companies. Big companies are sometimes the test beds for ideas like unlimited time off, email for office use, having a web site or a blog, or telecommuting. Smaller companies watch them to see if the experiment will succeed or fail.

When there is a perceived failure at a prominent company of a benefit employees want, given this climate, of course there will be panic.

We All Know What Opinions Are Like – Here’s Mine

Now that a couple of days have passed, and I’ve had time to actually gather some information, I have come to the conclusion that even if this was the right move for Yahoo, the implementation was faulty.

And I’m inclined to think this may have been the fastest, though not the best, resolution for Yahoo’s situation, IF the rumors about the lacking productivity of the remote teams are true.

(Of course, my opinion and my fellow bloggers or social media users is likely of little consequence to whether Yahoo! will reverse its position, regardless of whether our opinions are correct. However, the alternative idea of remaining silent when these kinds of issues hit so close to home, seems counter-intuitive, even hypocritical.

How can you tell people their voice matters, and then not speak? Stranger things have happened than bloggers being able to use our collective power to cause change. Back to the issue at hand.)

I started my research by simply reading the Yahoo! memo  leaked to All Things Digital, and I could see why it caused outrage to those who may be sensitive to the issue of telecommuting.

One of my favorite blogs, Spin Sucks, from one of our community members, Gini Dietrich, gives an example of a way the same message could have been communicated with better wording in the Yahoo! memo.

I agree that her version would have caused a much smaller uproar, perhaps none at all. Then I wonder  if alternative solutions were pursued.

I also noted that the memo in question came from the head of human resources, not from Meyer directly. Of course she had to have made the decision. But is it possible that she didn’t sign off on the phrasing in the memo? Is it likely that Yahoo never meant to indite telecommuting as a general practice?

Surely, if there are people abusing the telecommuting privilege, they should be let go. But what about the people who it is working for, who are adding value to the company, perhaps even because of telecommuting rather than in spite of it?

When telecommuting fails on such a large scale, it’s at least partly the fault of poor monitoring and management. Study after study shows that telecommuting actually benefits the company, the workers, even the environment. There’s the argument that it doesn’t spur innovation as much as productivity, but are the types of jobs that were remote, in this case, primed for completing projects or generating ideas?

Of course, as you’ll read in one of the stories below, the prevailing suspicion is that Meyer did this to force people to quit instead of firing them. Which also seems lazy, short-sighted, and ultimately bad for Yahoo if this is true.

It’s bound to throw out the baby with the bath water – there are likely great telecommuters who work better independently, adding value to the company. Instead of looking across the entire company and firing the appropriate people, cutting off an entire arm that may only be dead in the fingers … it just seems barbaric and backwards.

Here’s Why My Opinion – and Other Prevailing Ones – Could Be Completely Wrong

My opinion, as much as it relies on the available data to draw conclusions, still assumes a lot of things that may not be true. And this is where I believe some of the rhetoric surrounding the issue needs to be checked against the strictest view of the facts at hand.

Meyer may be making similar changes in the rest of the company we don’t know about. There’s an article where a former Yahoo telecommuter came forward to state that things were not efficient remotely.

Telecommuting may be bad for Yahoo’s culture, the way they’re doing it.

Still, even if time shows that Meyer took the correct action to right the company, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth as a former Yahoo consumer.

The only one of their products I use now is Flickr, and only because I can sign in with Google. For about two years I kept asking for help to reset my password – something I have to do quite often as someone who basically lives on the web – with no answer.

Public perception does count for something. But perhaps Yahoo’s public isn’t partly made up of tech consumers any longer – people like us who blog, use Flickr, or social media may not be central to their audience, and perhaps never were.

Below are the articles I read for your reference – it seems relatively easy to find negative press on the topic. The neutral and positive slants offer some great points, though I disagree with most of their conclusions.

Definitely worth a read if telecommuting affects your life, as an employer or as an employee. Without this discourse, Yahoo’s change in policy might have been taken at face value and been the start of a tide which rippled into the blind and abrupt end of telecommuting across the US.

Instead, as one of the articles below cleverly posits – the fact that such a well known company made what so many view as an obvious mistake has opened dialogue on a hidden trend – that of companies reversing the decision to telecommute after trying it and failing.

Perhaps the result of this open dialogue will leave all parties better prepared for this circumstance in the future.


Yahoo,Telecommuting & The Marissa Mayer Reactions

This has been a fascinating news story to watch. It was truly a struggle not to rush to judgement – and taking the time to observe all viewpoints led me to intriguing discoveries. Hope that you’ll take the time to take in all the various perspectives, especially if you’re a business owner, employee

Storified by Tinu Abayomi-Paul· Wed, Feb 27 2013 15:35:26

Some background on Marissa Mayer. 

If you observe some of the circumstances and expectations of this most recent Yahoo CEO, it helps you understand why the reaction to her move was so sharp. There are a lot of expectations and assumptions made about her on the basis of her being a female CEO, fair or not.
Who is Yahoo’s New CEO Marissa Mayer?wsjdigitalnetwork
Marissa Mayer – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaMarissa Ann Mayer is an American business executive. As of 2013 she is the president and CEO of Yahoo!. Previously, she was a long-time…

The Story – Yahoo CEO Bans Telecommuting. 

The way this news was discovered, the execution of the mandate, as well as speculation as to its intent is clearly affecting the way the news is being received. 
"Physically Together": Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe MoreCourtesy of a plethora of very irked Yahoo employees, here is the internal memo sent to the company about a new rule rolled out today by …
Marissa Mayer CEO of Yahoo bans telecommuting at Yahoo.theuslive
Marissa Mayer Rolls Out a New Yahoo.comNow, Yahoo! (YHOO) Chief Executive Marissa Mayer is giving her company's crown jewel a radical polish. The revamped, which …
Marissa Mayer – ForbesMarissa Mayer's decision to force telecommuters back into the office at Yahoo to spark more collaboration has ignited plenty of deb…
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer causes uproar with telecommuting ban Angeles Times
Yahoo chief bans working from homeSurfing the web from at home might be just what Yahoo's chief Marissa Mayer wants her audience to do – but she has banned employees o…

Follow Up News Stories on Meyer’s Decision

Is Yahoo’s work-from-home ban a stealth layoff?Yahoo’s ( YHOO) employee policy change that bans working from home could be a stealth layoff, employment experts speculated Tuesday. Tell…
Is Yahoo’s Work Policy All That Bad?forbes
Ex-Yahoos Confess: Marissa Mayer Is Right To Ban Working From HomeLast Friday, Yahoo HR boss Jackie Reses sent out a memo telling all remote employees that they needed to find a way to be working in an o…
The Truth About Marissa Mayer's Surprise Deal With Google (GOOG, YHOO …When Mayer quit Google in July for the job at Yahoo, she didn't do it in the friendliest way. A source tells us she gave Google only …
Why Yahoo's telecommuting ban isn't a surpriseCreate Portfolio or Cancel Already have a portfolio? Log In. Cali Williams Yost, author of 'Tweak It- Make What Matters to You Happen…
Why Marissa Mayer's ban on remote working at Yahoo could …1 day ago … Yahoo says that its new edict banning remote working is necessary to build the right kind of culture. But how is making t…

Reactions to the news from Yahoo

3 Ways Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Did Us A Huge FavorThis recent news of Yahoo’s backward and misguided reversal on remote work provoked intense outrage: "Why would Marissa Mayer do this? It…
I was initially going to separate this into people for and against the decision. But it was much more enlightening when I meandered through positive, neutral and negative reactions and press stories. Hope you’ll have the same experience.
Yahoo Abolishes Work-From-Home Policy – A Moms Matter Hangout – Feb 26, 2013cafemomstudios
Mom defends Yahoo’s Mayer: Parents are especially miffed at Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s new telecommuting policy… Hicks
Give people the freedom of where to workTo successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherev…
Back into the Office! 3 Reasons Marissa Meyer has made a smart …14 hours ago … As Yahoo! employees digest the latest “no more working from home” proclamation from CEO Marissa Meyer, many may be won…
Thoughts on Yahoo!’s Ban on Working from HomeI was thrilled when Yahoo! hired a woman as its new CEO. I was even more thrilled that she was pregnant. I mean, what a HUGE step for wom…
Reaction to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s ban on telecommuting Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is banning one of the hallmarks of the high tech arena: telecommuting. Does that mean workers all over America w…
Why I Agree With Marissa MayerGET UPDATES FROM Debbie Madden Marissa Mayer’s decision to abolish Yahoo’s work-at-home policy has grabbed a lot of headlines in the 48 h…
[Honest/Insightful Read]: Yahoo kills telecommuting. Three cheers for Marissa Mayer! –> (via @PenelopeTrunk)Ryan Stephens
Marissa Mayer’s decision isn’t a "women’s issue" | Fresh GroundWritten by: Chuck Tanowitz on February 27, 2013. A lot of the discussion surrounding Marissa Mayer’s call for Yahoo! employees to return …
Hey, Yahoo: Proof That Working From Home Works: According to CEO Marissa Mayer, telecommuting costs "sp… (Inc.)Matthew Levy
The Yahoo! MistakeIs Yahoo! making a mistake by banning telecommuting? This decision by Marissa Mayer has sparked a controversy that has gained a snowball …
Marissa Mayer Is No FoolWho do Yahoo’s "work@home" telecommuting champions think they’re kidding? Marissa Mayer is no fool. She didn’t take over as Yahoo’s CEO b…
What Does Marissa Mayer Think We Do All Day? Employees Do the Same IN the Office : MOMeo Magazine for Work-at-Home Moms: Business Tools | Parenting Advice | Mom Lifestyle Tips | Mom Blog | Mom ForumMarissa Mayer, like many suspicious CEOs, doesn’t like remote work. To be specific, remote work done by work-at-home employees since I as…
– PhD in Parenting – Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg: When Executive Women Keep Other Women DownSunday, February 24, 2013 This week, two executive women made some pretty questionable business moves. These moves were not only baffling…
Telecommuting: Connecticut Reactions To Yahoo’s Ban

Related News and Discussion About Telecommuting

Of particular fascination for me was the widening of the debate that surrounds telecommuting. Many reinforced the success story by presenting statistics and studies. Others took the opportunity to discuss how telecommuting could work. One even asked why no one is mad at Google, when they don’t allow telecommuting either. 

Yahoo! Letter: Was Their Communications Team Consulted?By now, many of you have likely seen (and had some emotion about) the letter that was sent to Yahoo! employees regarding their new policy…
Presence Vs. Productivity: How Managers View Telecommuting : NPRYahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sparked controversy when she announced an end to company’s telecommuting program. A leaked internal memo emphasiz…
Survey Says: Despite Yahoo Ban, Most Tech Companies Support Work-From-Home for EmployeesLast week, a fierce debate erupted over a range of social networks and in the media about a story we posted on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s …
Opinion: Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer just killed the telecommuting lifestyle buzzDear Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Who made you boss of the "No More Working from Home Party?" Who are you, the CEO of a once cutting-edge Sil…
What IS the Right Culture?Normally, it’s hard not to read articles on workplace culture. The Yahoo! mandate to end telework and return to the workplace has sparked…
Does Telecommuting Reduce Employee Collaboration and Creativity?Does Telecommuting Reduce Employee Collaboration and Creativity? I just finished reading an article that described the latest thinking at…
Good Question: Is Telecommuting A Failure?Related tags Bset Buy, Carlson School Of Management, Clockwork Active Media, Forester Research, Good Question, Jason DeRusha, Justin Dess…
As Yahoo ends telecommuting, others say it has benefitsYahoo says it must end the practice of working at home to foster collaboration. Others who telecommute cite the benefits but say success …
Will Yahoo inspire your boss to ban telecommuting?Maybe, but companies must weigh several factors before reversing the trend toward letting some employees work from home.
The Most Important Thing to Remember If You Work from HomeThis past Tuesday morning, a Yahoo employee probably sat down at his home office, checked his email and promptly spit his coffee into the…
Get Off of Your CloudWhen Marissa Mayer became queen of the Yahoos last summer, she was hailed as a role model for women. The 37-year-old supergeek with the s…

Image courtesy of Flickr user Creative Commons License Yuko Honda


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  1. After hearing from folks who have worked at Yahoo, it appears that the remote working option was badly abused. Mayer just came on board and is in the difficult position of fixing the company. As someone who worked from home for nearly four years until recently, my gut reaction was the same as yours. I’d wager, however, that as the ship is righted, that this edict will be eased. As you said, we’re not privy to all the information – nor do we, as people who don’t work for the company, have the right to be privy to all the info. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in time.

    • @AmyVernon hey lady, thank you for commenting. I believe it’s really important to take a balanced view of issues like this one. Not that emotional responses are invalid, on the contrary they provide critical context.
      Truly it’ll be of interest to see what time tells us, I agree.

  2. My biggest issue about this whole thing was the insinuation that going to work is the most important thing in your life. If you have to wait for the cable guy, too bad. If your kid is sick, figure it out. If you have to move to a location or quit, so be it. That’s why I rewrote the memo. You can deliver that kind of news without being a dictator, but by being empathetic to the fact we all have things outside of work that need to be dealt with. Heck, I’m not allowed to drive for six weeks because I broke my foot. How would I get to work if I worked there?

    • @ginidietrich Absolutely. And that’s why I linked to you within the article not just in the storify – that point is really important. Since this article was going on 1500 words I took it out, but I had a whole side rant in there about how the language of the memo was too flippant. It seemed like it came from someone with no knowledge of telecommuting and was a rejection of telecommuting as a concept, not as the wrong implementation of telecommuting at Yahoo. There’s so many better ways to present that, even to your employees, regardless of the risk of it breaking as news.

  3. Tinu, this topic has been on my mind A LOT since it’s happened and I don’t purport to know exactly what prompted such a move on Meyer’s part. I am and have always been really big on flex time and a die-hard proponent of work from home, remote telework etc and, like you, I have tons of initiative and self-motivation and am quite productive when I’m working from  home, working from an airport, working from a hotel room, working from anywhere really. I do think that not everyone is cut out to telework. I have met people who say they are not as driven or as structured and need that office environment and socialization. But at least it’s nice to have the choice or option. Like Gini, I was really soured by the Yahoo! memo comment “If you have to wait for the cable guy, too bad. If your kid is sick, figure it out” etc. ??? Hellooo, not everyone earns Mayer’s 5.5 million dollar salary OR can (or has the option to) built out an entire, custom child care facility/room next to our offices for our nannies, breastfeeding, etc. I thought that statement of if you have to wait for the cable guy was pompous and extremely inconsiderate, at best. I, for one, do hope that such a high visibility example of disregard for employees and their work-life balance does not ripple out very far at all.

    • @ruizmcpherson “I do think that not everyone is cut out to telework. ” That surely hits the nail on the head. And I really, really felt the memo was too flippant. Of course it wasn’t written by the CEO, that was from Human Resources. Before I found my calling, I routinely left places that I felt didn’t care about their employees, at least from a place of pure self-interest. (Happy workers are more productive, at least to a point.)
      Also, thank you SO much for commenting here and mentioning me in your article about shashib ! So exciting to see everyone here of course but we Never get a chance to chat!

  4. The bigger issue seems to be the wording of the memo, not necessarily remote work. What seems to be missing, even from theeconomist that pointed out the drop in market share of Yahoo!, is that remote working clearly is not beneficial to Yahoo! Yet everyone keeps harping on Mayer as if she’s completely killed the remote culture for everyone, not just Yahoo! That’s incredibly shortsighted. Then again, mainstream media is shortsighted.

    • @econwriter5  theeconomist You got that right – the mainstream media… many forms of media – are short-sighted. It’s become the nature of the beast, sadly. Not that journalism was perfect before, or that the days of yore were magical and trouble-free. Just judging from what’s happening here at Women Grow Business, there seems to be a market for more in-depth coverage and editorials. Did you see the one by Lani Rosales  from last month? It’s our most-shared article this year. One thing we need in media is more thought, especially on the topics that matter to us.

  5. Your were right on the money on your conclusion (telecommuters’ fear that other companies might follow suit.) BestBuy just announced they’re ending telecommuting as well

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