Yahoo's Mayer: Bashed for her telecommuting policy

The CEO gave employees an ultimatum: Work in the office -- or quit. Now she's coming under fire for an 'awful' call.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 25, 2013 2:01PM

Marissa Mayer on NBC News' 'Today' show on Feb. 20, 2013 (© Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)When Yahoo (YHOO) last year tapped Marissa Mayer as its new chief executive, many thought the 37-year-old (who was a mom-to-be at the time) would prove a champion of working parents. But with Mayer's recent ultimatum that telecommuters need to either come into the office or quit, some of her one-time fans are turning on her. 

Many comments on Twitter reflect disappointment with her stance: Her policy is "awful for ALL workers" and "[t]his woman is RIDICULOUS!" are among the tweets sent by irate consumers, some of whom had expressed previous support for her. 

Mayer's new policy was leaked on Friday, when The Wall Street Journal published a memo that it said was disclosed by "a plethora of very irked Yahoo employees."

Sent by the company's human resources chief, the memo said, "We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together." It added, "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."

The reason for the policy change was that Yahoo found many of its telecommuters weren't productive, according to Business Insider. Many of them were depicted as hiding out, with Yahoo apparently unaware that some still worked for the company, the story adds. These hidden telecommuters reportedly worked in divisions ranging from marketing to engineering. 

Regardless of Yahoo's situation with its telecommuters, Mayer's new policy is striking many one-time fans as, well, backwards. 

More Americans are working from home than ever before, with a Census Bureau report from last year finding that 13.4 million people work from home. That represents a jump of 41% in a decade. 

Many technology companies are big supporters of telecommuting, according to Fortune. Among those are Cisco Systems (CSCO), with 90% of its workforce counted as "regular" telecommuters, and Intel (INTC), with 81% of its employees counted as often working from home. 

It's no coincidence that many tech companies support telecommuting: San Francisco, home to the tech industry, is one of the worst U.S. cities for traffic. 

At least one rival is taking advantage of Mayer's gaffe, reports the Journal. 

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg wrote a pitch for working at his telecommuting-friendly company in the comments section of the article. He wrote, "For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the world, and is interested in WordPress, Automattic is 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside of San Francisco."

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Feb 25, 2013 3:44PM
A logical solution would be to identify those who are not productive, gaming the system and fire them.
Feb 25, 2013 3:47PM
Reading the story, it's clear there is an institutional problem here - employees hiding out, not productive, even some cases of them being paid while nobody even realized they were still employed.

But, to blame it on telecommuting is incorrect.

Feb 25, 2013 3:39PM
The new CEO was brought in to fix the company. The complainers are probably the ones abusing the system.

I applaud her action.

Feb 25, 2013 3:30PM
Change the New Yahoo Home Page....or quit!
Feb 25, 2013 3:46PM

Telecommuting should be the exception and not the rule. I work at a technical business and this option gets abused. I get it if a kid is home sick, or there's an emergency, but working from home 4 out of 5 days is abuse of the system.

Feb 25, 2013 3:52PM

Sometimes a "mean" person is needed to shake things up and turn a company around. It's no different than treating your teen-aged son with tough love.

It's a free market place...if you don't like working there, you can quit and work somewhere else.

Feb 25, 2013 3:40PM
how she wants to run the management part of the company is her choice,  But you have to have something that sells.. the New Yahoo Home page, does not.
Feb 25, 2013 3:38PM
give people options to keep original home page.   a majority of people dont want to spend 15 minutes sliding down the site to pick out what they want to read.   Get a clue from MSN home page, that resembles the orginal Yahoo one..  New Yahoo, is a cluster fk... 
Feb 25, 2013 3:47PM
am certain that the statistics don't lie. i know more than a few who purportedly work at home offices and are often doing anything but work. if given jobs and tasks where productivity can be measured am all for it. outside of that it is a waste of resources.
Feb 25, 2013 4:03PM

I would love to work from home, but if the employees are not productive then you have to make them come to work, this is a business that employs people to work.

Feb 25, 2013 4:11PM
In my experience, issues with telecommuting are more about the management of those individuals. If employees are meeting goals, sales targets, etc. then there should be no reason they can't choose the location in which to fulfill their job duties. It's strange to see Yahoo moving backwards in the evolution of productivity.

Feb 25, 2013 5:06PM

Do As I Say... Not As I Do,

It appears that Marissa Mayer, who herself ostensibly benefitted from 'telecommuting' while pregnant, is out of touch with the realities of many home office workers who have parallel responsibilities as parents of young children. As a very highly paid CEO Ms Mayer can well afford to be at the high rise corner office and pay for full-time assistance with child care and ancilliary duties at her home in the suburbs. Due to cost and commuting isues this is certainly not a luxury that a majority of workers can take advantage of. Her shortsightedness on this issue is glaring and inconsistent with the technology and 'connectiveness' that Yahoo supposedly brings to the internet table.


Peace to all ~

Feb 25, 2013 3:50PM
Yahoo posts articles about how working from home can be this one of those 'do as we say, not as we do' kinda things?
Feb 25, 2013 4:24PM
out of touch!

I happen to be more productive working from home.  Don't punish the masses because of the sins of the few.
Feb 25, 2013 3:41PM

I worked for a smaller company with an ogre and bully of a CEO (not just employees but his colleagues, and peers in the industry viewed him this way, it was a joke honestly because he would allow his personal mood to determine how he treated ppl at work) who was completely and unequivocally against telecommuting, many strong, hard working, knowledgeable employees were driven away by this policy.  If you even worked from home just to attend a doctors appointment or something the company wasted so much time and resources checking up on you, ensuring you were working, it was laughable.  Meanwhile, when in the office everyone did all they could to get out of the door by their 8 hours because it was such an unbearable work place, whereas when at home, many ppl worked much more than the 8 it was a contradictory policy, and again, no one was happy or felt secure. 


I also find it funny that companies would accuse these employees of hiding out or being unproductive, wouldn't it be on those employees managers or direct reports to be following up with them?  Why should I have to constantly check in with my boss if I'm working from home?  if you're worried, give me a call or shoot me an email...while i'm not gullible enough to think there aren't those out there taking advantage, the legit telecommuters will respond immediately and again, you're probably going to get more productivity out of them because they'll be happier and won't constantly be working on just getting out the door and getting home, they're already home so you will likely get a few more hours of effort out of them.


I now work at a much larger company that has zero issues with telecommuting, and while I do feel that there are again some who take advantage, I also don't know everyone's situation so I try not to judge.  But what I can tell you is that everyone here is way happier than at my previous employer, and seemingly more productive as well.

Feb 25, 2013 4:03PM
Trying to get everybody close together to "keep them under your thumb" is the biggest red flag of a micro-manager, one that is likely incompetent. I've seen this pattern before, it will all devolve into a pack of cronies circling the wagons while trying to keep as much info about Yahoo's accelerating demise from leaking out. And when bad news does leak out, it will never be her fault.

Think about this way, all the time to commute in plus gas and vehicle maintenance. That is the pay cut she just handed her employees. I would expect Yahoo's trade secrets to be for sale on the cheap very soon.

Feb 25, 2013 3:40PM
I don't know if her call is bad or good I don't work there.  But I can tell you what I have heard & read about this woman I wouldn't work for her.  She seems to be one mean spirited person with no personality & dis-regard for anyone else.  So maybe everyone should let her fall on her face.  I don't use yahoo since she took over.
Feb 25, 2013 4:22PM

Can't stress enough about how she ruined the Yahoo home page...because people spent so little time on less people are spending even less time on it because it is so junked up and can't be set up  the way the user wants. Go figure!


Feb 25, 2013 4:16PM
Sorry folks, but I have to acknowledge that many of the telecommuters I personally know and work with are not working as hard at home.

 I frequently have a difficult time getting in touch with them, though by company policy they are supposed to be online, all the time. 

Frequent excuses I hear are doing laundry, had to run a quick errand, was in the bathroom, etc. but they were not on line for hours, since we can see their activity via Lync. Sometimes 2-3 hrs of computer inactivity. Also, these typically are the ones that are late on assignments as well, even though their excuse is that they were going to work at home on that specific task.

 It can work/I do know several that indeed are efficient and diligent from home. And when there are 5-6 hrs of conference calls in a day it does seem to work better since they are to some extent caught if they don't participate.  After years of allowing this, our company severely restricted home commuting, and bottom line is that efficiency went up. Too bad because I enjoyed the option to be at home a coupe, days a week as well, but at least in my experience too many were taking advantage of it and spoiled it for the rest of us. Such is human nature.

Feb 25, 2013 3:47PM
Why would you require people to come to an office when it isn't necessary.  Its cheaper to not have to carry the costs associated with the building and land.  If the employees complete the same amount of work at home or in the office why in the world do you need to have an office then?  You could pay the employees more this way too and keep them happier.  It's a win win when people can work from home.
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