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 4:29PM
I know that I am a dinosaur but I have always hated the idea of working at home.  I always looked forward to getting to the office and getting away from the house it was to easy to get distracted.
Feb 25, 2013 4:28PM
So what .....are the inmates in charge  of the asylum now? She is the boss and if her request is reasonable..... I think  as the person in charge of the bottom line,  it is okay to change a policy that is costing a business lost productivity,
Feb 25, 2013 4:25PM
When you have a company that is out of control, you need a strong hand at the helm to take control.  Yahoo needs to take a close look at everyone to find out who is deadwood.  Much easier to do if you can lay an eyeball on the employees.
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 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 4:21PM

I've telecommuted for 6 1/2 years in two different departments for the same company.  Everyone in both departments is extremely productive and collaborative. 


I've used exactly one sick day in that entire time.


I would venture that the issue at Yahoo! is that the management infrastructure wasn't built to properly support telecommuting.  The fact that they had employees that they didn't even know still worked for the company speaks volumes about the lack of a good infrastructure.  This would have never happened in my company - which has more than 25,000 employees globally - my department alone has more than 70 employees who work from home in at least 5 different countries.

Feb 25, 2013 4:20PM
If this was a man CEO all we would be hearing is "War On Women... War On Women"....
Feb 25, 2013 4:18PM
Because of Yahoo's poor security, my account was hacked into. Instead of correcting the problem, yahoo deleted my account, along with all my contacts and emails. I lost a lot of important personal and business connections. It will take months to repair the damage.
Feb 25, 2013 4:16PM
Not all people are productive working from home.  There can be many distractions, as apparently is the case with many of these Yahoo! employees.  If quality work is getting done is a timely manner, however, I believe some flexibility is in order.  I work productively at home, but I also have to be at the office a certain number of hours per week.  It's a good balance.  For what it's worth, I think humans need a broader social network than family only.
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 4:12PM
All this makes no sense except for her trying to get employees sell their old cars in favor of Hybrid.  As you may have heard gas prices are going down and if she waits too long, they just keep driving that old SUV and that is no Yahoo at all. Does she look like someone who wants to make Arabs rich? Of course, with EU wanting merger with middle east ,it is risky business depending on EU selling Yank one litre at a time. Go buy your Hybrid and she will let you stay home. What else can it be? Not the stuff she says, for sure.
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 4:07PM
if anyone needs to be fired it would be the new ceo.... she is being stubborn about her horrible new homepage, and now this.... ceo's make way too much money, and cause way too much grief
Feb 25, 2013 4:07PM
If there's a sense that workers aren't being as productive when telecommuting , then the solution is to stop the policy for a while, and then slowly implement a new version once they have a handle on it.  I think most people work harder at the office, but eliminating the commute provides an immesearble amount of goodwill to the employee that may result in longer hours or more focus.
Feb 25, 2013 4:07PM
I congratulate her for making this bold  move. I have worked for companies that allow offsite work and see that these workers usually are not as productive because they have too many distractions at home. People want to eat their cake and have it today. If you have a sick child home, take a sick day. Let's start using common sense and not worry about being politically correct  all the time.
Good for her and I couldn't agree more! Telecommunication is a wonderful and time saving advancement in the world of business. But it also takes away from the personal aspects of doing GOOD business. Getting to know your employees and business partners is crucial. Cutting corners to save a few bucks can also hurt your business. Telecommunicating when you are only a few miles from the office shows laziness and an unwillingness to present yourself. Unless the "deal" is being put together half way around the world, get your butt into the office and act like you care about your job. Again, Good for her!
Feb 25, 2013 4:03PM
I have been telecommuting for 4 years.I bet I've only done 30 days work in those 4 years and nobody notices.Its like being retired.Its great.
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 4:03PM
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 4:02PM
Just goes to show you that even smart people do dumb things.
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