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Marissa Mayer Bans Telework at Yahoo

Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer is once again making bold moves, this time by banning at-home telecommuting. In a memo sent to employees last Friday, Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s head of human resources, defended the move: “Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.” Business Insider spoke with a source “familiar with Mayer’s thought process” on the controversial decision:

Many of these people “weren’t productive,” says this source.

“A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo.”

If BI’s source is to be believed, this has less to do with telecommuting and more to do with a broken corporate culture. Managers and companies often want to control their employees’ lives and like to make people jump through hoops to demonstrate dominance. This should be resisted. Bad managers can’t effectively manage teleworkers, but they also can’t effectively manage conventional workers. It may very well be that they need to have everyone in-house to rebuild what’s broken, but it doesn’t follow that telecommuting is to blame.

We at Via Meadia don’t support 100 percent telework, just as we don’t support 100 percent office work. Studies have shown that high-intensity telecommuting (more than 2.5 days a week) can harm relationships between coworkers. We think there’s a good middle ground, tailored to different enterprises, and dependent on individual employees and roles. There are times when, for team-building purposes, everybody needs to get together. Any organization that encourages employees to work from home needs to think about how it organizes retreats or other things to keep the process interactive and the contact real.

Mayer may be dealing with bad management problems from the past—perhaps past managers let employees out of the office without taking the trouble to make the system work. It’s possible that she is trying to start on a good foundation where people know each other and their managers. If that’s the case, the question becomes whether Yahoo brings telework back over time. We’ll be watching, and it’s already clear that we’re not alone: the media outcry over Mayer’s decision, from the Atlantic to the New York Times, illustrates just how important this issue is to today’s workforce.

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