Responses to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s Ban on Working From Home

Liz Presson • 28 October 2014

As you may have heard, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, made a controversial decision. She ordered all remote employees to report back to the physical Yahoo offices by June or to forfeit their job with the company. Anyone working remotely for Yahoo now has to decide if they’ll give up their lifestyle of working remotely or jump on board with the new policy.

CEO of Yahoo!

CEO of Yahoo!

Here’s the official statement: “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. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

After immense criticism of Yahoo’s decision to ban employees from working at home, the company addressed the controversy with a vague statement: “This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home,” it said. “This is about what is right for Yahoo right now.”

While you may not be facing this decision today, you’ll absolutely have to determine what your stance is on working remotely.

Here are a few viewpoints on Yahoo’s updated remote work policy from people like Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, and David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37signals.

“If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.” —Richard Branson, Virgin

“Great work simply doesn’t happen in environments with so little trust. Revoking the “yard time privileges” like this reeks of suspicions that go far beyond just people with remote work arrangements. Read this line one more time: “please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration”. When management has to lay it on so thick that they don’t trust you with an afternoon at home waiting for the cable guy without a stern “please think of the company”, you know something is horribly broken.” —David Heinemeier Hansson, 37signals

“…reasonable arguments for building a dense and collaborative workplace culture should be weighed against the preponderance of statistical evidence, which suggests that (1) sometimes people just like to work from home for a change, and (2) they’re really good at it. In reaching to build a new culture in a new Yahoo, Mayer might be alienating the most brilliantly independent-minded employees just because they value flexibility and Yahoo doesn’t.” —Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

“Additionally, working from home—whether occasionally or full time—typically cuts out an hour or more of wasted commuting time every day, says Lewin. Not to mention, employees are so grateful for the flexibility that they’re often more loyal to the company than the 9-to-5ers. A 2011 study by nonprofit human resources association WorldatWork found that companies with stronger cultures of flexibility experienced lower turnover and increased employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement.” —David Lewin, management professor at UCLA in Jenna Goudreau’s response piece on Forbes

Where do you stand?

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