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Yahoo's work-at-home policy is the right decision

Rich Hein | March 7, 2013
Yahoo and CEO Marissa Mayer have taken a beating in the media with its recent ban on telecommuting, but creating a more collaborative startup mentality within the struggling tech giant is the right move.

Picture of Yahoo's Headquarters

Photo: CIO

This decision has stirred wide debate some calling it an affront to working parents, while others, such as Forbes, are claiming the move is an "epic fail."

Before we dig deeper into the controversy, let's take a look at the exact wording from the Yahoo memo:

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. [&] Beginning in June, we're asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.

People from both inside and outside the tech sector have been chiming in with their thoughts--most painting Yahoo and Mayer in a negative light. "It was very striking, how much of a PR storm this became. People really personalized it. Everyone I talked to has said, 'I can't imagine working there, it's a terrible thing.'" says Forrester Vice president and Principal Analyst J.P. Gownder.

While Mayer's most recent move has sparked outrage and debate, the reality is, that it's not that big of a change or that uncommon for companies even in Silicon Valley. In a recent Forrester survey , 9,766 information workers (employed individuals who use a PC or mobile phone at least one hour per day for work) were asked about their work situations.

Of those nearly 10,000 workers, only 17 percent reported working from home two or more days a week. The takeaway is that working from home is not as mainstream a practice as everyone seems to think.

Mayer Just Trying to Solve Problems

If you take a step back a look at the situation without all the emotion and rhetoric, it becomes more evident that Mayer is trying to solve some of Yahoo's internal problems and refocus her company as a place of technology innovation.

"If you're in an a creative endeavor, where you are trying to innovate your products set and it's a highly technical collaborative effort, you actually see all tech firms employing centers of excellence, bringing employees side-by-side," says Gownder.

David Foote of Foote Partners, a Florida-based firm that specializes in IT analysis and forecasting, expresses similar feelings, "When the heat is on, execs get nervous. There are many nervous execs out there right now; Marissa Meyer is one of them. She wants more control and she obviously feels that by moving people back into her physical sphere she will be more in control of the outcomes."


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