Marissa Mayer's telecommuting ban at Yahoo! surprised me. Although Mayer didn't formally announce the ban to the public, a leaked memo meant that this internal corporate issue would quickly become a hot news item. What surprised me even more than the telecommuting ban, though, was Mayer's relative silence on the issue. Last week, this silence ended when Mayer addressed the ban during the closing keynote address at the Great Place to Work conference.
I can honestly say that a "Great Place to Work" conference was probably the best place for Mayer to break her silence, especially given the fact that telecommuting is often touted as a great workplace perk.
In her closing keynote, Mayer reiterated the message from the leaked memo that telecommuting was not right for Yahoo! at that time and then commented that for some reason, her statement was misconstrued as an industry narrative.
"Mayer defended her decision by first acknowledging that 'people are more productive when they're alone,' and then stressed 'but they're more collaborative and innovative when they're together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.' The shift in policy affects roughly 200 of Yahoo!'s 12,000 employees." Source: Fortune
Evidently Mayer gave an example of how the telecommuting ban is already helping Yahoo! — the new Yahoo! Weather app for iOS. I decided to check the app out for myself and so downloaded it to my iPhone. The app currently has a five-star rating with more than 1,100 users contributing to this rating.
The app is gorgeous and it is easy to use. But, it is another weather app in a sea of weather apps. It isn’t going to be a game-changer for Yahoo!, either.
Although I have strong opinions on the issue, I decided to find out what another CEO thought about the topic so I asked Sara Sutton Fell, FlexJobs CEO, what she thought about Mayer's statement.
"The message that came across from Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting was received as an industry narrative that telecommuting means that employees are less productive, collaborative, and motivated. While that may be true at Yahoo!, unfortunately a company trying to turn its struggling work culture around this is most definitely not true at ALL companies, especially companies with healthy work cultures. From personal experience, I run FlexJobs as an entirely virtual company, and we have an incredibly productive, positive and collaborative work culture. The bottom line is that a company that embraces workplace technology, such as telecommuting, can achieve a fantastic win-win benefit both for itself and for its employees."
While I'm glad that Mayer stepped up to discuss the reason behind the ban, I don't see the policy having a significant positive impact on the company. Only time will tell ... good luck, Yahoo!