Has Marissa Mayer lost her mind? That’s the question on everyone’s mind this week, ever since the new CEO of Yahoo announced that telecommuting will no longer be allowed for employees come June.
Telecommuting has become such a staple in the modern workplace–one of those things where we wonder how we ever lived without telecommuting and how could we ever go back?
Ms. Mayer must know something the rest of us do not–and that’s probably my biggest problem with this announcement and the hyped up media around it. There must be another factor (or factors) here. Because while telecommuting is a fantastic option for a lot of people, there are few jobs that wouldn’t benefit from more face-to-face interaction. And, there are some jobs that are almost impossible to do well working remotely.
Consider Ms. Mayer’s position: She was brought on board with the once-glorious Yahoo to right this sinking ship. They need new, fresh ideas–and they need them implemented fast across departments. When a company is implementing fast, drastic changes, they need people interacting face-to-face in real time.
While telecommuting is a great option that can reduce commutes, let companies search for talent worldwide, and give flexibility to folks who have to take care of family members, some studies suggest that the productivity gains some companies get from telecommuting are offset by the costs of telecommuting technology.
Looking at the big picture–at what Ms. Mayer wants to accomplish with Yahoo and at the bottom line for the company–choosing to put an end to telecommuting may actually make a lot of sense for Yahoo.
While 17% of US employees work from home 2+ days/wk, Yahoo’s new policy on remote work isn’t completely unusual s.forr.com/gtmm
— Forrester Research (@forrester) February 26, 2013
Perhaps this change will be a temporary one. Perhaps once Yahoo is making more money again and is where she and the stakeholders want it to be, they’ll be able to reintroduce telecommuting for some or all of the employees.
But in the meantime, since we’re not sitting where Ms. Mayer is, it’s hard to judge if this policy is a harsh but necessary step in Yahoo’s rebirth or if this change is a backwards attempt to regain some sort of control that will unnecessarily upset employees at every level.
What employees lose in flexibility (and possibly productivity), Yahoo may gain in more creativity, camaraderie, and overall company stability.
Either way, I’m sure the decision was not an easy one for Ms. Mayer. It’s a decision I’ve helped many companies and executives have to make–not only whether to allow virtual teams and remote work but also how to set up those teams to allow for maximum productivity. How do you set yourself up for communication and relationships that are so good you’d swear you can’t tell the difference whether you’re in the office together or half a world apart?
Done the right way, the payoff for virtual teams can be astounding.
And done improperly or with the wrong people, virtual teams can be a disaster.
Time will tell if Ms. Mayer’s decision will help Yahoo skirt disaster–or will bring it on faster.