I’d Love to Get Inside Marissa Mayer’s Head: The End of Telecommuting at Yahoo

By now, you’ve no doubt heard that Marissa Mayer is ending telecommuting at Yahoo. There’s been lots of opinion written about why what she’s doing is wrong and lots written about why what she’s doing is right. In general, I think that the research supports the plethora of pros to working from home, but of course, a blanket generalization across all situations stating that working from home is better than being in the office would be near-sighted. There are two articles that I want to highlight.

The first doesn’t specifically state that what Mayer’s doing is “right,” but does lend credence to her decision:

So when Mayer decrees seven months into the job that she wants people to, you know, physically show up at work instead of telecommuting — or else — I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood, Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo’s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her own conclusions about who’s creating real value — and how — in her company. She knows who her best people are.

Certainly, this makes sense. It’s unlikely that the executive team of Yahoo woke up one day and said that we need to bring those telecommuters into the office because they’re not working hard enough!

The second is of the opinion that Mayer and Yahoo might be erring in their decision:

The working-from-home ban also reveals that Mayer doesn’t know how to measure her workers’ performance. Swisher quotes a source who says that Mayer has been “irked about Yahoo parking lots that are slow to fill in the morning and quick to empty by 5 p.m.” This is a classic bad-manager misconception—that a full parking lot means people are getting stuff done. And it’s easy for employees to game that system. If my boss makes it clear that she’s looking for my car in the parking lot in the evenings and on weekends, all I’ve got to do to get noticed is spend a lot of time at the office. Sure, this will ruin the rest of my life, but otherwise it’s easy—as long as I’m in the office, even if I’m just playing solitaire, I know I’ll be making a good impression.

An important point, indeed.

As I said earlier, in looking specifically at this situation at Yahoo, I don’t know which side I come down on. In fact, it’s really impossible to know, unless I could get a hold of the data that Mayer used to make this decision. That being said, based on the research that supports working from home, part of me wonders if the data that Mayer used to make this decision isn’t accurately capturing what Yahoo thinks that it is.

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