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Marissa Mayer Explains Yahoo’s Telework Ban

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, has finally spoken about her decision to ban telework in her company. Mayer made headlines in February for her decision to end that practice, which some employees were allegedly abusing. Speaking at a conference on Thursday, Mayer at last addressed what she described as the elephant in the room. Fortune reports:

She repeated a key phrase the company used in a statement it released after the memo was leaked: “It’s not what’s right for Yahoo right now,” and added “It was wrongly perceived 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.”

Mayer’s initial decision set off a debate over the merits of telework. Many people supported her decision, saying face-to-face contact allows for creative team work. This is a legitimate concern for all companies whose employees are physically separated. Everyone teleworking all the time can lead to an alienated, lonely work force. But on the flip side technology is helping teams remain connected even at a distance. And teleworking just one or two days a week can yield some big benefits.

Mayer noted the productivity gains telework provides, but working remotely can also be better for a company’s bottom line, a commuter’s wallet, an employee’s work-life balance, and even a teleworker’s marriage. We speculated in February that Mayer’s decision might have had more to do with poor management practices in the past and the new CEO’s need to right the ship. Mayer’s comments on Thursday confirmed that. As she said, her decision to ban teleworking was not industry narrative. Quite the opposite, in fact. And that’s a good thing.

[Marissa Mayer photo courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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  • Kavanna

    The news coming out of Yahoo made it clear what the main issue was, which was not rank-and-file workers, but middle and senior managers. The latter have been abusing the telecommuting policies for years, undermining their teams’ cohesion and focus.

    It’s unlikely telecommuting will ever fully replace commuting for most workers. A lot depends on the exact nature of the job and the employee’s experience, reliability, and ability to self-direct. But telecommuting does have a major and growing place in certain areas of the economy.

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