stop freaking out over Yahoo’s teleworking announcement

Jeez, Internet, stop freaking out over over Yahoo’s announcement that they’re ending their work-at-home policy and asking everyone to work in the office. Here’s why:

1. It’s reasonable to change a policy that’s not working, and this one wasn’t working. Look, I love teleworking policies when they’re done right, but the media is full of reports that Yahoo employees had been abusing their policy for years. One Business Insider article reports a source told them that Yahoo has a huge number of people in multiple divisions who work remotely full-time and aren’t at all productive. In some cases, they’re so unproductive that “nobody knew they were still at Yahoo.”

CEO Marissa Mayer was brought in to turn a struggling company around. If a policy isn’t working for the company, it’s reasonable that she’d tackle it. And she presumably knows far more about the situation there than the many hysterical not-employed-by-Yahoo people on the Internet who feel qualified to judge.

2. Yahoo’s new policy doesn’t even prohibit teleworking. Despite all the Internet’s hand-wringing, the new policy allows the occasional teleworking day as needed, just not as a full-time arrangement.

3. This isn’t going to end telework as you know it. Companies are going to continue to do what they find benefits them. If teleworking helps their staff be more productive and helps them attract and retain high performers, they’re not going to end that just because Yahoo changed a policy. What’s more, Business Insider’s source notes that the type of arrangements that Yahoo is ending have never been common at other Silicon Valley companies like Google or Facebook anyway.

4. The Internet’s focus on Marissa Mayer in this story is sexist and gross. Much of the commentary is focusing on the decision coming from Mayer: She’s a woman!  She betrayed working moms!  Um, what about all the working dad CEOs, who I guess aren’t expected to be able to understand? (Plus, no responsible company lets you work at home full-time without having separate child care anyway, so this really isn’t about working parents at all and is just a bizarre non sequitur because look, the CEO has ovaries!)

And it’s not exactly a feminist viewpoint to assess Mayer’s decisions as a woman first and a CEO second. So thanks for that, Internet.

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. Corey Feldman*

    Very much agree. My only caveat is it sounds like a big management failure. And it sucks to punish every telecommuter on staff for abuses of some and failure of management. That said I respect the fact it wasn’t working so they needed to change.

      1. Smunchy*


        We are considering telecommuting at our organization. I have been very vocal insisting that the ground rules for this need to be very clear and that managers must manage their employees. Some aren’t doing that now; I shudder to think how they will do it remotely!

        1. KellyK*

          In some ways, having people remote might actually *help* because it forces managers to get away from thinking that people are working because they see them in the office and focus on measurable results.

    1. Ashley*

      That is my argument as well. They had people who nobody was aware still worked at the company on payroll? That is bad management at EVERY level. I am sure these issues need to be corrected, but this is a pretty wide brush with which to paint the whole company.

      1. bean*

        but what does that even mean? because bob smith doesn’t know you, you don’t work there anymore? i don’t think it was meant to be taken literally, more like a joking twist on “office space.”

    2. BossLady*

      Yes. This was my exact feeling too, and the thing is, I don’t know that having everyone in the office will fix it at all. If managers don’t know how to manage, the likelihood they will figure it out with everyone in the office is pretty slim.

      1. Mandysaurus*

        While I agree with the fact that it’s not fair to punish everyone for something not everyone was doing – but nothing about this seems questionable to me. They have a bunch of underperforming employees, and worse yet managers that aren’t managing well. They need to reinstal expectations and consequences, and there is no way to do this without controlong the environment and making it one you can monitor and measure. They’re not saying they’re never going to allow it again, and to be honest – in this job market I commend them for not just “cleaning house”. My experience with trying to turn around underperforming locations has prooven that the norm and easier thing to do is simply restaff with fresh people “your own people”.

        1. KellyK*

          The fact that they could “clean house” and they aren’t is a good point. But I don’t think you need to have people all physically in the same place to know whether they’re working or not.

        2. Anonymous*

          While I don’t disagree with Yahoo’s policy change–if abuse is that widespread and has been going on for years, it’s a good idea to shake things up–I do disagree with the idea that you can’t monitor and measure employees’ performance remotely. I managed an entire remote team and never had any problems. If people are responsive during business hours and getting their work done on time and up to standards, they’re fine. If they’re not, they’re not. It’s not hard. It’s simply a matter of checking in with people, monitoring their work, and being proactive when problems come up. I can’t help but feel that a person who can’t effectively measure mobile employees is probably not going to be very good at measuring a person sitting 10 feet away.

    3. Anon*

      +1 – there’s talk that she was tracking bandwidth usage on VPNs and internal networks. If people are unproductive, that’s a mgmt issue.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    I know a few people that work at Yahoo and they told me that the work-from-home policy is majorly abused by the employees. I’d be annoyed if I were one of the ones that actually worked hard at home and had to start coming into the office – but I completely understand the CEO’s reasoning. They are a sinking ship and have to take drastic measures. And like Alison said, contrary to popular belief, there is not a telecommuting culture at Google or Facebook.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Replying to myself – how embarrassing – I didn’t notice the part where Alison already mentioned people were abusing the policy. I thought I was giving additional information!

    2. AnotherAlison*

      “They are a sinking ship”

      Yeah, I kind of wondered if those teleworking employees cared if they even had jobs in a year. It reminds me of the UAW complaints around the time of the bailouts. The employees in both cases wanted everything to stay the same for them, no matter what happened to the company & the future of their jobs. (I’m not well-versed on the UAW so please save your arguments & comments for someone who cares to argue back.)

      1. EB*

        The UAW situation is more analogous to what happened at banks during the bailouts, where the UAW had previously worked with auto execs to cut benefits only to see the executives award themselves raises and benefits similar to what AIG did (take the bailout and then give management raises).

        So basically the only commonality is that employees are complaining.

    3. Cassie*

      I read an article that listed the telecommuting policies (or lack thereof) of various tech companies. Many (including Google and Facebook) seem to have an “okay with approval/discretion” type attitude towards telecommuting.

      I wonder if, after things get back in order, telecommuting will be allowed again (with stricter boundaries or other ways to monitor performance) – or if the CEO/management will continue to ban it.

  3. Your Mileage May Vary*

    Thank you so much for number 4. I actually had the “betrayed working moms*” conversation with my husband last night and he’s generally pretty socially-forward–thinking. He was under the impression that women who work from home do it specifically so that they can watch their kids at the same time. He now knows differently :)

    1. Jamie*

      I think this is an all too common misconception. People are confusing telecommuting with the occasional day you’re remoting in doing what you can while taking care of a sick kid, or whatever.

      People who work from home as a job and do it properly have structures in place by which they can give the same attention to their job as if they were in the office. That’s why I could never do it as a regular thing – I’m no where near disciplined enough to stay focused while surrounded by my own personal house of distraction…but I have enough compulsion to produce that I would end up working ALL the time just to finish what I should have gotten done earlier when I decided to stop and clean the bathroom or play dress up with the cats.

      1. K*

        Yeah, I’ve had that experience too when I’ve been working at home due to snow storms and the like. The result is that I never feel fully at work or fully at home; I find it miserable.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Ditto. My youngest son was all “when are you going to be done?” Um, at 5:00? Impossible to feel productive when kids are home on a snow day, too!

          I don’t really like to work from home. VPN is not as fast and reliable as being on the network. It’s a great option for evenings, sick days, or for waiting for the repair guy, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day.

          1. Jamie*

            The VPN really depends on what you do. Personally I haven’t had a problem with reliability, but I don’t like using it for anything resource intensive because of the speed. If people are just using it for stuff like Office and to access the ERP then there is no problem.

            And no, complaining to me will not result in my unlocking my magic portal by which you will be able to VPN in via your crappy home DSL and run SolidWorks as if you were in the office.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I feel the same way. Even if I had a job where I didn’t need to be in the office 9-5, I would still WANT to have an office to work in. I really value having a different location. For the sake of work/life balance I would absolutely loathe having to work from home. It’s not so much the distraction potential that I’m worried about (though that, too), but that it would be horrible and tiresome, I’d have to put a lot of energy into how to plan my time, and the absence of boundaries would cause me an immense amount of stress. This is just a difference in temperament – there are a ton of people e.g. Alison who are great at it and well suited to it, but that’s just not me, and I would wager a lot of other people as well.

      3. The B*

        The one person I know who works from home every day is A) a man b) Has a nanny because he can’t watch his twins while he works.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I couldn’t either; it’s nice to have the option if I’m not feeling my best (and NewJob doesn’t want your butt in there anyway if you’re getting sick), and I have some major plumbing issues coming up too. But my main thing is I just want to get OUT OF THE HOUSE once in a while! I’m not sure I could write full-time either. I’d probably get a little part-time thing just to keep me from going stir crazy!

        Re the dressed-up cats: pictures please. ;)

    2. Sara*

      I’m wondering if the “betrayal of working moms” stems from the fact that she’s reportedly built a nursery in her office, i.e., used resources that aren’t available to regular working women.

      I could be mistaken on the details and way off though since I’m neither a mother nor do I work nor do I have hte desire to work permanently from home so I haven’t paid much attention to this.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, I’ve seen complaints about that, but it’s very, very common for the CEO to get special benefits that others don’t get — because they have way more value to the company, and also way more responsibility.

        1. Andrew*

          Common, yes, but isn’t it part of a CEO’s job to anticipate the resulting bad publicity and make a reasoned defense of a perk which is so easily misunderstood?

              1. Andrew*

                I realize I just contradicted myself about reason!

                My point is that no one at Yahoo seems to have been prepared for any of this reaction, which is really shortsighted on their side.

              1. Anonymous*

                Exactly. She takes away the employees’ ability to be flexible right at the same time she grants herself flexibility.

                1. Kelly O*

                  But she’s not taking away flexibility altogether – she’s just saying “you need to be here in the office most days” instead of “you can work from home whenever.”

                  And I would wager if you counted the actual hours she’s working, the time spent in that nursery will be minimal. (And if she’s attempting to breastfeed, I would wager she’s doing that and doing something else at the same time.)

                  Besides, even if you work from home, you still need childcare options, because that’s just what you do when you’re a parent. You prepare for what you might need before you need it, so you’re not scrambling for things at the last minute. Or maybe that’s just me.

        2. Jamie*

          I have seen people get eaten up with resentment over perks at a lot lower levels than CEO and at much smaller businesses than Yahoo.

          I don’t get it. Different positions have different perks and compensation – and different headaches. If you want what someone else has it seems the way to do it is to put yourself in the position where your entitled – not lobbying for stuff to either be given to all or eliminated.

      2. Risa*

        My understanding from an article I read was that she paid for the nursery personally, just had it installed in the office space – so company funds weren’t used to create it.

        1. bean*

          which is just as tone deaf if not more… can regular employees build trailers out back for their kids? who has the money for that?

          people expect ceo’s to have perks, but when the ceo makes things easier for herself and contracts on what is available to employees, of course there will be a problem.

          i totally understand the need to have people physically present, but this came across as a policy with little flexibility. then when i thought about it more, i figured she had to do something drastic to assert herself and make her mark. they’ll probably have summer fridays by 2015.

          1. Melissa*

            People who make more money can afford to make things easier for themselves – that’s just the way capitalism works.

    3. PEBCAK*

      Yes, and it dangerous for people to think that’s what working from home is, because that actually works against women in the workplace (“oh, she’s working from home, that means she’s splitting her attention between her job and her kids”). Every place I have been has been very explicit that working from home is NOT a substitute for child care.

      Now, if you have the occasional work at home type arrangement, certainly there are days when someone works from home because his/her kid is sick and they can’t find last-minute care. That type of flexibility can be extremely important in helping women remain the workplace, but it my mind that’s more like “hey, I’m taking a personal day today, but I’ll be on the 2pm call and reachable by phone/email”, which is totally fine.

      1. Kelly O*

        This, exactly.

        There is a world of difference between working from home and having the flexibility to make alternate arrangements if you have a sick child, or a plumber coming, or something out of the norm.

    4. Ashley*

      Yeah, I don’t even see how that is possible. I work from home full time and my 3 year old goes to school half days and then has a nanny. Even when he was an infant and slept most of the time I cannot imagine trying to work without help!

      However, one thing is true – I spend more time with my kid, full stop. My breaks are with him, not at the watercooler. I eat lunch at my desk so I can spend more time with him in the morning and in the evening. I get little bonuses all day long. I know I wouldn’t get it if I was in the office.

      1. WorkIt*

        I currently full-time at home while watching a one-year-old boy (my two-year-old is in daycare). It doesn’t work well. My productivity is way down and the kid is bored senseless. Plus, it’s slowly driving me insane. I’m trying to find another job, but need a lot more money to afford two kids in daycare. Fingers crossed for a second-round interview coming up!

    5. tangoecho5*

      I expect some of the problem is many of those telecommuting moms from home for Yahoo were in fact watching their kids instead of doing their job. Once they realized they didn’t even have to do their job, why pay for daycare? Keep the kids at home and get paid to do so.

      Frankly, I think if noone in your department & management chain even knows you exist as a telecommute employee, you ought to be fired. No opportunity to even start working from the office.

      I expect day care centers might start to see an uptick in new enrollments.

    6. Anonymous*

      An older male acquaintance recently told me he didn’t understand why I paid for childcare when I’m able to work from home. “Surely you can work from home and watch your daughter at the same time.” Um, no. I have a high energy toddler who requires constant adult supervision to keep her from inadvertently killing herself. If she’s home with me on days I work, nothing gets done other than quick replies to urgent e-mails, and I usually end up taking sick time to cover it because I’m so useless. I know he would not have made the same comment to my husband, and it really bugs me that so many people (mostly men) assume that if a woman’s working from home, it’s because she’s taking care of her kids.

      1. Piper*

        Ugh. The perception of working from home that many people have is so frustrating.

        I don’t work from home full-time, but my company has a generous policy that allows me to work from home on a regular basis (usually once a week) and in cases of emergency (bad weather, the water heater sprung a leak and I have to wait around for the repair guy, the dog is sick, etc). This is a great policy, but when I’m at home, I’m working, not putzing around my house or going out for long lunches with my friends.

        My mom is coming to visit us for 7 days this spring and I told her that I would not be able to take off work for the entire time she’s here. Her reply was, “well, you can just work from home the whole time and it will be the same thing.” Um. No. No, it’s not. In fact, working from home while my mother hovers around sounds like a nightmare to me.

  4. Yup*

    I think what some people might be reacting to negatively is a perception that the change is sudden, drastic, and inflexible. Don’t know whether the new policy is truly any of these things, but I get where someone have the impression from the news coverage. “Be in the office by June, or quit.”

    So the resulting hysteria is that if Yahoo — i.e. a “tech company” that supposedly has all the tools to do this well and has a reputation for being open to employee-friendly policies — has to pull back on remote options because it’s not working, then *no one* will be ever able to pull it off. So you know, total catastrophe for all companies everywhere forever.

    Agreed that the focus on Mayer ais weird and off-point. The whole “Mean Mommy Marissa” tone is just… yuck.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      “…then *no one* will be ever able to pull it off.”

      10 years ago, I bought into the whole work-from-home think for a while. I thought it was the holy grail. Now, I’ve never had a WAH job, but from the outside looking in, I’ve come to question whether this is really that great for businesses or employees. The trend doesn’t seem to have taken off like they predicted in the mid-2000s (pre-recession).

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        In certain roles for certain individuals, it works great. In the end, the work result will define if the telecommuting arrangement is beneficial or not. I think telecommuting has become very popular, it’s just the remote locations are India and China.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          And the telecommuters in India and China are gathered together in offices, no, with some form of direct management at their location?

          That was the arrangement I was familiar with at a previous employer, but I haven’t dealt with offshored employees in a while.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          Remote teams seems to be working for Amazon. I know someone who works from home, and there is enough oversight that they can tell that people are working. But, that is a call center, so it’s a different type of work.

      2. Esra*

        I miss the crap out of work from home. But as a graphic designer, my output is easily measured. Is the creative done well and on time? Yes? Then you know I’m working. I loved everything about it, the freedom, the flexibility, the better food, the sunshine, the no commuting, the extra sleep, working from my sofa with a cat in my lap. Sigh, now I’m getting all wistful. I would take a job with less pay if it meant I could wfh 3-4 days a week again.

        1. Working from home works for some of us*

          I’m in a similar position in which my output is very easily measured, and because my employer is in another state, I work from home. I’m eating better and exercising more, and feel WAY more productive than in my last job (in which I could telecommute 2 days per week — then, I also was more productive when I stayed home, but I liked to go to the office to see my colleagues and enjoy the breaks without guilt).

          I don’t have kids and my husband works at the office, so I have a calm environment, and a business center in my building I can work from for a change of scenery and to see people. I also go to Panera Bread or another place with wi-fi sometimes to see people while I work.

          1. Esra*

            Yep, I used to wfh 4 days a week and it was the best thing for me. I was healthier and happier. Alas, the big corporation I worked for was not a good employer and I had to go looking, but man I hope I end up telecommuting again someday.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I would like this. But I don’t think it would work full-time for me since I’m hourly; I can punch in remotely, but I’m still at work until I punch out for meals and at the end of the day. If I were salaried and my output was measured, it would be easier to do it several days a week.

            Besides, I discovered during unemployment just how damn noisy my neighborhood is getting these days. Ugh.

          3. Anonymous*

            Same here. I have a kid, but she goes to daycare, and my husband goes in to work most of the time. I have a home office with everything I could possibly need. At home, I can crank up my music and really hunker down on involved tasks that I have a hard time doing in the office because people are constantly stopping by and asking questions and my office mate is quite chatty. I’m way more distracted in the office than I am at home.

            I think in general, work from home is a matter of personal preference. It works well for some and not so well for others. In terms of management, it shouldn’t be all that different than managing people in person. I completely understand wanting to have bodies in the office and interactive if morale is an issue, but I think work from home *can* be very effective, with the right team and the right manager.

  5. kbeers0su*

    “She’s a woman! She betrayed working moms!”

    Thanks for posting this. Tt has annoyed me to no end to see reactions to this announcement everywhere- especially on mommy blogs. Mayer didn’t get hired to run Yahoo because she’s a woman or a mom- she got hired to save the company, and she’s doing what needs to be done.

  6. Sara*

    I was wondering when you’d address this :)

    I’m all for teleworking when it’s not abused. However, totally off topic and you could say irrelevant….but my husband has been working from home for the last 3 years and I actually really really really really hate it. But it’s good to know that Yahoo hasn’t banned it completely, just in certain situations.

  7. Kelly O*

    Well, it is a lot easier for someone to start saying “OMG, that’s SO unfair! She’s betraying her gender (and the sisterhood!) Go get pitchforks!” than it is to acknowledge that Yahoo! is in serious trouble, and to fix that, she has to take serious action.

    I said earlier today in a comment on another blog (sorry, I read more than AAM…) that it was an adolescent’s response. A child is told “you can’t do that anymore, we need you to do this” and immediately bucks up and starts whining about how unfair it is.

    It’s important to wait and see how this affects Yahoo! – both positively and negatively. As others have pointed out, the system appears to be abused, and since the company is in its own bind, it makes perfect sense to get a grip on things before it gets any worse.

    And, she’s not just started one day and implemented this the next. She’s had months now to observe the culture and workings of Yahoo! and to make a decision about what needs to happen to bring some positive change to the company.

    1. Scott Woode*


      I completely agree and I love that Alison posted this (and your comment/response equally as much). It’s been really bothering me quite a lot that there has been such unnecessary brouhaha over this (and the joke responses against her equally as bad; the nursery in the office comment being the tip of the iceberg). Seriously, there are larger problems in the world than this.

      And, Kelly O, your child comment totally made me snort my coffee. Thanks for brightening up my afternoon!

    2. AP*

      Damnit, where *did* I leave my pitchfork? It’s been at least a week since I had to angrily defend my sisterhood/gender/race/other protected class against betrayal!

      1. Kelly O*

        I left my pitchfork in my other vagina… believe me, if you could see the whole “you betrayed the sisterhood of women” thing going on in another forum, you would understand my general apathy toward anything “women MUST stick together always!!” thing.

  8. K*

    While I think teleworking is a really important option in a lot of cases, I’m glad to see some discussion of the downsides (for a long time it felt like it was being trumpeted in the media as the Great Savior Of Us All). My experience is that some (certainly not all) people who telework don’t see the downsides for their co-workers, which is that those co-workers end up picking up a lot of mundane, day-to-day tasks that need to be done by someone physically present but aren’t particularly apparent to people who aren’t. So the telecommuter sees that they’re getting tons of work done on their big projects (which we all tend to view as the core of our jobs) because they’re not constantly getting interrupted; they don’t see that their co-workers are getting less done on theirs, at least during business hours, because they’re picking up the slack.

    I also think that, while technology has come a long way, much collaborative work is much, much more efficient in person than it is remotely. If you’re brainstorming with someone, it’s much easier to get into an effective rhythm in person where you can be looking at the same list or diagram on a whiteboard, and where you can be playing off visual cues and body language in addition to a disembodied voice. (Hey, there’s a reason why we still conduct interviews in person instead of just doing it all by phone, after all.)

    So I can see why when a company is struggling like Yahoo, a halt to full-time telework makes a ton of sense. Get people in the office, rejigger how they’re working and on what, get a sense of cohesion going, and then once that’s working effectively, you can figure out what pieces can be done remotely without sacrificing quality and what can’t.

    1. The IT Manager*


      mundane, day-to-day tasks that need to be done by someone physically present

      years ago, I was in the Air Force and it was embracing the idea of contracting out functions. One reason why was because the contractors were more productive. But an unstated facts is that one reason the contractors were more productive is that they didn’t get stuck with the “additional duties” that the service members did. What this meant for the troops that were not replaced is that got stuck with even more of these “additional duties” because there was less people to do them. Same thing with an office that has tasks that need to be done by someone in person. The more telecommuters the more in-person duties heaped on thos who are left.

      collaborative work is much, much more efficient in person than it is remotely

      Truth. I work with virtual teams. It’s not the same. Even something as simple as a meeting. On the phone without visual cues, you get people talking over each other, stopping, starting, stopping. Also you get a lot more moments of silence where you wait for a response and no one says anything. You can’t give a hard look at the person you expect to respond. And that’s for something as simple as a meeting. I don’t think that virtual teams are as accountable to each other or creative as in-person teams are.

      1. V*

        + another 1000

        In the discussion of the Yahoo policy change, many commentators cite studies that found telecommunters are more productive than in-office employees. I have not looked at the studies themselves, but I suspect that the difference in productivity is due in part to those non-core, mundane tasks that have to be done, but don’t add directly to productivity.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Additionally, it depends on the job (and the person) Some jobs require little collaboration and those are probably the most productive to work from home. Those kinds of jbs and duties probably show greater productivity from home. For those jobs that rely on collaboration, group creativity, etc they are harder to do from home or remotely.

        2. Gayle Laakmann McDowell*

          There’s basically one study that everyone cites, and it has little relevance here.
          (1) It was in China, not the US. This is a very, very different work environment.
          (2) It was done on call center workers. This is a job which has little team work, is mostly mundane, has easily measured productivity (and therefore easy to catch slackers), and has worked “pushed out” to employees (as opposed to volunteering / working through projects at your own pace).
          (3) It was a 13% productivity gain — and most of that was due to fewer sick days. Fewer sick days can also be achieved by letting people work from home when they’re sick.

          This has very little relevance to Yahoo’s employees.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Interesting. I work in an office, but most of my team is elsewhere. It is awkward and I think I’m missing out on a lot of the collaborative learning and communication.

    2. LG*

      So I can see why when a company is struggling like Yahoo, a halt to full-time telework makes a ton of sense. Get people in the office, rejigger how they’re working and on what, get a sense of cohesion going, and then once that’s working effectively, you can figure out what pieces can be done remotely without sacrificing quality and what can’t.

      I agree. This is a very important aspect to fixing what is broken. One can’t see where the chocolate teapot is broken and scratched until one washes off the chocolate that is covering up the damage.

  9. Jamie*

    You know who I feel bad for? The network people on the inside who have to prepare the infrastructure for the influx of people suddenly working on-site – and not happy about it so they’ll probably be extra complainy about everything.

    1. the gold digger*

      And all those soon to be onsite people will probably spend all day eating potato chips, apples, and granola.

      Which is the main reason I want to telecommute. I am sick and tired of hearing people eat all day long.

    2. jesicka309*

      That’s probably a real issue. They’ll have to find desks and computers for so many people who have been telecommuting.
      And think of the poor coffee machine! And the kitchen/dishes! Toilet paper expenses will quadruple.

      Not to mention their Internet/computer/electricity expenses. All those bludgers are now back surfing the Internet on the company’s dime.

      1. Chinook*

        And they won’t clean up after themselves in the kitchen because they know it’s “not their job” because someone else was obviously doing it before they were forced back in.

        Plus the coffee cup stealing gnomes will start multiplying and filling their lairs with cups and forks and those who never had the option to telecommute will be stuck wondering how to eat their lunch without utensils.

      2. Working from home works for some of us*

        I worked for companies similar to Yahoo, and I will bet that most (if not all) people working from home (it’s not a large number based on what’s been reported) already have desk and chair at the office that remain empty. And when they are working, the use the VPN, so it’s not as if they aren’t using the company’s resources already.

  10. Anonymous*

    Oh, thank you for saying this! I’m so tired of seeing all the commotion about this. I’m certain that if this were a male CEO, it would be a non-story.

    1. Sam*

      I don’t believe that at all. If Marissa was a Maurice and all other things were the same, there would still be a media feeding frenzy about the telecommuting angle. And “Maurice” would be getting mud slung at him for not supporting working parents, especially mothers.

      1. Andrew*

        “Maurice” would be told that, as a man, he couldn’t possibly understand the damage he was doing to women.

        As if being called “Maurice” weren’t punishment enough!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I doubt it. And also, that would be ridiculous too. What damage? As I said in the post, it has nothing to do with working parents. And parents, by the way, not just mothers.

  11. Norma Webster*

    I think it’s worth nating that Mayer has effectively also handed Yahoo employees a pay cut, in that they are now going to be forced to absorb commuting costs. Gas and vehicle maintainence expenses are not exactly cheap, especially here in Calilfornia. I would also wonder where the blow would fall next, if she’s ready and willing to make such drastic changes.

    1. Sam*

      Yup. And some of these folks were hired as telecommuters, meaning they may not even work within commuting distance. I seriously doubt Yahoo is going to cough up relocation costs, cost of commuting increases, or anything else.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, that is an important point. One of the benefits of having people work remotely is that you’re not limited to hiring locals. But, if you now decide that everyone has to come into the office, you’re going to have some very unhappy employees.

  12. Vicki*

    My personal issues are:

    1. I worked at Yahoo! for more than 5 years. I don’t believe the “unnamed source”. “Huge” isn’t a qualitative number ; it’s a weasel word, designed to shock. (Also, lack of productivity is a management problem.)

    1b. I worked at Yahoo! for more than 5 years. I disbelieve “huge”. The three people I knew about who worked full time at home were very productive, always on line, and used to be in the office until they moved too far away and Yahoo! _kept them on_ because it didn’t want to lose them.

    2. I worked at Yahoo! for more than 5 years. Everyone in my team worked regularly from home one day per week. Several people did two days. We were provably productive. The edict covers regular 1 or 2 day telecommuters as well as full time.

    3. >t he media is full of reports that Yahoo employees had been abusing their policy for years.
    I have seen the media report this exactly once, quoting an “unnamed source”.

    4. > the new policy allows the occasional teleworking day as needed
    Carefully phrased to make it clear that you really should reconsider…

    5. > he presumably knows far more about the situation there than the many hysterical not-employed-by-Yahoo people on the Internet who feel qualified to judge.

    OK. Fair.
    But I’m one of those people who are judging and I feel very qualified. Because I worked at Yahoo! for a lot longer than Marissa.
    (And does a new CEO really “work” at the company? Or is she taking info from her exac staff, who may take info from their Sr VPs, then the VPs, then the Sr directors, the directors,… until you finally get down to the people who actually _work_ at Yahoo – the managers, PMs, engineers, writers, etc who create and support the products.

    So, forgive me if I think Marissa is making a hug mistake.
    You cannot create collaboration by edict.
    If you want to get rid of people, fire them or do a layoff. Don’t set things up hoping some of them will quit.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    1. RB*

      Love your insight. I, too, knew someone who worked at Yahoo who said many of the same things. Ms. Mayer made a big PR blunder. Someone in her position should be far more savvy. That enough is a red flag on her leadership potential.

      This is the first time I have ever disagreed with Alison. *sobs*

    2. N*

      With all due respect, how long ago did you work there and was your position high enough up that you had a broad view of the company beyond where you personally worked?

      It’s a big company and while something wasn’t a problem where you sat, it sure could be other places.

      I have 2 close friends who work there and they essentially confirmed what’s in the article.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Given that there are such differing opinions from employees/former employees, I would suspect that some departments or business units have problems with telework, while others utilize teleworking well. My issue with the pronouncement is that its being applied to ALL Yahoo employees at once, not by department or job responsibility. I think this is an example of something Alison usually rails against – making a broad sweeping policy decision for everyone, due to abuse by a few, rather than address the offenders first.

    3. KarenT*

      I like your response and perspective.

      I agree with you. Yahoo! doesn’t have a telecommuting problem. It has management and productivity problems. Is the idea that people will return to the office and their managers will look over their shoulders, making sure work gets done? Or, will managers monitor their respectives group’s productivity by measuring it’s performance and results. It should be the latter, and this should have been happening anyway.
      I’ve been ignoring the comments (not here, but on the Internet at large) about her hating new moms or women or whatever because that’s just noise to me, and surrounds lots of issues that it shouldn’t.

      I do think this policy change may be short sighted. If Yahoo! is letting it’s top performers/top talent work remotely, Yahoo! could lose some of its better people. If people are abusing the work from home policy, they shouldn’t have until June to find a Yahoo! office, they should be fired.

    4. DA*

      I commented on this issue in my blog earlier in the week, and I attacked Mayer from the standpoint of not being able to manage her managers. If the problem is slacking employees or whatever, then why aren’t the managers doing their job?

      While its interesting to see Mayer take a bold move, her solution does not address the real problem. I would much rather see her expend her energies on actually solving the problem at hand – not creating smoke and mirrors.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The media is full of reports that Yahoo employees had been abusing their policy for years.
      I have seen the media report this exactly once, quoting an “unnamed source”.

      I’ve seen it in multiple places, including in the New York Times.

      And I hope you’re not seriously questioning whether senior execs really “work” at their companies, just because they’re not creating the product.

      1. K Too*

        Oh man, I missed out on this post.! Former Yahooligan myself and I worked there for 7 years. Vicki, I have to agree on your last comment – If you want to get rid of people, fire them or do a layoff. Don’t set things up hoping some of them will quit.

        Y! hasn’t been doing too well since ’08 and I’m wondering if Mayer doesn’t want another PR disaster with impending layoffs so instead she makes a change to the WFH policy to see who balks.

        While I was there, there were some people that abused the WFH policy, but I also worked with team members that took work home (myself included). Many co-workers took work home and worked until the early AM just to make sure that client requests were being handled on time.

        It will be interesting to see what will happen before June.

  13. BCW*

    I agree with a lot of it, except #4. To say because people attacked her policy is sexist is a bit extreme to me. Are you saying because she is a woman she should be free of criticism? If a man made this exact same declaration, I feel he would be criticized too. Maybe not saying that he “was a traitor to his gender”, but at the same time I could see women’s groups say how he doesn’t understand being a working woman, etc. Just because a woman is being criticized by the media, doesn’t always make it a situation that is sexism.

    Now all of the women are going to jump down my throat, so have at it.

    1. K*

      Criticism of her is not sexist; criticism that she “should have known better because she is a woman” is sexist. (Much like disagreeing with people on this thread is not sexist, but preemptively making a point about how ~all the women are going to jump down your throat~ kind of is.)

      1. BCW*

        Well I still don’t think its sexist. Thats my opinion. You can have a differing one if you like. As a black man, I also don’t think its racist when black people complain Obama should be doing A,B, and C because he’s black, but he hasn’t. Its a very similar thing. And in my experience, whenever I’ve made a claim about anything woman related, I have plenty of women jumping down my throat. So that last sentence was based on my experience in the past.

        1. Min*

          ” And in my experience, whenever I’ve made a claim about anything woman related, I have plenty of women jumping down my throat.”

          These previous times that women have taken offense to your claims, were they all as sexist as this one? Coz that might explain it. ;)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Of course I’m not saying that because she’s a woman she should be free from criticism! I’m not sure where you’re seeing that. I’m saying that her actions shouldn’t be judged through the lens of “she’s a woman,” which is what the majority of what I’ve seen written on this topic has done — acting as if she has an obligation to handle this differently than a man would, which is absurd and offensive.

      Please avoid statements like “Now all of the women are going to jump down my throat, so have at it.” They’re unhelpful and assign really negative motives and characteristics to a huge group of people.

      1. BCW*

        Ok, but going back to my point, I could just as easily see a childless guy being criticized for this move saying he didn’t understand the needs of a working mom (or parent). I don’t think its just about the fact that a woman is doing that.

        1. Anonymous*

          The move was going to be criticized one way or another; the media and pundits just took the convenient road for criticism.

        2. the gold digger*

          Except that as a woman, she’s supposed to be all about women and especially sensitive to the issues that women face and instead, she’s made a decision as a CEO. And that’s what’s driving some people crazy. They think that just because she’s a woman, she should have made a different decision. They are not addressing the issue on its merits – which is the non-sexist way to approach it. They are upset that a woman did something they don’t like.

    3. DA*

      Any time a woman in power is criticized, her defenders almost always claim sexism (see Hillary Clinton’s run for president in 2008). It’s almost always as if a woman is in power, she is off limits. Sorry, not true.

      I’m tired of seeing people use sexism when legitimate criticisms are made. It’s a cop out and I’m disappointed that AAM chose to make it a point.

      1. Esra*

        People complained not that Clinton was criticized, but that she was facing criticisms relating to her being a woman and not her political ideals or competency. Just like in this case, criticism isn’t the problem, it’s critism that is there solely due to gender and not actions or qualifications.

      2. jennie*

        If you criticize her looks or her femininity rather than her policies or work, that’s sexist. There’s actually a really interesting new blog about women in Canadian politics called Madame Premier. The majority of our provinces are run by women now and someone has chronicled all the comments on social media about female politicians that are sexist and sexual. It is actually pretty scary the vile things people put their names to online.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I would add that it’s also sexist if you judge her through a different lens than you’d judge a man, which is what has happened with a lot of the commentary on the Internet about this.

  14. Elizabeth*

    I’m one of the people who could probably work from home, at least part of the time. I don’t do it for the most part, other than for very specific support in off-hours.

    The collaborative affect of working in a team environment, where I can flop down in a colleague’s office and say “I need to bounce some ideas off of you”, is huge. People walk 2 blocks from the main building to my office to play with my desk toys and brainstorm solutions, because the face-to-face interaction of the team fosters that kind of synergy (using a word an ex-boss used to describe what happens when you put me in the same physical location with a couple other people).

    I’ve also been the customer of people who work from home. I’ve yet to deal with someone who didn’t have significant distractions in their home office.

    The worst was a consultant for a major system implementation who had a pregnancy with significant issues that required she spend every Friday all day in her doctor’s office, who also had a side business breeding pure bred St Bernards. Every phone call with her was accompanied by a chorus of barking dogs. On conference call was cut short by her needing to stop & act as a midwife while her champion female was giving birth. None of her distractions were conducive to getting the project implemented.

    Another example: an integration engineer I have worked with on & off for almost 15 years has been a work-at-home parent since his children were born. His oldest was 4 when we started working together; his youngest was born during the second year. There has never been a time that he hasn’t had kids at home when I’ve had him connected to my systems troubleshooting problems. More than once, he’s had to stop working on a down system so that he can pick up kids from school, then pick up where he left off. I work in a hospital. Down systems mean that patients aren’t getting appropriate care.

    My husband has had similar experiences. A good friend in sales who worked from home until he was transferred to a larger city where the company actually had an office would either have to lock the kids & animals out of his home office while they were on the phone or go out to his car to take or make a call.

    On a one-off basis, because of an emergency or a blizzard or hurricane? Remote work is great. Day to day? I cringe every time it gets brought up. I don’t like it as a customer & I hate it as a co-worker.

    1. Liza*

      Elizabeth, this isn’t exactly relevant to the discussion but I’m really curious now: was it the consultant or her doctor who had the side business breeding dogs?

        1. Liza*

          Oh, I was kind of enjoying (but simultaneously horrified by) my mental image of a doctor’s-office-and-puppy-breeding-business, but it does make more sense that it was the consultant!

          1. Suz*

            I’d go to that Dr. Mammograms would be so much less annoying if you could hold a puppy during it.

            1. Liza*

              But what if the doctor made you stop and act as a midwife to her dog when you were in for an appointment?

    2. Anonymous*

      While I have had the occasional negative experience with work from home (the guy who disappeared for 3 days and didn’t respond to a single e-mail, instant message or phone call, the toddler having a meltdown in the background, etc.) I’ve mostly had positive experiences, and I managed an entire team of people who worked from home. I think the important thing is, if people are going to do work from home, you have to set clear ground rules and enforce them. For people you’ve consistently had problems with, they should have managers who are aware of the problem and actively working to fix them. If they’re not, then the problem is bad managers.

  15. Yup*

    Criticizing her policy is not sexist.

    However, if Jack Welch had enacted this policy, the discussion would probably not have included his identity as a father.

    1. BCW*

      Yeah, but if he had built a nursery right next to his office for his newborn kid, that aspect may very well be called into question.

  16. Sarah*

    What worries me about the policy change is the lack of flexibility for employees working in alternate locations. Yahoo is not offering relocation assistance for employees who do not work near an existing office. And, if the employee does not move (or is not able to for financial or other reasons) by a particular date, their employment ends and Yahoo is not offering any severance benefits.
    There are employees who do not abuse the situation, and they are being penalized as much as those that do.
    If Yahoo had a culture of accountability where managers actively performance managed people that were not working remotely effectively they would not have needed to implement this new policy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would be surprised if individual arrangements weren’t being made in cases where the person is a high performer who they want to retain and who would have a hardship under this policy. Pure speculation on my part, but it would shock me if that’s not happening behind the scenes.

      Aside from that, though, I’m sure they did this with full knowledge that they’d lose some people, and they’re okay with that.

      1. AB*

        As someone who has lots of friends working in high-tech companies in Silicon Valley (not Yahoo but practically all other well known internet companies there, very large and small ones), I’d be very surprised too. No company in their right mind would just let their top performers leave without trying to make individual arrangements with them.

        But on the other hand, I’d also bet that by now most top performers already have left Yahoo a long time ago, as I’ve seen happen with other companies going through financial troubles (competitors are quick to spot those talents and offer them an attractive package).

  17. BCW*

    I think the problem is, as has been discussed on this blog many times, making a broad policy change instead of handling the people who are causing problems. I think there are other ways around it as opposed to just saying “No more of this”. Why not look at each department and its needs, and make decisions that way.

    You can easily say everyone in this department must be in every Friday, or the entire 3rd week of the month. But to make a blanket statement taking away what I would guess many people enjoyed about working there isn’t right for me.

  18. Stephanie*

    Agree totally that “The Internet’s focus on Marissa Mayer in this story is sexist and gross.” I see a strong theme of relentless, personal criticism based on what is clearly a work-related decision (and also a reasonable one in my view).

    My experience at my Silicon Valley company is that people who are “WFH” have been quite surprised and even, seemingly, offended when I call them on their cellphones, between 9 am and 5 pm, with work-related questions. I’ve basically given up on such calls or make them only in extremis, with an apology. And that definitely slows me down, and my team as well.

    1. KellyK*

      In your shoes, I would definitely be irritated that someone seems annoyed to get a work-related call during work hours. But I wouldn’t let that stop you from getting things done.

      Have you asked them what their work hours are and what the best way to get in touch with them is? Because it might be that they’re taking mid-day naps and hoping no one will notice they aren’t working. But it might also be that they worked on something until 3 AM and so don’t start the next day until noon. (Not to say that a weird schedule is always reasonable, because if it’s preventing you from getting what you need from them, it may not be.)

      It might also be that they would rather do everything by e-mail and IM because they don’t want to use personal cell minutes for work.

      1. K*

        I don’t think the personal cell phone minutes thing is reasonable for telecommuters, though. If you can’t talk to someone in person, sometimes you’re going to need to talk to them on the phone and that is part of the cost of telecommuting (though I feel like most companies would pay for a land line or cell phone in that situation to begin with). But the more layers of impediments you put on people to communicate with their co-workers – “only outside of normal business hours; only by IM or e-mail” – the more telecommuting becomes a nightmare for those left in the office.

        1. KellyK*

          Honestly, I think it depends. If he was given a telecommuting situation with the understanding that he’d have to be reachable by his personal phone during set business hours, and the number was given to coworkers with that purpose, then it’s not something he’s entitled to complain about.

          On the other hand, someone who was supposed to get a work cell but that hasn’t materialized yet would rightly be irritated with being expected to burn personal minutes for something that could just as easily be dealt with by IM or email. Personally, if I were working from home, I’d really prefer to be called on the landline, because I live in the middle of nowhere, and I have just enough reception to know you called my cell, but not enough to actually answer. Point being, you don’t know why it’s an issue unless you mention it and figure out how to resolve it.

          Ideally, people would be very up front with their coworkers about their work schedule (if it differs from a standard and bosses haven’t already clued everyone in) and the best ways to reach them if they aren’t obvious.

          But the more layers of impediments you put on people to communicate with their co-workers – “only outside of normal business hours; only by IM or e-mail” – the more telecommuting becomes a nightmare for those left in the office.

          Sure. But on the other hand, no one is guaranteed automatic instant availability, even if someone is working in the same office. They’re in a meeting, they’re at lunch, they’re ignoring calls to work on something higher-priority, etc. And it depends on the specifics of the job what kind of turnaround time is required.

          I think people expect *more* availability from telecommuters because there’s an underlying assumption that they’re getting away with something. If you swing by someone’s office and they’re not there, you leave them a voicemail or an email. But if you call someone who’s working from home and they don’t answer, the tendency is to picture them slacking off.

          1. K*

            Yes, but you should be explaining all these things to your co-workers, not just being grumpy when you’re called (and I have a hard time imagining someone who’s hours are legitimately established as 3am to noon not just telling a co-worker who calls them at 3pm that). And ultimately, it is probably still incumbent on you to be reachable even if your company is dragging out getting you a phone (which again, isn’t your co-worker’s fault).

            I have to say, my experience is not that telecommuters are expected to be more available. My experience is that when you’re telecommuting it is easy to forget just how much less available you are than people in the office and to subtly shift your expectations accordingly. Yeah, nobody is going to be available all the time and sometimes you legitimately need to delay communication with your co-workers; but at the same time, nobody is only going to be able to interact with their co-workers in their preferred manner all the time either. There’s a lot of compromising and balancing that has to go on, and I think that’s much easier to forget when you’re not there all the time watching people’s reactions and adjusting to them in person.

        2. The IT Manager*

          My organization provides the computer/laptop. It’s made very clear that you have to provide everything else for your home office including phone and internet. (And that WFH is
          not a substitute for shild or elder care.)

          I figure it’s a trade off – you save on gas, car maintenence, and office attire, you spend more on phone, internet, heating/air, electricity, and maybe floor space for the office.

      2. the gold digger*

        But it might also be that they worked on something until 3 AM and so don’t start the next day until noon.

        That’s the issue with my husband. He has been working from home for years. He works late into the night – customers and co-workers in Europe and India turn this into 24/7 job, almost. (Which is why I don’t like telecommuting for him. I am pretty ruthless separating my personal from my work time, but he is always at work.)

        So if you call him at 8 a.m., you are waking him after only five hours of sleep.

      3. Sara*

        Or, like me, they hate hate HATE the phone. Some things are more efficient on the phone, yes, but I would much rather receive questions/requests by email so that I can prioritize them and think about them when I’m not right in the middle of something else. A phone call is an interruption in the same way that a person stopping at your desk to talk is an interruption. I find both to be very annoying if it’s about something that is not urgent. The reactions you are experiencing do not necessarily mean that people are surprised/offended at being contacted per se.

        1. K*

          And that I think may be reasonable depending on the job, but it should be clearly expressed to the co-worker. Just sounding grumpy isn’t reasonable whoever’s doing it.

  19. Sam*

    Alison, I love your blog and often agree with your advice and opinions. But not this time.

    (1) Yes, it’s reasonably to change a failing policy, but that change should be well designed and communicated. This heavy-handed, all-or-nothing edict is neither. It’s designed to punish workers regardless of their own productivity and doesn’t address the utter failure of management. Marissa has only shown just how out of touch she is with employee morale. Has she no regard for people’s time? Evidently not, if you believe all the other news stories about her piss poor time management skills. Further, is Yahoo going to do anything to defray the costs to workers? I doubt it. (Besides commuting costs, consider time. And then there’s the folks who were hired as telecommuters and don’t even live near a Yahoo office.) Finally, just look at the patronizing wording of the actual memo. The bit about the cable guy… Wow.

    (2) Yahoo’s new policy prohibits any regular teleworking schedule, even it is only 1 day a week. Even occasional teleworking is discouraged. Again, see the bit about the cable guy.

    (3) Agreed. This may start some conversations and a few companies may follow Yahoo’s lead, but it’s just as likely that the conversations will highlight the *benefits* of teleworking.

    (4) If Marissa was a Maurice and everything else was the same, we’d still be hearing the sexist angle. Only we’d be hearing how “Maurice” doesn’t understand the lives and needs of regular working parents. (I say “regular” to mean those who can’t afford round the clock nannies and don’t have the luxury of building a nursery next to their office.) Even before this fiasco, Marissa has been characterized as snobbish, elitist, and out of touch. This policy change only supports those characterizations.

    And while some of the news stories are incorrectly assuming that ALL teleworking parents are spending their days watching their kids, I can’t agree that this isn’t about working parents at some level. Teleworking gives greater flexibility to start/stop work for appointments, driving kids to/from school, etc. That is a working parent issue.

    1. A Bug!*

      Re: #4, I have to disagree with your disagreement. If it was Maurice instead of Marissa, and the articles were saying he “doesn’t understand the lives and needs of regular working parents,” that’s still different than what’s happening in the commentary now.

      I’m seeing the word “betrayal” show up in a lot of the commentary. That is to say, Marissa Mayer, as a working mom, has betrayed other working moms with this new policy. I googled (sorry, I should have yahooed) “Marissa Mayer betray working moms” and the entire first page of results are expressing the idea that Marissa Mayer has betrayed working moms, or her gender entirely, by instituting this policy. That there was an understanding that Mayer, as a woman and a working mom, could have been expected to be more supportive of “her team.”

      This is language that simply wouldn’t be present if Mayer were a man. It’s more than the suggestion that Mayer is out of touch with the needs of her workers; it’s a suggestion that by virtue of her gender her decision is more than just a business decision. And that does mean there’s a sexist angle to the commentary.

      Nobody’s saying “Maurice” would get applause for the decision. But the decision is being treated differently by the media than it would be if Mayer were a man.

      1. Sam*

        “…it’s a suggestion that by virtue of her gender her decision is more than just a business decision. And that does mean there’s a sexist angle to the commentary.”

        I never said there wasn’t a sexist angle! My point was that there would STILL be a sexist angle if Marissa was a man. It would be framed differently and the language would be different, but the media would still be judging the decision through a gender lens.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I really don’t think so. I can’t think of a single example of that kind of thing happening with a male decision-making. Telecommuting isn’t inherently a gendered issue, and I can’t imagine it coming up if she were a man. Or a man being accused of betraying his gender.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the cable guy bit is condescending. They’re explaining when it would and wouldn’t be okay to work from home (cable guy, yes, but just feel like staying home, no). They specifically say to use your judgment.

  20. Ramona*

    The problem I have with Yahoo!’s new policy is that I think it’s going the hurt the company more than it’s going to help it. Sure, a company should certainly fire workers who are unproductive, whether or not they work at the company. However, let’s remember that many of Yahoo!’s telecommuting employees are software engineers. And software engineers are hard to get because there’s many more positions open for them than people qualified to do this job.

    What makes it worse for Yahoo! is that they are situated in Silicon Valley, where there are many opportunities that engineers covet more, such as working at Facebook, Google, or a even a startup. This isn’t necessarily the case in other parts of the country, such as the mid-West. I really don’t think Meyer should have compared her company to Facebook or Google in the Business Insider. Even if Yahoo! fed their employees as well as Facebook or Google, that wouldn’t cover the overriding opinion in the tech community that Yahoo!’s products are outdated. Software engineers don’t go just where the food is good, they also go where they can contribute to products they admire. They have this option because many companies offer both, especially in the Bay Area. Let’s also remember that some other Silicon Valley tech companies that are “hot” do offer full-time telecommuting, such as Wikipedia.

    Without allowing for full-time telecommuting, which would open up the possibility of getting more talented software engineers nationwide, I really think this is going to contribute to Yahoo!’s demise. Meyer needs to remember that she no longer works at a top tech company like Google. She works at Yahoo!, which still needs A LOT of work to shine like these other tech companies and attract the Silicon Valley talent she wants.

  21. Reva*

    I admit that my initial reaction to this policy was a knee-jerk panic – until I read more about it. I like the occasional option to work from home, specifically if I am wanting to finish financial reports that get done quicker w/o constant interruption. My initial reaction did not take into account the people who worked 100% from home but really were not working at all.

    Now with additional info, I can understand why she changed the policy. Makes sense. Good read as always, Alison!

    1. -X-*

      Panic? I don’t work at Yahoo, so it doesn’t make me panic.

      But I have a lot of sympathy for workers in today’s economy, so when I hear a CEO is making a strong move to reduce workers benefits, it disturbs me. It reflects on a big power imbalance in the US.

      And if some people were not working at all, management should figure out how to deal with those lower performers.

  22. Valery*

    I’ve been hoping that you would comment on this- and in exactly this way! Thank you for your thoughts as well as those of the commentators- I definitely appreciate the reasonable commentary on this blog :)

  23. Mike C.*

    Look, I could spend all day complaining that this CEO is using a cleaver when a scalpel would do and that her real problem is poor management, lack of real productivity metrics and a terribly privileged and outdated view of her employees. Not to mention this is basically an edict from on high that their employees had no say in, that’s a really great way to piss people off.

    But frankly every time I hear about her in the news, my response is, “What? Yahoo is still in business? What are they doing that is even useful?”. Ending a major telecommuting program isn’t going to fix that.

    Though the sexism stuff is ugly. It’s not having kids that makes telecommuting awesome, it’s the fact you don’t have to commute and can work away from office distractions. The fact that she’s a mother or a woman has nothing to do with the discussion.

  24. Andrew*

    Someone at Yahoo should have anticipated the enormous amount of bad publicity that this sudden action would generate. The merits of the policy aside, the way this is being handled has done nothing but reinforce the popular image of Yahoo as a poorly run company in full panic mode. Allowing this to occur, and continue, is stunningly poor leadership.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe Yahoo doesn’t give a crap about what outsiders think about their bringing their telecommuting policy back in line with those of similar companies in their area. I sure wouldn’t.

      1. Andrew*

        Maybe they don’t, but companies that don’t care about the outside world sometimes find that the outside world doesn’t care about them, either.

        After all, it’s not as if Yahoo does anything that isn’t available elsewhere.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I seriously doubt that anyone is going to pick Google over Yahoo as a result of this, if they weren’t already switching — or at least not in high enough numbers to make them change internal business decisions. That’s just not how this stuff works.

          1. Dan*

            Yahoo is at where they’re at because everybody else has already picked Google. My first thought when reading this was “who cares what Yahoo does? They’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

            And yes, Marissa deserves the PR flack for building a nursery while telling the minions that they can’t work from home anymore. She gets privileges for being the CEO, sure, but good leaders lead by example.

            “Everybody knows” that workers can be just as unproductive in the office as they can be outside of it. Making people actually come to the office isn’t going to make them do any more than they are already doing.

            You don’t motivate people by inconveniencing their lives and then rubbing it in their faces that you have privileges they don’t. This is on par with companies who lay off people and deny bonuses to the minions during tough economic times, but then take big fact bonuses themselves for doing… what exactly?

      2. MA*

        I don’t think it is this simple. Were this a small company, or a company that did not have so much press within the last few months I would agree. However, Yahoo has very much been in the public eye for the last few months. Months of bad press can impact share values, and the CEO is ultimately answerable to shareholders.

        I don’t think a company should care what people think about its telecommuting policy, but it should care about the news it gets in the aggregate over several months. In that sense, its short sighted not to get ahead of the news and prepare for a possible backlash when Yahoo has been under scrutiny for the last few months.

    2. Cassie*

      Someone at Yahoo definitely should have. Public perception accounts for a lot, especially if a company is struggling. Is this going to stop people from using Yahoo? Most likely no – but it makes management at Yahoo look somewhat clueless. If employees aren’t productive, do something about it. Making everyone sit in a cubicle or office on site is not going to change that productivity problem. And if they think it will, well…

      It doesn’t help that they also appear somewhat confused about what consumers (their customers) want – they redesigned their website so it has a Facebook-like news feed. If we wanted Facebook features, we’d be using Facebook.

      I still go to Yahoo to read featured news articles, which they kept, but other than that, I’m not using it as a portal to anywhere. If I want to check sport scores, I type in the URL to Yahoo Sports (or use a bookmark) – I don’t need to go to the Yahoo page first to click on the link to get to Sports. I’m not my parents.

  25. Kou*

    All I have to say is that I would really like to read just one thing about Yahoo that doesn’t talk about the fact that Marissa Mayer has kids. Just once. I would like someone somewhere to talk about her as the CEO of a large corporation rather than a mom with a job.

    And don’t tell me it’s because she built that nursery or took maternity leave right after the announcement, because that is completely irrelevant to pretty much everything else that’s come from her. We just latch mommy identity onto people so hard, we saw that first and now that’s who she is in every single other freaking thing she does. I swear it’s like an executive is a professional until it’s a woman with children, then she’s just a working mom.

  26. Heather*

    I know!

    The “media” response, as usual, tells us more about what we obsess over as a society than it does anything useful about the actual story in question. From what I’ve read/experienced, telecommuting is great for task-oriented jobs, not as good for jobs requiring innovation, problem solving, etc.

    If I were one of those employees I’m sure I’d be upset, but at the same time — hello! Your company is failing! Wake up, smell the coffee, and get thee to the office to help problem-solve. If you don’t, your job is gonna be gone anyway, so really — what do you have to lose?

  27. De Minimis*

    Got an e-mail today announcing that my agency [fed gov’t] has established Mar. 4-8 as “Telework Week.”

    Has to be a coincidence because there’s no way they could come up with something like that on such short notice, but it’s a pretty funny coincidence just the same.

      1. De Minimis*


        What’s odd is I don’t think there are many telework arrangements at my agency, which is healthcare related, although there probably are at the headquarters level. Even people like me who don’t perform healthcare functions would probably have a tough time working from home, there is always a situation that comes up that needs fairly immediate attention and working from home would really make that a lot harder to address. Also, it would require a bigger investment in IT security than we can afford. I know agencies like the IRS have telework, but they also provide agents with secure laptops.

        I have worked from home at a former job and did not care for it. I like to keep work and home separate, and just hated the idea of my home life being “contaminated” by my work life, but then again it was a job I really, really disliked, and in this case “working from home” just meant working on stuff during the evening hours instead of spending time with family.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Ha! I also for a federal govt agency. I already tele-work one day a week and many people inside in my organization within my agency telework. We heard nothing about it until yesterday when another cubical nieghbor mentioned it to us. She heard it from her long-distance boss. She’s not in my chain of command, and it hasn’t been mentioned to us yet.

      I do know the federal government is pushing telework andmy agency is updating timekeeping software so they can track who teleworks and how much.

      Again I think telework requires some measured thought because it works for some jobs and not for others. Wholesale embrace or rejection of telework is probably not the way to go.

  28. Erik*

    Yahoo has a bad management problem. Period. It’s been that way for many years – nothing new.

    I’m not at all surprised that many people have abused the “work from home” policy to the point that it reached critical mass. Most companies in SV will typically make arrangements with employees on a case-to-case basis, and even I’ve done that with agreement from my manager. There may not be a formal company-wide policy on it, but they handle this more on a department and/or managerial level.

    This would be a great opportunity for Google, Facebook and other companies to snatch Yahoo employees. If they’re smart, they should already be calling up people and poaching them. I sure as hell would.

    I’ve worked from home before at various times during my career, with a lot of success. It takes work, but my success has boiled down to this:
    1) Management has to hold employees accountable for their work. If they’re not getting their work done, then they need to step in and figure out why. Good managers fix any problems related to productivity, or the lack thereof. Bad managers (like those at Yahoo) allow this to continue.

    2) Management had to trust their employees to do their work, and treat them like adults. This relates with #1 above.

    3) I always kept an office environment at home, and made sure people knew when I was available via email, phone, IM, Skype, etc. for questions or if any issues came up. Naturally, I always answered so they didn’t think “oh, he’s working at home so he’s not really there…”.

    4) You have to be more proactive with dashboards, IM, phone, email, etc. because you’re not in the office. You always end up working much harder, which people don’t realize.

  29. Anonymous*

    I think an important and so far unmentioned part of the reason for the (non-gender-related) brouhaha over this decision is that it fits well into the narrative about Marissa Mayer being a micromanager who “doesn’t understand managing any other way than intimidation or humiliation.” This edict could be a carefully-reasoned business decision that will force slackers to self-select out and increase the productivity of those who choose to remain, the way Alison argues, but it could also be a decision made by a “bullying” CEO who wouldn’t want to telecommute herself and who is suspicious of those who do and wants to change the culture just because she wants everyone to march to her drum. The quotes are from this article ( but try googling ‘Marissa Mayer micromanager.’ There are a lot of stories suggesting that she is a very, well, un-AAM-like manager, which would make this kind of news story combustible in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise.

  30. discountchica*

    It seems that removing the WFH is just putting a Band-Aid over the real illness: disengaged and ineffective managers who are unable to “see” who is actually working AND disengaged and ineffective employees who take advantage of the system.
    Is that going to change because people are in the office? Will the managers take action now? I don’t think removing the WFH is going to change the issue (in my mind): people who have lost interest and are taking advantage of Yahoo. WFH “works” if there is a culture of wanting to be there (mentally, not just physically) for your company. Why isn’t the mentality there at Yahoo? That is the question that needs to be addressed. I don’t think making a sweeping rule like removing WFH is going to address that.

    I will say though… I really have no idea what I am talking about. There is a reason I’m not a CEO ;)

    1. Jamie*

      I see what you’re saying and yes, the WFH isn’t the problem as much as it was abused because of the problem – poor management.

      However, I can see the logic. It’s harder to ignore the problems if everyone is in the same place. There is a certain amount of autonomy required to work from home and if it’s being abused them revoking it to bring everyone into work will shake out who is and isn’t the problem faster.

  31. Anonymous*

    The Internet’s focus on Marissa Mayer in this story is sexist and gross.

    Incorrect. She is able to bring her child to work because she built a nursery next to her office. Sure she paid for it out of her own money but the point is, bringing her child to work gives her a level of flexibility to be a working parent that she is now denying others by limiting their opportunity to work from home. Giving her a pass on her hypocrisy and elitism because she is a woman is sexist and gross.

    Marissa Mayer on feminism:
    “I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist…I don’t I think have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that…”

    Eff her.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Then attack her for hypocrisy (and we can have a debate on whether it’s reasonable for CEOs to get perks that lower workers don’t), but not for “betraying women.” It’s no more betraying women than a male CEO’s private jet or private bathroom is betraying men.

    2. Jamie*

      The statement you’ve attributed to her is like what we talked about here in a recent thread. A lot of women, myself included until very recently, refused to self-identify as feminists because of the misconception feminism = militant activism at the expense of men. The more people understand that it’s just about equality the more people will reclaim the term.

      Sure she has opportunities that other people don’t have. Highly paid employees in all companies can give their kids opportunities that people who make less money cannot. There are perks that come with certain positions, along with the problems that come with those positions.

      And she isn’t taking one thing away from the parents who worked from home because that is not, and should never be, a replacement for child care. If people feel they lose the ability to work from home and take care of their kids while still ostensibly drawing a FT check…then something was being neglected or half-assed along the way. The work, the child care, or likely both. Because children need attention and active supervision and if you are doing that properly you cannot devote the focus to your job it requires.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. I don’t know of any companies that allow full-time telework without requiring that you have separate full-time child care if you have small kids. So this really has nothing to do with working mothers — or, uh, working parents, although the debate never seems to bother with that term.

        1. Anonymous*

          I said “a level of flexibility to be a working parent”. If that was read as “Someone who works at home and also takes care of their child during that time”, that’s not my intent. What I meant was that working at home provides more flexibility in general -just not having the commuting time helps a great deal. I live 30 miles form work – therefore taking 15 minutes to run an errand in my neighborhood isn’t an option when I am in the office; it is an option if I work at home.

          As for not identifying as a feminist because some people have a misconception of what that means, my honest reaction is shame on anyone who makes that choice. People have a ton of misconceptions about every ism under the book and that will never change. I have no problem with someone saying “I’m not a feminist” if they aren’t one – someone who says “Oh I’m a feminist but I hate saying it, people think it means I’m a militant”….that I have a bit of a problem with.

          Note that I do understand other people don’t live their lives in hope that I approve of their decisions :)

          I don’t think Marissa Mayer is betraying women, I think she’s a hypocrite and a bad manager.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think Marissa Mayer is betraying women, I think she’s a hypocrite and a bad manager.

            I have no quarrel with that. It’s the “betraying women” crap all over the Internet this week that I have a problem with.

          2. Jamie*

            Note that I do understand other people don’t live their lives in hope that I approve of their decisions :)

            I love this. :)

          3. Liza*

            As for not identifying as a feminist because some people have a misconception of what that means, my honest reaction is shame on anyone who makes that choice.

            I’ll point out that in many cases it’s the person’s *own* misconception, e.g. “If that’s what feminism is, then I’m not a feminist,” not “If that’s what people think feminism is, I won’t admit I’m a feminist.”

        2. Anonymous*

          If working from home is not supposed to be a substitute for child care, then neither should a nursery in the office. The point is that all workers, even childless ones, occasionally need flexibility in their lives, and technology allows many more people that flexibility by allowing them to telecommute. While everyone understands the scope of CEO perks is much higher than the average worker, it’s offensive to me for a CEO to take high level perks right as they cut the lower level ones from their staff. I see it in the same light as CEOs taking huge bonuses as they tell employees that there won’t be COL increases because “times are hard”.

          1. A Bug!*

            I will agree that CEOs are compensated at a frankly disgustingly high level as compared to their average employee. But Mayer’s nursery is no different from any other perk that’s enjoyed by high-level executives but not extended to the regular workers.

            But it’s a bit disingenuous to compare the comments that Mayer is drawing to any old “let them eat cake” out-of-touch CEO. Whether or not she’s out of touch, she is being uniquely castigated for a number of things directly related to the fact that she is a woman.

            And just because Mayer has said some unfeminist things? That doesn’t mean the media gets a pass on being sexist toward her.

  32. Lisa*

    Love this post. She’s the CEO, not the She-E-O. Yes, she gets perks not everyone gets. I suppose everyone complaining about MM’s childcare arrangements thinks that male CEOs extend every special perk they get to all of their employees? That’s why every Apple employee received a private plane when Jobs got one, right?

    1. Jamie*

      If I were in that position they could keep the plane – I keep thinking back to Alison’s comment about the private bathroom.

      Now that’s a perk!

      1. A Bug!*

        I’d go for a private bar, myself. (Which is, incidentally, a fairly common executive perk with about as much relation to doing the actual job as a nursery is!)

    2. marbar*

      I have toddler twins and work full time. I would LOVE to have a nursery right next door to my office (presumably staffed with a nanny). I admit that I’m a bit envious that Marissa Mayer has that option.

      But I also had an option that Marissa Mayer did not — i.e. a real maternity leave. I took more than half of a year off after my kidlets were born — and while I know that’s longer than the average, I’m willing to bet that Yahoo workers have fairly decent maternity leave options (given that, among other things, they’re competing with Google, which offers 22 weeks of *paid* maternity leave). And virtually none of my maternity leave was spent on work, aside from answering some questions from my successor.

      I know some people argued when the news about Mayer’s appointment broke that she was setting a bad example by not taking a “real” maternity leave. I disagree. A CEO — especially the new CEO of a struggling company — cannot take months off of work. In fact, above a certain level, all the managers I’ve dealt with are never really off from work. They may ostensibly take vacations — for a week at a time at most — but they’re always reachable and online much of the time. Mayer did exactly what she needed to do as a CEO, and I’m willing to bet that she’s working LONG hours at the office now. Given all that, I’m not sure she’d ever see her child if he weren’t on site at Yahoo. (Also, I’m willing to bet that having her child on site means that she spends more hours at the office than she would otherwise.)

      Being a CEO is not like being just another worker at a company with a bigger office. Now, there is certainly a robust debate to be had over whether CEOs deserve quite the elevated level of compensation they receive, but I think that’s a separate issue from that of the nursery. In the end, I’ll take my scenario — real maternity leave, real days off and real vacations with my babies — over hers, and I would be surprised if no Yahoo workers felt the same way.

      (Of course, IMHO, all this could be addressed if Yahoo just had an on-site daycare, though most of those don’t take babies under six weeks. However, I’ve seen a few comments elsewhere suggesting that the company isn’t able to get permitting for one because it sits on a former landfill and deals with concerns about methane fumes — not sure of the validity of that.)

  33. Steve G*

    I totally agree w/ Yahoo. I think working from home is too hard for most jobs, not exactly most people. I have 1 of 2 positions in our whole NY office office that requires “extensive analysis” that = money. That I can do from many places. Personally, I like the office because I end up needing something from my 1,000 or so sheets open and they are usually on my office computer. But I bring some analyses with me everywhere. However, some of my coworkers do the 2012 equivalent of pushing paper from one side of your desk to the other when they “work” from home. I’d be super mad if someone doing nothing at home encroached on my ability to build a pricing model from home because I can’t do it in the office with people interupting me every 10 minutes.

  34. PuppyKat*

    Great post, AAM! The comments are fascinating to read, too.

    I haven’t been following Yahoo’s troubles, so don’t know much about what’s going on with the company. However, I view this new policy as Ms. Mayer’s device for shaking things up and getting the employees to wake up about the company’s future.

    Plus I’m guessing that it won’t be the last new policy Yahoo employees don’t like.

  35. Lisa*

    The only thing about this new policy is that FT work-from-home employees may be in other states and now have to find new jobs. That sucks for them, but considering I still believe that the Yahoo employees that made this new policy happen were a lot of people making over 100k and not producing anything worthwhile for yahoo. With this policy, Mayer is making these people accountable. For those that wish to stay, they will figure out how to get to the office, for the top-performers in other states, I have a feeling those people are going to be given relocation packages and raises to stay on or will quietly get to keep their work-from-home status because they rock. For the slackers that have been producing nothing and riding this train for years, they will leave or be laid off. Yahoo has been laying people offer since Mayer started and she is cutting dead weight. The work-from-home thing is an extension of cutting dead and prob rewarding the top performers with promotions of those that will leave on their own or get laid off.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree with you that my assumption is also that the top performers who are not local will either be allowed to quietly continue or made happy with relocation packages.

      I wish I hadn’t read so many of the plethora of articles out there claiming that this is a blow to working mothers everywhere – it just gets me riled up and I like to save that for things that actually affect me.

      For the parents out there quoted in articles (too numerous to mention) that say the work at home policies allowed them to have a career and be a parent – well those who go into the office each day are parents, also. The outcry makes me wonder how many were using work at home status to also care for their kids while “working.” Because to see how unworkable that is stop in any office anywhere and give someone one or more small children to care for while they are working. See how much they get done and how many would maintain the same level of productivity.

    2. Lydia Navarro*

      Lisa and Jamie, I agree with you both. I specialize in tax compliance, payroll, and accounting for small to mid-sized IT and web shops. (Generally, these have between 15 and 60 employees; this is my sweet spot.) My husband and I also offer web design, WordPress, and accounting/tax help through our small home-based enterprise, and he is is making a career transition that involves technical aspects in the NYC market, so we have eagerly followed tech news since the dot-com days.

      I consider myself a feminist in the 1960s, Betty Friedan tradition (i.e. before it became steadfastly about gender and the likes of McKinnon/Dworkin swept in), but I can tell you that my very first reaction, upon hearing the news that Mayer had ended telecommuting, was “There goes the top performers.” My husband and I are both consistently in the top 10% of performers in our respective functions, and when we worked jobs that docked us pay, benefits, or perks because of mistakes or oversights we did not make, we sought greener pastures post haste.

      Also, I have worked in Champlain and Springfield (IL), Seattle, Austin, and now, NYC, and regularly am recruited on LinkedIn. I can tell you that while not all companies do it, some of the most innovative do allow employees to tele-work at least once a week, particularly those with a large Millennial/under-30 workforce. I myself work remote most Wednesdays and all Fridays, although I like to be in more often in Jan.-Feb. for obvious reasons, and I would really hate to lose this perk that I worked hard over 16 years to earn because someone else messed up.

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