The painful irony of Yahoo's telecommuting ban

Why would a mobile-friendly Silicon Valley tech company issue a retrograde edict against working from home?

Marissa Mayer may have just locked out the tech world's most talented young and mobile developers.
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

There's a "painful irony" in Yahoo's decision to make all its employees come to the office to work, said Jena McGregor in The Washington Post. Why would a Silicon Valley tech company "that touts its mobile strategy" issue a retrograde edict against telecommuting? "Such a policy could very well hurt Yahoo's chances at recruiting the most talented young developers," engineers, and executives. Some of them won't want to move to within commuting distance of a Yahoo office, and many have embraced "the now widely accepted idea that working from home, say, once a week, can help clear away the distractions." If tech companies really "live and die by talent," as Yahoo's celebrated CEO Marissa Mayer has said, "she better hope Yahoo's best and brightest aren't too wedded to working from home."

"I had hope for Marissa Mayer," said Lisa Belkin at The Huffington Post. I thought that as a new mother, she would "use her platform and her power to make Yahoo an example of a modern family-friendly workplace." But rather than championing a balance of life and work, she's "calling for an enforced and antiquated division." A case-by-case telecommuting approach that identifies flexible positions and trusts managers to sort out the details "makes far more sense than a blanket ban." This crackdown on choice isn't just a blow to employees who need flexibility to take care of kids or aging parents — it's a warning for everyone "that their lives don't matter."

Mayer's role is to lead, not to make nice, said Greg Satell in Forbes. The work-from-home ban "doesn't mean she's unconcerned with her employees' quality of life." Her focus, though, is rightly "on building the kind of collaborative workplace that can create truly inspiring products." Banning workers from telecommuting was definitely a "tough call," but it shows that Mayer is not only technologically savvy but "might have the strength of character to be a great leader as well."

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She'll need it, said Andrew Nusca at ZDNet. Mayer was hired last year "with explicit orders to disrupt a company's stagnating culture." Yahoo used to be "a place where the brightest minds on the Internet convened to create and innovate." Now she's trying to infuse Yahoo with the "ardent fervor" for innovation that her previous employer, Google, fosters so well. Yahoo, in contrast, "has seen malaise set in as it maintains existing businesses, rather than pursuing new ones." Mayer knows she has to "crush complacency" to save Yahoo. And she knows "it's easier to ask a small minority of staff to return to the office than ask the majority to go home and never come back."

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