Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has made a bold move and it's caused quite a stir.
On Friday, Yahoo's HR boss Jackie Reses sent out a memo telling all remote employees that, by June, they needed to be working in Yahoo offices. Anybody who couldn't, or wouldn't, should quit, the memo said. "Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices."
Apparently, Yahoo has many employees who work remotely and never come into the office. The scuttlebutt is that some of them weren't all that productive. Now, they aren't too happy about this new mandate. Some are calling it a stealth layoff.
Mayer's job is to make Yahoo more competitive and profitable. That requires making tough decisions that aren't going to popular.
Here is Marissa's reasoning for her decision on remote working: "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together."
I think Marissa is right — and that's coming from someone who has had flexibility in her career and has had the benefit of working from home. Dedicated workers who work from home full time are more productive. But it's true that you lose that vital face-to-face interaction with teammates and team managers.
For Yahoo, a company that needs to regroup and reignite creativity, bringing employees back to home base to interact with each other is an important first step. Marissa is part of a growing trend — CEOs who realize the importance of collaboration.
But to me, it's the next step Marissa makes that's more important.
Now that she will have all her employees working from home base, how will she engage and motivate them? Is there flexibility in her new mandate? Marissa hasn't said that people who work in the office can't work from home some of the time — as needed. Will she make that allowance down the road?
Lisa Belkin of The Huffington Post believes Marissa made the wrong call: "Rather than championing a blending of life and work , she is calling for an enforced and antiquated division. She is telling workers — many of whom were hired with the assurance that they could work remotely — that they'd best get their bottoms into their office chairs, or else." Lisa believes Marissa should have taken a case by case approach, identifying not only which positions CAN be flexible, but also having managers work with employees on a clear plan of what's expected from those positions.
I think it's too late for a case-by-case approach. Clearly, what Yahoo has done in the past hasn't worked and Marissa needs to turn around a ship that's headed out to sea in the wrong direction. I get that. Marissa wants to move Yahoo more quickly and that means she needs her captains on deck. But even the captain may need to step off the ship from time to time when personal emergencies arise.
Can she strike the right blend of collaboration and accommodation at Yahoo? We will soon find out. Keep going Marissa, show me what's next — and please impress me!