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Yahoo’s Ban on Working From Home

March 6, 2013 - 16 Comments

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” the memo said. “That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.” – Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo

A week before Telework Week, a week to encourage agencies, organizations, and individuals to pledge to telework anytime from March 4-8, 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made a decision to end remote work at Yahoo!, not even for one day a week.

The arguments that are being put forward to support this decision are convincing: we human beings are wired for connection and we work best when we feel connected to those around us; water cooler conversations foster synergies that emails don’t; distance can damage trust and so forth. But as a young female who works in the technology sector, I cannot understand the decision to impose a total ban on remote working. I fully support the option to work from home and this flexibility has unprecedented benefits for both my career and my overall health.

On average, I work from home two to three times a week, sometimes more and sometimes less depending on how many face to face meetings I have, how many TelePresence meetings I have, what time my working day starts and end and the work I am required to do that week. My team are primarily based in the US and I do not need to come into the office to do my job – one of the great benefits of working for a technology company. In fact, if I have a lot of work to do that day/week I often avoid coming into the office because I know I have the self-discipline to put my head down and “crack on” with work and will have fewer distractions at home. 

Working from home and avoiding the dreadful traffic on London motorways also allows me to invest time into myself and my general health – I find that when I do work from home I find it much easier to schedule time to go to the gym or do yoga. Over the years I have noticed that this flexibility has decreased the number of sick days I take and has improved my overall employee satisfaction rate. And as I look forward to the day when I will start a family, I definitely want to continue to work for a company that offers this benefit.

The problem I have with Marissa Meyer’s decision is that it is a total ban – working from home is not allowed, period. I see the benefits of coming into the office and of working from home and I think that employees should have the option to do both, depending on their schedules, personal situations and so forth. 

A good friend of mine is thinking of making a career change and I have been trying to encourage her to consider a career in technology. Working from home is one of the benefits I talk about to sell her a career in technology. The technology industry faces a huge issue with regards to the low number of women applying for jobs in the technology sector especially in engineering roles. If other technology companies follow Yahoo’s example of banning telework, are we going to have a bigger issue on our hands?

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  1. Working from home has is advantages with more time to spend with family,no rush hour traffic to battle,and the ability to set your own hours...but with that also comes the responsibility toreally handle business,because your dedication to workind determines how sucessful you will be.

  2. Marissa Mayer is very true in his statement, because there are certain things which are impossible without a personal presence at office.

  3. Thank you for your comments everyone! This is a great discussion!

  4. I think working from home has a lot more benefits and can be extremely productive. Unfortunately, most businesses don't offer that option.

  5. It seems like most people nowadays are workaholics with people working 2 or 3 jobs at the same time.Speaking for my self I work on three diferent jobs.1 as a PC Technician,2 as a musician,3 as a online marketer.Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  6. There are so many tools for communication - but not everything is useful in every situation. Email , phone or web conference or face to face - each of these have their advantages and disadvantages. Recognizing the Pros and Cons and using the appropriate for the purpose of the meeting participants an appropriate method of collaboration should be used.

  7. Hi, I understand about communication... but maybe Yahoo could have another point of view by reading the "Rework" books from 37Signals. They do millions of $ with few employees from all side of earth. For our web agency ( this book is a new bible and it is really inspiring for a huge amount of little companies like us.

  8. In my opinion, the best way is to mix things, a few days in the office a few at home. It all depends on the business.

  9. Thank you for your comments everyone and it's great to get a discussion going here. I completely agree with everyone that you don't need to be in the same room with someone to collaborate and work productively.

  10. I was very surprised to read about the change in the Yahoo telework policy. What about people who work with global teams? I find that scheduling calls with Europe early in the AM PST, and in the evening PST with Asia Pacific is the best way for me to connect with my global colleagues. This would not be possible by commuting to my office every day. The assumption that everyone works at the same office AND works in the same timezone as you do, is extremely limited thinking for a global company.

  11. I also think the decision to ban tele-work at Yahoo was made in poor judgment. The memo stated "communication and collaboration will be important". Since when do two or more people have to be in the same room or even the same building to communicate and collaborate? I thought that was the situation that sparked the creation of Cisco in the first place. Husband and wife Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner founded the company together because they wanted to email each other from their separate offices which were located in different buildings on the same campus. "A technology had to be invented to deal with disparate local area protocols; and as a result of solving their challenge - the multi-protocol router was born". I've worked for a company that does not allow tele-work either and there were days when the atmosphere in the office is absolutely unfavorable to productivity. Not that it's busy and disruptive; on the contrary it's so quiet you could hear a pin drop. That type of still and silent environment can help employees focus when necessary, but when it's forced continuously it fosters boredom, stifles productivity and hinders innovation. How can anyone expect new and exciting ideas to be conceived when employees are chained down to the same location day in and day out. The phrase "dimly lit boredom" comes to mind. The atmosphere I've described matches the entire culture of the aforementioned company and that is what I fear will happen with Yahoo. The culture of the organization will change and breed the same boredom and lack of innovation.

  12. I was so taken back by the policy Mayer implemented. What really threw me off was her own personal bias in her decision. Intended or not. How can she justify building a nursery next to her office to bring her child to work? Yet, deny others the flexibility to work from their own home offices.

  13. Deanna, I too have a lot of great relationships with people I've never met or have met perhaps once. Telework is great. It's dependent on the people and the job of course. I remember one of my friends who worked shipping and receiving saying wistfully that he wished he could work from home :)

  14. I truly value the option that Cisco provides to its employees to work from home. While I agree that face-to-face communication can help to build strong relationships, I also believe that relationships can be built in a virtual space. When I need to be “heads down” in my work, I may work from home in order to avoid distractions. I have been working with Clint Barnes (who commented above) for nearly 4 years now and only just a few weeks ago had my first in-person meeting with him. We’ve been able to build a very strong working relationship through the use of WebEx and TelePresence – our work ethic is strong and the fact that Cisco trusts its employees and gives them the option to work from home motivates us to work even harder. It also helps to create a work-life balance. We are measured on our results and that’s what truly counts in my opinion.

  15. Completely agree : )

  16. Marissa's thought and decison is utterly illogical and quite contradicting the times we are in. My productivity is more when I work from home. It entirely depends on the role a person plays in an organization.