Yahoo to remote employees: come back or you're gone

Steven Loeb · February 23, 2013 · Short URL:

Yahoo said to be giving remote workers the choice of coming to the office or quitting

(Updated to reflect comment from Yahoo)

As someone who has both worked in an office and worked remotely, I have become a convert to the idea that everyone should work from home.

There are benefits and deteriments to both, to be sure. It does take some dicipline to work in a place where you can watch TV and surf any Internet site you want. It's also nice to get up 10 minutes before work and not have to worry about a commute. At the same time, it can be a isolating and I will admit that there are times when I have to force myself to leave the house, even though I don't have anywhere to go.

But I truly believe that making people do work while sitting down all day, at a time when they might not be at their peak, is not the best way to get the most out of employees.

Yahoo, apparently, disagrees with my assessment and has decided to issue an ulimatum: come back to the office or you're gone.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer herself is said to have instituted the new plan. The decision will affect hundreds of employees, including customer service representatives, who may work in cities where Yahoo does not have an office.

Staffers are, understandably, angry and upset about this decision, as they were hired under the pretense of being able to work more flexible hours. But that was presumably under old leadership, as Mayer has been CEO less than a year, landing the job in July 2012.

Mayer's vision

Since taking the helm, Mayer has been putting her own stamp on the company. The first female engineer at Google, she has brought in a number of former Google employees to fill the ranks at the company.

Mayer brought in former Google product marketing manager Andrew Schulte to be her new chief of staff. Mayer also hired Anne Espiritu, who ran consumer technology PR for Google, to handle corporate communications. Former Google executive Henrique de Castro was brought in to be Yahoo's COO.

Mayer has also tasked a number of women in new roles including Kathy Savitt as the new CMO and Jacqueline Reses, who was appointed executive vice president of people and development. 

In addition to her hires, Mayer has also shifted the perspective of the company toward mobile.

In December, Yahoo updated its Flickr app with high resolution filters that users can apply after they have taken the photo/ Additionally, the new Flickr app lets them share the photos on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and email. They can also upload multiple photos from their camera roll to the Flickr site and tag people and add locations from Foursquare.

Earlier this month, Yahoo purchased location discovery app Alike to compete with Facebook's Find Nearby feature, and Google's Google+Local.

Hiring qualified women and getting Yahoo into mobile are decisions that, I believe, many people can get behind. They signify a forward-looking vision that Yahoo has lacked for a long time.

But the decision to fire remote workers strikes me as odd. It could be a cost saving move, but is that a good enough reason to give up having sales representatives in places where Yahoo doesn't have a presence?

If Mayer is trying to foster a sense of community at Yahoo, and believes that having workers not interacting with each other is bad for morale, that also does not seem correct. These workers do not seem to want to be in the office, and having them there would only make them, and the other employees, unhappy.

Whatever the reason behind this decision, Yahoo should weigh the decision carefully.

"We don't discuss internal matters. This isn't a broad industry view on working from home -- this is about what is right for Yahoo!, right now," a Yahoo spokesperson told VatorNews.

This news was first reported by AllThingsD on Friday.

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