Yahoo! Disses Mobile Workforce, Becomes Even More Irrelevant

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo, mobile workforce

When’s the last time you used Yahoo! for a web search? Or visited its front page to get the day’s news? The once-popular online destination is now a ghost town. Anyone can tell that the company desperately needs an image makeover, and when they hired Marissa Mayer “First Ever Pregnant CEO Of A Fortune 500 Tech Company” last summer, many people thought they were headed for new pastures.

A 30-something herself, surely Mayer would be in touch with what young professionals want and need from a web destination. As a woman, I hoped she would help to elevate the discussion about the need for women in tech, and demonstrate how a penis and a power tie are no longer the only requirements for a successful executive.

Instead, Mayer has shown an embarrassing willingness to continue the status quo, and in the process, nailed yet another nail in the coffin of Yahoo’s irrelevance in the modern market.

A few days ago, Mayer announced through the company’s human resources arm yesterday that Yahoo employees will no longer be permitted to work remotely. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” says the memo from HR director Jackie Reses, and reprinted by Kara Swisher on allthingsd.com last night. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Apparently, Mayer is ignorant of the plethora of studies that show flexibility improves worker productivity, morale and health. She must be oblivious to the rise of the mobile workforce and the entire coworking industry. She must also be unaware that some of the world’s most successful companies (aka Yahoo’s biggest competitors) not only acknowledge the value of telecommuting, but basically insist that their employees get out of the office.

The idea that a team is only a team when sitting right next to each other is so 20th century, it’s kind of painful to even attempt a civil rebuttal. Just ask Al, Alex W., Alex C., Medberry, Darrin and Julia (Coherians that are all successful remote employees). As HuffPo points out, “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.”

Now maybe, as some have pointed out, Yahoo is doing this as a slick way to force people out, and thus reduce overhead. While this is a valid (if not despicable) possibility, it still doesn’t stand up. Several well-known studies have shown that companies can save a pile of money by allowing employees to telecommute, and as the annual Global Coworking Survey has shown repeatedly, those who telecommute from coworking spaces see an almost instant increase in productivity, personal satisfaction, confidence, health, etc.

Mayer clearly has a lot on her plate. New mom, new CEO. Maybe she’s spread a little too thin. Maybe she’s not thinking clearly. But someone at Yahoo better get a clue, or the best and brightest are going to hit the road in search of more flexible pastures. Innovation, something Yahoo desperately needs, doesn’t only happen when you’re chained to a desk. In fact, it rarely happens when you’re chained to a desk.

Business is changing whether you like it or not, Marissa. You can either join the party, or get left behind. And right now, it looks like the bus is leaving without you.

  • I actually think this is the only move she could have made which keeps Yahoo in business past 2013. Cut the under-performing employees from the payroll, the un-dedicated employees, and keep the ship afloat.

    Sounds weird, but I think this was a wicked smart move. I wouldn’t like it if I was a Yahoo, but I’d argue it’s a necessary step.I wrote up a whole analysis at Psychotic Resumes: http://www.psychoticresumes.com/just-wait-marissa-mayer-will-have-gen-y-shouting-yahoo-in-3-years/

  • This is a simple ploy to make people quit. When you quit you don’t get severance and you can’t sue. You’re much more likely to see older (expensive) workers who may have kids and will find it more difficult to move to a small apartment in the Bay Area quit. Younger workers may also quit, but they’re also more likely to deal with an hour commute. 

  • Darrin Sharp

    I agree that it’s a back-handed way to layoff a bunch of people and reduce headcount. But I’ve often heard (well, at least a couple of times) that moves like this can backfire. Instead of cutting the “dead-wood” so to speak, a company will lose many of its most talented employees (i.e. the ones who are most likely to find employment elsewhere, or even strike out on their own). I guess time will which way it goes for Yahoo!.

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