Is Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer a Dinosaur or a Visionary?

While back Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announced a requirement that Yahoo employees who work remotely relocate to company facilities. Isn’t this bucking the trend of businesses around the globe? Is she trying to go back to the old ways or is her “spirit of collaboration” what will bring her company back ahead of its competitors?

Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo to employees . “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Digging deeper into her comments: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. 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.”

Business Insider shed a lot of light on why Marissa Mayer made this move:

  • Yahoo has a huge number of people of who work remotely – people who just never come in.
  • Many of these people “weren’t productive,” says this source.
  • “A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo.”
  • These people aren’t just Yahoo customer support reps. They’re in all divisions, from marketing to engineering.
  • Mayer is happy to give Yahoo employees standard Silicon Valley benefits like free food and free smartphones. But our source says the kinds of work-from-home arrangements popular at Yahoo were not common to other Valley companies like Google or Facebook. “This is a collaborative businesses.”
  • Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won’t want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It’s a layoff that’s not a layoff.
  • Bigger picture: This is about Mayer “carefully getting to problems created by Yahoo’s huge, bloated infrastructure.” The company got fat and lazy over the past 15 years, and this is Mayer getting it into fighting shape.

This source gives Mayer credit for making a very tough decision – one that her predecessors knew they had to make, but never did. She’s turned out to have a lot of courage. She’s dealing with problems no one wanted to deal with before.”

To be remote or not has been an issue recently. Some say it is the wave of the future and others think employees are not as productive offsite. And both sides can back up their statements with statistics.

We have covered this topic before by talking about remote workers do, go for remote, required attire for a remote workforce , and contingent workers (many of whom are remote).

A conclusion that can be drawn, is that there are several dimensions like the type of industry and skill set of the employees that must be considered in any decision to “go remote”. It is not just tech companies that go remote. Insurance companies and banks are utilizing some remote workers too.

Tools are NOT the issue. They exist already. All kinds of vendors are jumping on the band wagon.

The more I read and reflect on the big picture, I am declaring her a VISIONARY. She is correcting some bad decisions by previous management. Marissa wants Yahoo! To be a leader, not just turn a profit and knows she must recharge the company. Her modus operandi is person-to-person contact, so this translates to the “spirit of collaboration”

Jason Fried’s forthcoming book Remote: Office Not Required can be read as many things—a how-to guide, a manifesto, a chronicle of modern work. It is also a refutation of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s assertion that remote work is incompatible with collaboration and productivity. Some of the more salient points he brings out are:

  • According to Fried’s research, US health care company Aetna has half its 35,000 employees working from home. Financial services firm Deloitte has about the same number of employees, 86% of whom work remotely at least 20% of the time. At microchip giant Intel, a company whose entire business depends on coordination, collaboration and innovation, 82% of staffers regularly work remotely.
  • Yahoo!’s leaders are hardly unique in feeling uncomfortable with remote workers. Fried’s apparent aim in Remote is to illustrate that the most common objections to remote work are groundless, and that, when appropriate, remote work can lead to more productive companies staffed by happier employees.
  • In the retail business you have to have people serving customers at a counter, but everything else, from legal and writing to professional services, can basically be accomplished with a telephone, a computer and an internet connection. Almost any service or anything that requires technical or creative work can be done remotely.
  • When people work remotely there is more of a focus on the actual work that’s being produced. It’s the work itself that is evaluated, less so than the personality or the politics or all the things that happen when people are together in person.
  • He thinks that the more people are together, the more opportunity there is to interrupt and distract each other. People working on creative problems need uninterrupted stretches of time to get work done.

IWordPress founder Matt Mullenweg wrote: “For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the world, and is interested in WordPress, Automattic is 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside of San Francisco.”

There is a great story about how Toronto-Dominion Bank is renovating their offices to the new part remote / part traditional office culture. A great many of the employees have no assigned desk. They use a computer screen to book available work spaces and conference areas. The bank joins a growing number of employers who are deciding that the traditional office – with a desk for every employee and an expectation that everyone will be in their place throughout the work day – is as outdated as teller’s cages and dusty ledger books. The bank is replacing 20 floors of old offices that stationed employees in identical rows of high-walled cubicles that resembled bank vaults. This trend is called hoteling. By sharing spaces, an office needs fewer desks and this can mean significant savings on the amount of office space required.