Marissa Mayer - Will her telecommuting ban make or break Yahoo?

Marissa Mayer - Will her telecommuting ban make or break Yahoo?

As one of the youngest CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company, Marissa Mayer encounters constant interest and scrutiny from the media regarding every aspect of her life, be it her radical plans to rejuvenate the once-powerful giant, Yahoo!, or her interest in fashion and lifestyle [she is said to have paid $60,000 for a dinner with fashion designer, Oscar De La Renta]. However, one of the most sensational, and perhaps sensationalized subjects of debate pertaining to her, concerns her recent ban on telecommuting. The move, issued soon after Mayer gave birth to her son, has generated much anger among working mothers and fellow female CEO’s alike, but has also received support from those who believe that Mayer needs to be taken seriously as a businessperson first, and a working mother second. The ban was issued in February 2013; a mere 7 months after Mayer took over as CEO of the company. A memo issued by Yahoo’s HR head, Jackie Reses, was leaked to the public and generated much furor among Yahoo employees; approximately 200 are said to work from home. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” and, "We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” are some of the quotes from the leaked memo. Considering her plans to awaken Yahoo and put it back on track alongside current giants such as Facebook and Google, Mayer’s decision has been met with raised eyebrows. After all, this is the time to gather up all forces and constitute a plan of action, and what better way to do that, than with employees who have been a part of the company for years and understand its working mechanisms? Mayer however, appears to be following the same objective, the only exception being that she wants employees to report to work at the office, or resign if they are not willing. Another matter which has been criticized is her apparent disinterest in accommodating the needs of working mothers. As a mother herself, Mayer is expected to don dual hats of both CEO and mother, all at once, and it is suspected that much of the ire directed towards her ban on telecommuting takes root from this. It is noteworthy to report that Mayer has taken care of her own responsibilities of juggling motherhood with professional duties by building a nursery right next to her office; a move which has done nothing to quell public rage. Some Yahoo employees have called her out for her alleged double standards, while Mayer herself makes it clear that she is not interested in listening to, or addressing any criticism regarding her decisions. However, the ban on telecommuting does in fact, have potential to improve the efficiency of Yahoo. As part of her reasoning behind the ban, Mayer states that she believes that great ideas transpire when people are physically together, during meetings, at the cafeteria for lunch, or simply around each other. She states that collaboration and innovation will only take place when people talk to one another. Naturally this brings forward one of the downfalls of working from home; those 200 telecommuting employees will not be able to interact with the same ease and consistency as those who are physically attending office. Considering how Innovation and Collaboration are exactly what Yahoo! needs in order to improve its reputation, Mayer’s ban on telecommuting does make sense to an extent and should not be dismissed as what many call “an epic fail”. It is not an epic fail by any standards, and Mayer herself should not be underwritten so quickly. Her decisions have resulted in noticeable improvements in Yahoo’s working culture and efficiency, and the improved, customizable Yahoo homepage is testimony to the bright future she has promised for the company. Soon after the ban, Yahoo announced workplace perks for employees, ranging from free meals, to I-phones, to additional benefits for expecting mothers and their families. Regardless of how critics react to Mayer’s ban on telecommuting, one thing is certain, which is that she has a fixed plan of action in mind, and will not allow herself to be distracted from it. Also, she has been quoted as being wary of the “feminist” tag, stating that she wants to be known for her business acumen, and not for her preference for people based on their gender. Therefore one can expect to see plenty of sound business decisions from Mayer; however, whether they will ever focus on benefiting women who prefer working from home remains to be seen.

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