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The Yahoo headquarters in Sunnyvale, California
You’d think a company that traffics in internet innovation would embrace telecommuting. But Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer has appeared to put the kibosh on employees phoning – or Skyping – it in. Currently, some of the Yahoo team work remotely full time, while some are occasional telecommuters. But in a recent company memo, Yahoo’s head of human resources informed its nearly 12,000 workers that starting in June, every employee will be expected to make face time full time by reporting to work at a company office five days a week.
The memo pointed to the company’s aim to make work time "more productive, efficient and fun." Studies have shown that telecommuting can be a money saver for companies, and that workers are no less productive at home using Skype, e-mail and other modern conveniences.
Employees with families appreciate having flextime options and are often willing to take a pay cut in exchange. So why the throwback attitude? Mayer has said that she wants her teams to focus more on communication and collaboration; presumably, she’s looking to the new policy to foster more watercooler conversations, bullpen sessions and overall creative spark. Mayer has a job ahead of her to turn Yahoo’s misfortunes around.
Will this method prove successful? Or will it result in a workplace full of resentful, unproductive employees? Does Yahoo risk losing valuable talent who don’t want to relocate or commute? Is it possible for a company to foster team spirit without having its workers onsite? If you’re a Yahoo telecommuter, will this decision make you reconsider?
Beth A. Livingston, Assistant Professor, Human Resource Studies at the International and Labor Relations School, Cornell University
Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader with World at Work, a nonprofit human resources association