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Yahoo in a Gray Flannel Suit?

A  maelstrom of controversy is swirling around Marissa Mayer's decision to force Yahoo telecommuters back to the office.  On the one hand, I admire her courage in doing what she believes is necessary to get Yahoo back on track.  On the other hand, this move flies in the face of the current wisdom that offering flexible work  options creates more engaged employees = better business results.  Much of the media coverage  has indicated, however, that doubts remain about whether this is always true. While productivity is generally believed to increase among at home workers, creativity can take a hit.

Of course, many jobs still have to be done in the workplace (nurses, cops, telephone linemen, the list goes on), but the increasingly common wisdom has been that we laptop-smartphone-google hang out equipped types can work from anywhere.  Mayer's point is that as the frequency of unplanned and serendipitous interactions declines, so does creativity.  Take our poll and let us know what you think.  Read on below to hear what some of our board members think about this decision.  Although the specifics of their responses vary somewhat, all agree that Mayer's goal is no doubt to help her company survive.  Only time will tell if this approach will yield the results she seeks.

[poll id="24"]

David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research

“Sometimes you need the face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow experience of everyone being in the same physical space. With Yahoo! facing so many challenges, now may be one of those times.”

John Hollon, Vice President for Editorial, ERE Media

"It's easy to draw the conclusion that Yahoo! putting an end to flexible work arrangements is a turning back of the clock and some sort of statement about the viability of flex work. But I don't think that's the case. From all I have heard -- including from some former Yahoo! managers who observed this first hand -- it's more about how in all of the upper management turmoil there over the last few years, the monitoring of flex time arrangements had gotten sloppy and hard to handle. Add to that new CEO Marissa Mayer's experience at Google, where they have more of an all-hands-on-deck work philosophy without a lot of flex work, and you can see that this is more of an issue with flex work at Yahoo! given what Mayer is trying to do to revive the company than anything else. Flex work is here to stay and it is the smart thing to do for most organizations -- just not for Yahoo! at this particular point in time."

Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP, The HR Bartender and President of ITM Group Inc.

“From my vantage point, this isn't about Yahoo! taking away an employee benefit. It's about them admitting (albeit very indirectly)that they didn't manage it well. This is just how they are choosing to fix the problem. But it is also a lesson in new workplace norms being managed by old skool tactics. Businesses that want to take advantage of the benefits of telework or virtual work need to put measures in place prior to implementation - specifically, training managers to effectively manage a workforce they cannot see every day.”

Sue Meisinger, Former CEO of SHRM, columnist, speaker and consultant on executive management issues

“I think you have to look at the Yahoo! decision in the context of what they're trying to get done - which is survive.   Bringing everyone back in house, and getting a better handle on productivity levels to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction is critical.  I doubt whether this is a long term strategy - workplace flexibility will probably evolve in a new way at the company as things stabilize.  Unfortunately, Yahoo!'s communication strategy was lacking:  there certainly are mixed messages when the company says employees can no longer work at home, but the CEO can build a nursery in her office.”

Media Coverage:


Huffington Post

LA Times:,0,5913345.story

Boston Globe:

New York Times:

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