Marissa Mayer's 'No Telecommuting' Policy Is Right

Leading edge, high-tech companies that are the creators of technology have the most need for employees to work together face-to-face.

After all, Yahoo! is meant to be a leading edge, high-tech company that creates the future, where working face-to-face is needed most.

It Isn’t a Trust Issue

This is not about whether you trust your workers or trying to do the Brazil hyper-monitoring thing. I’m very flexible with my employees and expect, encourage and support them having lives outside of the office. I’m very trusting of them to manage their schedules, but they also know that they must ensure adequate and abundant time together—and not just when it’s scheduled. Proximity matters. (I wrote about it in my book The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders in 2012 and got a lot of flak for it.) 

But I am more convinced now than ever that it’s those serendipitous conversations that lead not only to new insights, but to faster execution of the new insights. Questions you would never ask if you weren’t passing someone in the hall can lead to important advancements.

Today I’m working from home, writing a talk. That’s fine. I need the quiet, and this part of the writing is not collaborative. But later today, I’ll be brainstorming with my colleagues in person.

The PR Stumble

What I do think happened here is that Mayer was handed an unfair public-relations problem. She just had a nursery for her son built, at her own expense, adjacent to her office. And with that as a backdrop, many people felt that the no-remote-work policy was a slap in the face to working mothers who can’t do what she can. But this policy is not about working mothers per se, it’s about what work environment is best for Yahoo!’s employees. To think otherwise is to saddle Mayer with an agenda that hardly advances the feminist cause.

The truth is, CEOs get a lot of privileges (and responsibilities) the average worker does not. Many of these privileges are designed to allow them to work at maximum efficiency, with as little interruption as possible, for the company they are leading. We need to separate Mayer the individual from Mayer the CEO, and look at her policy change in terms of its impact on Yahoo!’s business success. Period. And when we do that, feminism and working mothers really do win. 

About the Author

Marc J. Schiller has spent more than two decades teaching IT strategy and leadership to the world’s top companies. Through online courses, speaking engagements and corporate consulting, his company educates IT pros at all levels about how to be more effective, influential and successful in their IT careers. Get access to free videos and a free excerpt from his book,
The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders, at www.marcjschiller.com/resources.

This article was originally published on 03-05-2013
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