But she’s doing more than that. Mayer is breaking the promises the company made to many of its employees when they were first hired when they were told they could work from home and not in Sunnyvale.
Even if these employees don’t leave, she has broken the company’s faith with them. How innovative and loyal will these employees be when they don’t believe that the company cares about its promises?
Leaving aside the broken promises and short-sighted actions of a CEO who thinks that one approach is right for every employee, and leaving aside the ludicrous idea that every employee must work in Sunnyvale, the fact is that telework makes sense and is a good business practice. It also saves the company money and has a number of other beneficial aspects.
The fact is that no one in any company spends every minute of every day innovating. They have to write papers and reports, they have to answer email; some have programming to do while others have design projects. Many work in sales and marketing that by necessity must be at least partly outside the headquarters.
Even those employees whose job description specifically calls for a focus on innovation can’t do it all day every day. All of those break room conversations and water cooler encounters aren’t necessarily breeding grounds for innovation. Many are just social interaction or simply a waste of time. So do even those employees need to be in the office every day? In reality they don’t.
Cindy Auten, general manager of the Mobile Work Exchange suspects that the real reason for the Yahoo ban on telework has more to do with its inability to manage its employees and with issues related to performance management. “It’s having a negative impact on the workforce,” she said. But Auten agrees that there are times when a face to face presence is important.
“We recommend a hybrid approach,” Auten said, “There are times when you come into the office.” But she noted that there are many ways to collaborate that don’t involve someone’s physical presence. “Google hangout is a great solution,” Auten said, explaining that her company uses that a lot for collaborative projects. And she noted a significant advantage for on-line collaboration. “There is no mute button on your office mate,” she said.
The fact is that Yahoo, like it or not, can’t turn back the clock to become the company that it was in the last millennium. What Mayer needs to do is find new ways to let the Yahoo of today innovate and perhaps by doing so bring about the very innovation she’s looking for to make the company grow, but by moving Yahoo into the future rather than the past.