Marissa Mayer and the Great Telecommute Debate


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Last July, Steve Barry wrote a post called Marissa Mayer to the Rescue, about Mayer’s arrival at Yahoo. Since then, Mayer has rarely found herself outside of the headlines, which reported on various aspects of her life and work at Yahoo. She certainly had her work cut out for her, coming into Yahoo in its dire situation, and her decisions have been bold and groundbreaking—the latest one being the most dramatic. This week, Mayer made the news in a very divisive fashion after it was announced that telecommuting will no longer be allowed at Yahoo.

This announcement has made a universal splash, with many people taking offense on behalf of telecommuters everywhere. Here at Forum, where a great number of people telecommute from around the globe, employees have been weighing in with their thoughts (both around the office and on Yammer) as to why Yahoo is taking this step. I personally believe that Mayer has her reasons, and they are probably pretty good. I do not think that she is insulting the work of all telecommuters. I’m sure she has seen the data that shows that people are more productive working from home, and she has made her decision anyway.

This situation is a great reminder that what is working for one company may be failing at another and that telecommuting is different at every organization. So what can you do to make sure that your telecommuting program is not failing your company and your employees? In Forum’s point-of-view piece, Leading a Remote Team Is Virtually the Same, Maggie Walsh introduces the “REACH” model of effective remote leadership. These principles guide Forum’s telecommuting successfully:

  • Responsiveness: Telecommuters and in-office workers should be expected to have the same level of responsiveness to e-mails, telephone calls, and other forms of communication.
  • Empathy: When people are not working side by side every day, managers and workers can lose out on the validation of their work and ideas. Showing the same level of interest in and respect for the work and ideas of all employees is critical.
  • Accountability: As with responsiveness, all employees, regardless of where they physically work need to be held to the same expectations of level of work output.
  • Connection: E-mail, telephone, Lync, Yammer, Skype, AIM, the list goes on and on. Anymore, it is impossible to not be connected to your entire team around the globe. Your connection goes beyond just having these tools: they need to be used effectively to bridge the geographical distances between remote employees and the office.
  • Help: All employees deserve the same access to support and help. Organizations with telecommuting need to have processes in place to ensure that remote and onsite employees have the same resources and access to assistance.

Mayer’s decision will probably be the center of debate for some time, and it will be very interesting to see where Yahoo is one year from now. Will we be saying, “Marissa Mayer was a genius!” or “Wow, that was a misstep!”?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Abby Smith
Abby joined the Forum team as Marketing Coordinator in August 2012, managing Forum's corporate marketing initiatives. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University in 2011. She works out of Forum's Boston office.


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