Telecommuters, renounce your sweatpants

Working from home can be a dealbreaker for some parents — at Yahoo!, the jig is up. Credit: Photodisc
Working from home can be a dealbreaker for some parents — at Yahoo!, the jig is up.
Credit: Photodisc

The discussion of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent decision to ban telecommuting at her company has moved far beyond the water cooler, to business journals and blogs alike.

Founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson tweeted and blogged his criticism of Mayer’s ban last week while reporters for The Atlantic and Forbes have more or less commended the tough call.

Bill Treasurer is the owner of Giant Leap Consulting, a company that specializes in leadership development through strategy and planning. He reminds us that Mayer’s vision was what propelled her to CEO in the first place — making unpopular decisions is part of the game.

“Ms. Mayer comes from a larger, more innovative, and more successful company – Google,” says Treasurer. “She was hired to bring in practices that work, not practices that make people comfortable. Leadership is about moving people into discomfort, because that’s where growth happens.”

David Fagiano, COO of the Dale Carnegie career training center says Mayer’s decision was a good call.

“We advocate working in an office and believe that some of the best ideas and results are fostered within a workplace where employees work side-by-side, or even at the water cooler in a more casual conversation,” says Fagiano. “The natural interaction between coworkers sparks creative ideas, which in the end can help a company flourish.”

Of course, we can’t overlook employee morale. It’s easy to imagine the workers who are not pleased about this. Take, for example, people who have an exhausting commute, or perhaps work-from-home parents.

“There is an inherent irony to Mayer’s decision,” explains workplace psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich. She is the president of The Eurich Group, a leadership consultant firm. Mayer is denying her company a privilege many workers relish, which may result in disgruntled – and therefore less effective – workers.

“One of the most basic human needs is to have control over our universe – this is deeply engrained in our DNA,” says Eurich. “Making the decision to take something away from employees that they previously had control over will likely result in resentment of the organization.”

Eurich notes that this is especially true given that telecommuting can actually improve productivity for some employees.

It’s difficult to say just yet if a complete ban is the best move for Yahoo!. In a world that is, as Virgin’s founder Richard Branson says, “connected,” it’s hard to know if taking away flexibility will enhance productivity and success for Yahoo!. Mayer’s bold move could be a blueprint for success — she’s certainly a leader to watch as she maneuvers the company into the future.



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