Amid all the theoretical talk about how Marissa Mayer's work-from-home ban is a terrible policy for America, those actually affected don't sound too upset about anything, really. In fact, it's working rather well as part of a broader cultural shift under Mayer at the flailing company. The broad policy had people freaked out that it would result in a loss of flexibility, anonymous employees told The New York Times's Claire Cain Miller. But, since the announcement, managers have eased those concerns, these workers told the Times. "One manager said he told his employees, 'Be here when you can. Use your best judgment. But if you have to stay home for the cable guy or because your kid is sick, do it,'" Miller writes. That seemed to calm down most of the people worried that they couldn't, occasionally, telecommute to Yahoo's offices when personal or family issues came up.
While the policy still affects some 200 people — out of Yahoo's total 12,000 employees — who used to work full-time from home, Mayer's move does, importantly, serve to eliminate a culture of blowing off work. These people on Yahoo payroll "did little work for the company and a few had even begun their own start-ups on the side," writes Miller. In addition, others would use the privilege for "working as little as possible and leaving early." In other words, Mayer isn't punishing hard workers who have set up work-from-home arrangements to better create a work-life balance, as some have argued. Nor were these people proving more "productive," an argument many of Mayer's critics have made with regards to her "tyrannical" move.
Rather, Mayer made the change because her employees who were working from home were abusing the system. The flailing tech giant can't afford that right now: Yahoo is a company in turnaround, and in part because of its off-balance culture, former employees say. "Morale was terrible because the company was thought to be dying," a former manager at Yahoo told Miller. "When you have those root issues, an employee work force that is not terribly motivated, it built bad habits over years." (Of course, other "former employees" have questioned the move. But these people don't work at Yahoo anymore for a reason, right? And not that many people still at Yahoo are going to speak out to the paper of record about a new company policy, are they?)
One of the ways Mayer hopes to change those "terrible" habits is getting people to come in and collaborate. So far, it seems to have worked: More resumés from competitors have poured in, according to a hiring manager. Since introducing free food, more people linger and discuss ideas in the café, current employees tell Miller. Susidized meals were never going to be enough to keep and attract the best talent, nor to foster morale. That's where this new policy comes in: It suits Yahoo, and right now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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