Yahoo’s telecommuting ban created an uproar among key stakeholders after a memo was sent out last Friday. The reasoning behind the ban, as explained in an internal memo by Jackie Ress, Yahoo’s human resources chief, was an attempt to bring the company closer together:
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”
However, the fallout is still ringing through the press with a strong negative tonality toward the way in which the announcement was made, and then leaked.
Telecommuting in the technology industry has become a way of life for many people, significantly so for working mothers, not to mention single working mothers. This was a bold move enforced by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who recently returned from maternity leave herself. A bigger problem may be a low moral that may cost the company valuable insights in innovation, instead of creating it. According to a 2011 study by WorldatWork, companies that embraced flexibility had lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement.
One theory being circulated as to why Mayer supported this change was the need to reduce the workforce without management being directly responsible for massive layoffs…after all, she’s not making telecommuters quit, that is a decision they are making on their own. Another theory was that Yahoo was riddled with telecommuters who simply weren’t effective, yet one would wonder why she wouldn’t just let those specific employees go?
One thing is for certain, the ban and lack of preparation to Yahoo’s key audiences is causing a backlash Mayer was ill prepared for. One of the golden rules in the public relations business is to stay ahead of the story. The fact that the company didn’t take the story public, but was instead leaked by employees speaks volumes. It would have been wise to have discussed this change with their public relations department prior so an appropriate strategy, including messaging, could have been developed that might have resulted in praise for the company’s efforts to unite, and inspire collaboration among employees.