Richard Branson Says That Marissa Mayer Got It Wrong About Remote Employees; Ex-Yahoos Confess: Marissa Mayer Is Right To Ban Working From Home; Marissa Mayer, Who Just Banned Working From Home, Paid To Have A Nursery Built At Her Office; Not all Yahoo have that kind of money or clout

Richard Branson Says That Marissa Mayer Got It Wrong About Remote Employees

Aimee Groth | Feb. 25, 2013, 5:24 PM | 5,563 | 21

Last week Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sent out a controversial memo telling remote employees that they either had to start working from a Yahoo office or quit.

Since then, everyone has been weighing in, including Virgin Founder Richard Branson. In a post this morning titled, Give People The Freedom Of Where To Work, he wrote:

To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision. It is the art of delegation, which has served Virgin and many other companies well over the years.

We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.

So it was perplexing to see Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer tell employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities. This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.

If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.

Working life isn’t 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.

Ex-Yahoos Confess: Marissa Mayer Is Right To Ban Working From Home

Nicholas Carlson | Feb. 25, 2013, 3:16 PM | 85,571 | 63

Last Friday, Yahoo HR boss Jackie Reses sent out a memo telling all remote employees that they needed to find a way to be working in an office by June.

This upset lots of Yahoo employees – including some working mothers, who say they wish they could afford to build a nursery at the office the way CEO Marissa Mayer has.

But we’ve just heard from a former Yahoo engineer who tells us Mayer is making the exact right call.

“For what it’s worth, I support the no working form home rule. There’s a ton of abuse of that at Yahoo. Something specific to the company.”

This source said Yahoo’s large remote workforce led to “people slacking off like crazy, not being available, spending a lot of time on non-Yahoo! projects.”

“It was a great way to get Y! to pay you while you put in minimal work and do your side startup.”

Working from home is so common at Yahoo, they sell magnets alluding to it in the company store

Another ex-Yahoo, former ad tech executive Michael Katz, told us banning working from home was something Mayer “absolutely” had to do.

“Working from home may be convenient for some but it represents a huge opportunity cost to the team, especially a team that’s trying to turn things around.”

“The value in human interaction is greater collective wisdom as a result of improved communication & collaboration.”

“It’s really all about improving the likelihood that meaningful interaction will translate to meaningful (shareholder) value.”

Over the weekend, we spoke with a source familiar with Mayer’s thought process before she decided to ban working from home. 

Here is what that person told us:

  • Yahoo has a huge number of people of who work remotely – people who just never come in.
  • Many of these people “weren’t productive,” says this source.
  • “A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo.”
  • These people aren’t just Yahoo customer support reps. They’re in all divisions, from marketing to engineering.
  • Mayer is happy to give Yahoo employees standard Silicon Valley benefits like free food and free smartphones. But our source says the kinds of work-from-home arrangements popular at Yahoo were not common to other Valley companies like Google or Facebook. “This is a collaborative businesses.”
  • Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won’t want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It’s a layoff that’s not a layoff.
  • Bigger picture: This is about Mayer “carefully getting to problems created by Yahoo’s huge, bloated infrastructure.” The company got fat and lazy over the past 15 years, and this is Mayer getting it into fighting shape.

Marissa Mayer, Who Just Banned Working From Home, Paid To Have A Nursery Built At Her Office

Nicholas Carlson | Feb. 25, 2013, 2:06 PM | 16,668 | 31

Last Friday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned employees from working remotely.

Human resources boss Jackie Reses sent out a memo telling all remote employees that, by June, they needed to be working in Yahoo offices.

This upset many employees – mothers in particular.

According to All Things D’s Kara Swisher, some of these are pointing out that Mayer doesn’t understand their plight.

Mayer – who had a baby last fall – is a working mother, but she’s able to bring her kid to work.

That’s because when Mayer had her son last fall, she paid to have a nursery built in her office.

Not all Yahoo haves that kind of money or clout.

“I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set em up in the cube next door?,” the husband of one remote-working Yahoo employee asked Swisher.

It Sounds Like Yahoo Was Truly Awful At Managing Its Remote Employees

Max Nisen | Feb. 25, 2013, 2:54 PM | 5,635 | 11

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer surprised many of her employees when a memo went out announcing that employees who regularly work from home need to either start coming to an office, or leave the company.

The response has ranged from complete outrage and accusations of unfairness from remote employees, to praise for Mayer’s ability to make a tough and needed decision about a long-term problem she had inherited.

What’s pretty clear from details that have emerged is that Yahoo did an exceptionally bad job at managing its remote workers. People who worked from home were apparently unproductive and so disconnected from the company that people forgot that they worked at Yahoo at all.

Successfully running a remote team requires extra communication and engagement from managers, not less. Occasional emails just don’t cut it, leaders have to genuinely know their remote employees and how to communicate with them to get great work from them. If remote workers were unproductive and disengaged, then it’s at least partially because the company and its leaders let them get that way.

But rather than try to deal with those issues, Yahoo’s chosen just to end remote work completely. That’s understandable. Mayer’s trying to clean house and completely change a company that’s had several CEOs in quick succession. But she may have created a long-term problem.

Advances in technology, changes in preferences, and an increasingly globalized workforce mean that the trend towards remote workers and fewer offices will only grow in the future,

And beyond that, it simply makes sense for companies to put the best possible people for any project together, regardless of where they work. Further, people often have very good reasons for working from home. Some just work better, others have special needs or pressing family issues.

So how can Yahoo and other companies do better in the future? Here are a few general tips.

Be consistent

When people feel like others have a better deal than they do, they start to resent it. It needs to be crystal clear to remote workers, and those who collaborate with them, that just as much is expected from them and that they’ll be evaluated just as rigorously as people who come to the office every day.

Expect more from managers 

Supporters of Mayer’s decision point to a bloated organization and people who barely worked. But clearly, these problems have been building for years. When a manager gets extremely busy, the first thing they’ll ignore is their remote workers. They’re not in the building, so they’re easy to forget. Eventually, that becomes a habit, and you end up with invisible employees.

Build structure

One of the benefits of having remote workers is flexibility. That can mean less downtime, more collaboration, and better results. It can also mean chaos. Clearly defining who’s working on what and when, and building in mandatory and regular communication is incredibly important.

Establish boundaries

Remote workers can’t simply be the people you rely on to get something done at 3 in the morning when nobody’s around. That leads to some of the problems Yahoo! faced, where remote workers are basically hiding. If anything, the boundaries need to be more explicit because there’s not the trip to and from the office to bookend the work day.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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