Yah! Boo! Yahoo shocks its staff by banning homeworking

Feb 25, 2013

Yahoo was founded in January 1994 and Ms. Mayer was appointed President and CEO July 2012 with a remit to "re-energise" the floundering company which had seen a quick succession of CEOs come and go as it lost its market and technological relevance and consumers abandoned it for newer, sexier alternatives.

Unsurprisingly, the CEO's order has not gone down well with Yahoo staffers, many of whom were told on joining that they would be expected to work from home several days a week and who then went on a built their lives around a requirement that has been removed, literally, overnight. Personnel now have to go into Yahoo offices to work or they must leave the company.

The deadline for refuseniks to sling their hooks is the beginning of June. Such a diktat would be illegal in many parts of the world, (as in the UK and the EU for example), where such unilateral imposition of changes to established and fundamental working practice would be classified in law as as "constructive dismissal" and individual and class action law suits would inevitably follow. But then, in the US, employees rights are attenuated, minimalist things that tend to count for little as corporate upper management pursues any and all routes to ephemeral stock market glory and the lure of personal riches that are far indeed from being beyond the dreams of avarice.

Ms. Mayer was formerly a high-flying Google employee and Google was grinding Yahoo down into the dirt. So the Yahoo board poached Mayer and gave her pretty much a free hand to do what she wants to get Yahoo back on track. So far she has done two things. The first was to redesign the Yahoo home page. It is a hardly an original act or a world-changer but, according to the CEO, it was designed" to be more intuitive and personal. The new Yahoo! experience is all about your interests and preferences. Yahoo has always been about bringing you the very best of the web, and we have introduced new, more modern experience to do just that." As the late Michael Winner would have said, "Calm down, dear, it's only a web page."

Ms. Maye'rs second major action is a tad more far-reaching and will be materially detrimental to individual lives and her actions seemed designed as much as anything else to force people out of work whilst foster a culture of presenteeism for those that remain. And let us remember that Yahoo spouts all the usual dotcom guff about being "innovative" and "vital" and blah, blah blah.

Ms. Mayer's memo came via the office of Jackie Reses, Yahoo's head of "human resources". Being labeled "confidential" it was, of course, leaked almost instantaneously. According to the email text. "being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job." Of course not, join up and you are a worker for life or until you are fired. In the meantime the company wants your obedience and availability on tap, on demand.

Business Insider, the entity to which the email was leaked, says that the invisible sub-text underpinning the requirement that all employees must now work from offices is that Marisa Mayer sees it as a clever device to cut costs and force people to leave and that "it's a layoff that's not a layoff".

How different it all was back in July last year when Ms. Mayer became CEO. Then she said, " I want Yahoo to be the absolute best possible place to work, to have a fantastic culture. We are working really hard right now to remind people about all the opportunities that are out there." She forgot to mention the mental manacles and the less than subtle coercion.

And this is the woman who is proud to let it be known that her priorities are "God, family and Yahoo - in that order." That's her work/life balance sorted then. As for the rest of the staff...

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