Does it get more ironic than this? Apparently the Great Place to Work conference in Los Angeles last week had a really fascinating choice of guest speaker: Marissa Mayer. If you recall, the Yahoo chief drew fire for killing the company’s telecommuting privileges a couple of months ago. Workplace flexibility advocates and other pundits called the move backward and antiquated, which are bracing words considering the company’s in the tech business.
Turns out, Mayer was booked for the HR conference long before that decision came to light. But you’ve got to give it to her for at least one thing — guts. A lot of execs would’ve found some excuse to miss the conference, but not Mayer. She showed up, hit the stage and addressed a room full of likely detractors. And instead of sidestepping the issue, she tackled it head on in what could only be called a showstopper.
The CEO began waxing poetic about company’s “already vibrant” work environment and culture, but then stopped herself short. Then she changed gears, saying, “I need to talk about the elephant in the room.” Next thing you know, a purple elephant popped onto the big screen emblazoned with three big white letters: “WFH” (for “work from home”).
Now that’s cheeky, but it wasn’t an admission that the company goofed. On the contrary, Mayer stuck to her guns that day. While she allowed that people are “more productive when they’re alone,” she also reiterated the corporate standpoint that “they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” Then she said something that suggested the mandate may not be permanent: “[Telecommuting is] not what’s right for Yahoo right now.” Maybe we’re reading too much into it, but it certainly sounds like she’s leaving a door open to resurrecting work-from-home benefits in the future. Of course, only time will tell.
Say what you will about the executive or her policies, but one thing seems perfectly clear: If Yahoo needed a leader with nerves of steel, they seem to have found one in Mayer.