HR Policies & Procedures

What Tips Does Marissa Mayer Have for HR Managers in the New Year?

While she works for a “Silicon Valley” company, the Yahoo CEO’s experiences (some would say exploits) over the past year offer some lessons and some challenges for every HR manager.

The act that gained her the most notoriety was her rule that all employees must report to work at the physical office—no more telecommuting. The move was met with disapproval in many quarters (although Donald Trump reportedly approved). Some called it a step backwards for flexibility in the workplace, especially for women, who often count on flexible schedules and telecommuting to juggle family and work.

And then, famously pregnant when she took the top job, Mayer turned around and increased paid leave for new parents, 8 weeks for the dad and up to 16 weeks for the mom, plus a new baby stipend. (Note, this is not extravagant by Silicon Valley standards.) Mayer also installed a nursery next to her office (at her own expense).

Where Do You Stand on Telecommuting?

The issues of telecommuting and flexibility are at the forefront for many organizations. How much productivity is lost by conducting most business remotely (lack of face-to-face discussions, time spent on technological difficulties, various other inefficiencies)? Or, conversely, how much productivity is gained by working out of the office with fewer interruptions? Or, do some home offices actually have more interruptions (children, pets, installers, chores)?


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And then there’s the broader question of retention and morale. If flextime and telecommuting are what your best employees want, how wise is it to deny the privilege?

Of course, all decisions around flex and telecommuting depend on the job and on the person doing it. Some jobs require little interaction, and some employees desire little interaction. Some employee home offices are comfortable and free from distractions. Some are not. Some employees are easily distracted and some are not.

How Do You Know Anyone’s Working?

All of this is compounded by supervisor suspicion. How do I know my telecommuting employee is really working and not installing a new kitchen floor?

Evaluation of telecommuting employees is often handled by moving toward a ROWE—a results-oriented work environment, where employees are evaluated solely on whether they get their jobs done, with no attention paid to when and where they do it.


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Are You with Marissa or Against Her?

As we welcome the new year, it’s a good time to ponder some of the issues raised above. How will you handle balancing employee desires and business needs? As one manager related, my company in a remote area of New Hampshire didn’t allow telecommuting, but we needed a ceramics engineer. The only one who fit our needs lived in Atlanta and wouldn’t relocate. Guess what, we now allow telecommuting.