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Stuart Lauchlan

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Yahoo boss bans remote working

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Marissa Mayer,  the recently appointed CEO of US internet firm Yahoo, has decided that she's none too keen on remote workers and wants all Yahoo employees to report for work at company facilities.

And if anyone's not happy about that, then from June onwards they have a simple choice: comply or quit. 

Yahoo is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California and employs 11,500 people in more than 20 countries across the globe. 

Meyer was appointed as Yahoo CEO last July with a remit to turn the troubled firm around. Declaring that she wanted Yahoo to be "the absolute best place to work, to have a fantastic culture", she introduced staff incentivisation drives, including the introdution of free lunches at the company headquarters and smartphones for employees. 

But the latest initiative is unlikely be as popular. 

In a confidential 'do not forward' memo (which was promptly forwarded as far and wide as hacked off Yahoo staff could manage), the firm's HR head Jackie Reses, told staff: "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.

"Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

"For the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices."

Although the policy change is entirely loose and wild in the public domain thanks to the internet, the internet pioneer itself appears to be trying to put the cork back in the bottle, stating that Yahoo "does not comment on internal matters". 

A pickle says Branson 

The Yahoo policy shift met with fierce criticism from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson who used his blog to say: "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," he added. '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," he concluded. "The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick."

Richard Holway, CEO of technology research firm TechMarketView, said his company is built entirely on remote working. "I think Mayer is going against the general trend that we see," he stated. "Indeed, recent surveys have shown that almost all ‘knowledge workers’ in the UK work from home for at least part of their week.

"Of course, working from home has its downsides and I’d actually agree that 'Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings'. But these can be engineered even when most work is done from home."

Yahoo's new policy was also criticised by UK Transport Minister Norman Baker who yesterday appeared at a reception to promote the Anywhere Working remote working initiative. 

“I think that’s a very unfortunate position to take and I think it’s out of line with the evidence which has been shown by the other companies that have embraced this agenda,” he said. “I would encourage them to be a bit more forward looking.”

Citrix senior director Andrew Millard said: “Yahoo!’s decision to ban flexible working is surprising, given the general acceptance that it a benefit not only to staff, but the companies themselves.

 “Our research shows that flexible working boosts productivity and is desirable for staff looking to address the work/life balance. What is more, with the sheer wealth of smart phones and tablets available currently, it is now easier to work anywhere, with anyone, than ever before.”

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