I don't know Marissa Mayer, beyond what I have read in this article, but I think that is enough to award her tech industry's Douche Bag of the Year Award. If one thing is true about America's CEOs, it is that they overestimate their own intelligence and the intelligence of their peers. Stuffed up with stupidity, they tend to rush headlong like bulls in a stampede at whatever unexamined hair brain scheme appears to increase their personal power over others. Marissa Mayer's recent decision to end telecommuting at Yahoo is a perfect example of the suicidal tendencies of corporate psychos. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-yahoo-telecommuting-20130226,0,5913345.story
Before we look at the reasons Marissa Mayer offers for her supremely stupid decision, let us consider telecommuting and what it means to corporations, society, and workers.
There are many advantages to be had by corporations that allow telecommuting. Telecommuting workers will tend to work, even while sick, from home. Yes, some workers come to work, even when sick, but they get other workers sick, decreasing the overall productivity of the company and increasing the number of sick days used by workers. Telecommuting workers use less of a corporation's electricity, bandwidth, office space, toilet paper, wash towels, office supplies, parking spaces, and meeting room space. Telecommuting workers tend to work more hours because they do not waste time commuting. Telecommuting workers are instantly available via chat, email, telephone, and video conference. By allowing workers to telecommute, a corporation can hire workers globally without providing office space globally, thus increasing the size of the labor pool to choose from. Globally positioned workers create a workforce that is up and working 24 hours per day. While the employees in Boston are asleep, their coworkers in Australia can take up the task and carry it forward, passing it back to the Bostonians when they begin working the following day. There is absolutely nothing negative about a telecommuting worker's status as a telecommuter for a very large range of careers. All of the side effects of telecommuting, for such professions, are positive.
For the individual worker, the benefits of telecommuting are enormous. I know because I have telecommuted several times over my career. The telecommuting worker saves time, money, and health risks by working at home. No commute time means more time available for working and for living. No commuting means less expenses for transportation, fuel, parking, car insurance, and/or transit fares. No commuting means one is less likely to suffer from an accident, catch a cold, or be a victim of violence. Telecommuting also benefits the worker's family by having a parent home should an emergency occur.
Society also benefits from telecommuting. Telecommuting workers consume less fuel, create less pollution, reduce traffic, and, since they are sick and injured less frequently, use less healthcare resources.
These are amazing benefits! Telecommuting is a win/win situation for everyone... everyone except the sociopath, the narcissist, the middle manager, and the corporate infrastructure feeders.
As we all know, sociopaths are more highly represented within the upper ranks of corporations. On the average, they are not productive people. Yes, they think of themselves as highly valuable, but for the most part they create nothing, add no value to anything, and diminish the profitability of corporations by sucking them dry through high salaries and absurdly large bonuses. Most relevant, however, is that sociopaths need victims to feed on. Without workers within reach, abuse becomes more difficult to realize. What is a serial back stabber without someone to back stab? Bullying, mobbing, and ego-feeding abuse become more difficult when the victims are not at the office but somewhere else. A telecommuting worker can more easily communicate with other telecommuting workers without detection. They can compare notes. They can organize their efforts without the central authority of the sociopath. This makes pitting workers against one another more difficult to do. It diminishes the power of a leader whose agenda focuses less on the betterment of the corporation and more on the advancement of his or her own agenda.
Also highly represented at the upper rungs of corporations are narcissists. Narcissists are emotional vampires and require narcissistic fuel to propel their egos. They need to be surrounded by people who fear them, respect them, adore them, and/or are willing to do anything for them. Telecommuting workers cannot provide this narcissistic fuel. The ego-manic CEO cannot get the same thrill sitting in the biggest chair in the conference room, positioned at the end of a long table lined with suck-up brown-noses, the smaller chairs of which are tilted in his direction, feeding his greatness, by holding a meeting online where no one is physically positioned in deference to himself. He worked hard backstabbing others to attain that alpha-ape branch in the tree and all is for naught if the inferior apes are not on the inferior branches to be looked down upon.
Telecommuting workers tend to be self organizing and self managing. Fewer workers in the office translates into fewer middle managers. What middle manager wants his or her workers to work from home if it means his or her own redundancy will become obvious?
Finally, there is that class of people within any office whose jobs are essentially parasitical. These are the workers that exist in order to maintain and support the office infrastructure. If almost no one is in the office, there is no need for such workers. Entire departments of non-producers could be eliminated if telecommuting became the norm.
Having addressed these different kinds of workers that do not benefit from telecommuting, we should once again look at Marissa Mayer. Ms. Mayer's Human Resources Department gives the following argument for why workers can no longer telecommute at Yahoo:
"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," Jackie Reses, Yahoo's human resources chief, wrote in the memo sent out Friday. "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together."
Mayer, who is trying to reverse Yahoo's long downward spiral, has raised the hopes of investors and sprinkled amenities such as free food and iPhones on battle-weary employees. But after those juicy carrots has come the stick.
"Like a team huddling before a game, there are moments in a company's development when getting everybody to physically huddle together is a very good thing," said Paul Saffo, head of foresight at Discern Analytics. "The question is at what cost."
This line of reasoning is bunk. It is staggering just how ludicrous the position is, coming from a tech company. How is it that technology cannot provide communication and collaboration? I have worked in the tech industry for almost 30 years. Within our offices we communicate by chat and Skype more than face to face. Our physical proximity to one another is not relevant. Moreover, many of our coworkers are in other countries. We communicate with them via chat and Skype too. How would it matter if we were in the same physical space or not? We can share all of the documents we need, meet together virtually, and collaborate using the same screen though we are thousands of miles apart. Marissa must be lying about her motivation if this is what she has to offer.
And then there is the related notion of "working side-by-side." I've seen a growing rash of employers believing that this increases productivity. Frankly, it does not. Cramming people together impedes productivity. It makes people uncomfortable, decreases individual creativity in favor of mediocrity by committee, and results in lots of useless chatter, flirtation, jockeying for position, bullying, and conflict. It also increases the speed at which colds and flues pass from worker to worker, thus inviting much higher rates of down-time.
This one is real gem: "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home". Um, prove it! Is the implication that people will not work fast unless someone is harassing them? We all know that speed and quality have an inverse relationship. Certainly you will not get better quality with speed, so if quality is the goal, speed is a red herring. The statement is self-contradictory.
"Like a team huddling before a game, there are moments in a company's development when getting everybody to physically huddle together is a very good thing" - this idiotic statement may sound warm and fuzzy, but how does it apply to intellectual work? Does hugging one another and rubbing elbows really improve the ability to compete in the technological world? If anything, having Aspergers helps a lot more than being warm and fuzzy. Besides, isn't life warmer and fuzzier online than in real life?
Personally, I wouldn't be so upset about mental midget Marissa Mayer's move, if it were not for the fact that other CEOs, in their slavish stupidity, will follow her lead because deep down inside they psychologically need their workers in the office to prey upon. It is the very reason they became CEOs in the first place.