Shortly after CEO Marissa Mayer took the helm in July, she implemented changes like free lunch, free phones and other perks reminiscent of her former employer, Google. Earlier this month, a Business Insider list of top U.S. employers ranked Yahoo eighth, behind second-place Google but ahead of Microsoft, which came in 14th.
This new policy might make holding onto that spot harder. It drew a scathing response on Twitter and blog comment threads, with many users saying that keeping a stable of unproductive workers is a management failure, and that the policy would prompt a brain drain. (A handful of smaller tech companies used the news as a chance to recruit, inviting frustrated Yahoo! employees to come work — on a flexible schedule — for them instead.)
Others defended Mayer, saying an all-hands-on-deck approach was the only way to keep the company's new momentum going.
In her short stint at Yahoo, this isn't the first time Mayer's work-life balance choices have been criticized. After giving birth to her first child last fall, Mayer planned to be back at work in only a week or two.
Carley Roney, co-founder of the parent company for TheBump.com, told "Today" that Yahoo!'s policy change could convey an "anti-parent" sentiment. Yahoo did not respond to the question of whether new mom Mayer sometimes works from home. "We don't comment on rumors or internal matters," a company spokeswoman said via email.
The Yahoo memo made it clear that workers shouldn't expect a lot of wiggle room or exceptions. "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," Reses said.
Studies that have tried to determine whether working from home helps or hurts productivity have drawn mixed conclusions. A study in June by Wakefield Research found that 43 percent of people said they watched TV while "working" from home, and roughly a quarter each admitted to taking a nap or knocking back a drink on the clock.
But a paper published just last week out of Stanford University said performance increased 13 percent when employees of a Chinese travel agency were allowed to work from home on a trial basis. "[A]bout 9 percent was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 4 percent from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment)," researchers wrote. When the company ended the trial and extended the work-from-home option to the rest of its people, performance rose 22 percent.