Yahoo Says No to Mobile

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor & Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — March 03, 2013

As if taking a step back to another era, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, said no to mobile workers and decided to ban telecommuting. The announcement happened to coincide with one of the largest conferences in the world where business mobility is a huge focus, and one week before Telework Week no less.

The decision has caused debate about whether remote workers produce more, or as one “former Yahoo” employee commented on Linkedin get “full time pay for part time work.”  He was referencing an article by Geoffrey Moore, a business advisor to high-tech sector companies, who does not see Yahoo as setting a precedent. In his article, Misunderstanding Marissa, Moore calls this case an exception, not a paradigm.

Nonetheless, for the most part, this move has been met with outrage across the Internet and support of the increasing mobile workforce. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Mobile, chastised the CEO on his blog.  A mobile video company put up a billboard in San Francisco calling themselves the “unofficial sponsor of WFH,” (working from home).

Cindy Auten, general manager, Mobile Work Exchange, made the following comment: “One – if not the best – part of a company is its people.  If you take good care of your employees, you will see great returns – happy and productive employees.  The decision to discontinue a telework program can actually do more than hurt morale – it can cause a company to lose valuable employees to competitors who offer more flexible work environments."

The Chance of Remote is 100%
Following on the heels of Yahoo, Best Buy has now also decided to re-do its work-from-home program. Despite this, mobility is obviously where the enterprise is headed. The recent Mobile World Congress, for example, attracted more than 65,000 attendees and 12,000 mobile app developers. Mobile Work Exchange, host of Telework Week, had confirmed that the number of pledges for the event is significantly up from last year, with employees coming from a variety of public and private sectors. 

“It’s no coincidence that 84% of Fortune’s '100 Best Companies to Work For' have a telework program," Auten said. "Flexible work arrangements put the focus on employee productivity and work outcomes instead of attendance – it’s a win-win for both employees and employers. Finally, IT has enabled us to be collaborative – wherever we are. It's disconcerting to see a company that encourages mobile IT/communications but discourages mobility.”

Moving Ahead
During a livestream from Mobile World Congress, IBM discussed the state of enterprise and the notable increase in mobility. Phil Buckellew, vice president, enterprise mobile, said IBM is "doubling down, we are doubling our investment in mobility in 2013 versus 2012 because we know the space is so important to all of our clients." (IBM launched its MobileFirst solutions at MWC.)

Maribel Lopez, principal and founder of Lopez Research, explained during the livestream that there has been a phenomenal change in how enterprises feel about mobility now versus just two years ago. Back then, she said, "there were really debates about how many employees should be mobilized, are we going to support a bring your own device (BYOD) program?"

Fast forward to today, she said and 67% of the firms her company interviewed do support BYOD. "Not only are they doing BYOD and also mobilizing with corporate-liable plans, but they are changing," she added. It used to be about emailing and calendar apps, but in 2013, it's about "mobilizing business processes, replacing paper with paper to glass applications, moving into workflows and developing rich applications. A real big change in terms how organizations are embracing mobility."

Mobility Here, There and Everywhere
In fact, in the Mobile EnterpriseOutlook on Mobility” report from Nov. 2012, Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility, Yankee Group, indicated that 39% of the U.S. workforce is now operating mobile for a significant portion of their time. 

When it comes to devices, the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast predicts that by the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. One can hardly imagine all those devices will be used at a desk in an office.

And for those that see mobile workers as slackers, studies point to the contrary. It seems that they work everywhere at all times. Pew Research Center found that 44% of its survey respondents actually sleep with their phones next to them. This is echoed and even higher in the "Mobile Mindset Study," from Lookout Mobile Security, where 54% "check their phones while lying in bed: before they go to sleep, after they wake up, even in the middle of the night."

Not to mention, both the Mobile Mindset Study and a Harris Interactive survey found that 40% and 65%, respectively, take their phones to the bathroom with them.

The point is that mobile technology is powering the enterprise right now and the limit to innovation in business from this new way of working is still untold. Employees have become used to choice and appreciate being treated like the hard-working adults they are. A happier employee who can balance life and work is more productive, and that's a big part of the bottom line.

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