Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer broke her silence on the company's controversial new policy against working from home while speaking at the Great Place to Work conference in Los Angeles on Thursday.
"I need to talk about the elephant in the room," Fortune reports she said as an image of a purple elephant, labeled "WFH," appeared on projection screens in the hotel auditorium housing a crowd of human resource professionals.
"People are more productive when they're alone, but they're more collaborative and innovative when they're together," Mayer explained. "Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together."
An internal memo explaining the change in policy was leaked by angry Yahoo employees in February, and became a flash point in the debate about the needs of working parents.
"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," human resource head Jackie Reses wrote in the memo. "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."
The new policy, which begins in June, forces the small portion of telecommuters (roughly 200 of 12,000, according to Fortune) to make a physical commute to a Yahoo office. Critics lambasted the move as a step backward in flexible work policy. Certain quarters felt especially betrayed because Mayer had recently given birth to her first child.
Still, Mayer remained confident in the decision on Thursday.
"My goal is not to change the culture, but to amplify its greatness."