Ever since the Yahoo CEO announced her pregnancy, she became the reluctant poster-woman of working motherhood. If she could run a multi-billion dollar company while pregnant, it theoretically opened many doors for working mothers everywhere.
Then she took a measly two-week maternity leave. Then we learned that she refused to be photographed for a Fortune magazine issue on powerful women because she didn’t want to be photographed pregnant. I was still on her side. Just because she’s a woman and a mother, doesn’t mean she has to be a pioneer for the working mother’s struggle.
Now she’s made a decision I can’t get behind. Beginning in June, she’s ending telecommuting options for her employees. They will have to report to the office regularly. From an internal memo uncovered by All Things D:
“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.”
She might have a point if what she was saying was actually true. Some studies have shown quite the contrary.
- A Stanford study, conveniently released on the same day as Yahoo’s memo, reported that call center employees increased their performance by 13 percent when working from home. They also reported “improved work satisfaction and experienced less turnover,” according to the study.
- A University of Texas at Austin study from late last year found that those people who work from home “add five to seven hours to their workweek compared with those who work exclusively at the office.”
- A Bureau of Labor Statistics study, also from last year, reported that working remotely “seems to boost productivity, decrease absenteeism” — that means missing work — “and increase retention.” It also gives employers more incentive to ask you to work on weekends, the authors say.
This is the Internet. You could probably find a study to back either side of the argument. I just can’t help but feel that this is a giant step backwards. Telecommuting options respond to the growing changes in lifestyle and home dynamics. Reporting to the office from nine to five, five days a week worked great when there was always someone taking care of things at home. That person would most likely be the wife and mother. Times have changed and working parents – men and women alike – can enjoy the flexibility that telecommuting brings while taking care of their responsibilities at home.
A job is a job, whether you work from home or in the office. I am expected to fulfill my obligations to my employer, meet deadlines, and attend cyber-meetings. I can’t slack off or be unproductive. I wouldn’t have a job. What Mayer seems to not realize is that those “hallway and cafeteria discussions” are now happening on Skype. My colleagues and I brainstorm all day. We are friends. We’ve never met in person.
Welcome to the Internet, Marissa Mayer. Oh, you don’t like it? Too bad you are working for one of its pioneers.
UPDATE: Marissa Mayer has her own nursery installed in her office.