• Sun, Feb 24 2013

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s New ‘No Telecommuting’ Policy Is A Giant Step Backwards For Working Parents

marissa_new4Working parents and others that enjoy the flexibility of being productive from home have got to be pissed as Marissa Mayer ends telecommuting options for Yahoo employees.

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.

(photo: Twitter.com)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/stina.kolling Stina Wargo Kolling

    Reminds me of when a district manager at my former job ended casual Fridays, and sent out an email that said something like “Great news! You know how you’re supposed to dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Now you get to do that every day!” A) This policy decision was pointless; it had no positive impact on our productivity, and B) all it did was make us that little bit more miserable. Yahoo is going the way of the dodo thanks to Google, and this lady thinks it must be because they’re working in their pajamas? Yet another woman publicly making extremely stupid decisions and letting the side down. :P

    • Andrea

      I think she let EVERYONE down. Telecommuting and work-place balance is for everyone. It makes everyone happier and more productive. I enhances creativity and loyalty.

      She’s a ball busting bitch trying to prove who the hell knows what kind of point? That she’s tougher than everyone? That works comes first, last and always? She is in an incredible position to influence change on millions of working people and she chooses to be a bitch. Probably because she can afford to have nannies, assistants, cooks, maids, chouffers, and dozens of people to take care of every aspect of her life. Screw her.

    • once upon a time

      Yes, I’m sure, I’m absolutely positive, that one of the most successful people in Silicon Valley, an educated woman and one who has spent years climbing the corporate ladder, is willing to risk it all just to be a ‘ball busting bitch’. I’m sure there’s no other reason whatsoever – no research undertaken before making the decision, no financial projections, nothing. She’s doing it deliberately just to bring down other women. Because she must hate them, or something.

      I’ll say it again – this crap is doing harm to the whole idea of feminism. Feminism isn’t about manipulating EVERYTHING so that mothers are given perfect living conditions without having to work for them. Commuting to an office every morning is life. Yes it sucks, yes it’s inconvenient, but millions – even billions – of other people all around the world do it without taking to the internet to slings accusations and call people names like a pissed off high school student.

    • NE_Heights_Elitist

      Thank you! This accommodate ‘all my needs’ attitude is disgusting.

    • NeuroNerd

      To reiterate a comment about, if Marissa Meyer was a man, would you be calling her a “ball-busting bitch”? Or would you assume that she’s actually trying to make smart, well researched business decisions that bring her company back from the brink? Please see my Google comment above, as well as Lastago’s excellent take on the situation.

    • NeuroNerd

      Edited to say “to reiterate a comment above”

    • NE_Heights_Elitist

      Really everyone? Including you? Seriously?

  • Katia

    She’s the CEO not a politician trying to bring social change. She’s also a mother but we only know what she does CEO-wise, now we can wait and see what yahoo does. Youre right that there are studies for both sides and it seems like your disagreement is more of a gut-reaction than logical business analysis. Who knows maybe she had mommy hormones and felt envious of the mothers that were home with their kids while she was away from hers. Maybe she’s trying to be controversial and planning to make money off her 15 minutes one day. (a young attractive female Steve jobs type?!)maybe she knows something about business and her idea actually will help yahoo. Or maybe her hormones are throwing off her judgement. The nice thing is that we will see whether she leads yahoo to success or not. So if yahoo fails you at mommyish can bring out your predictable analysis and rejoice that she should not have made parents come to work at the office.
    I had an office assistant job and actually spent hours (at least 2/day) dealing with logistics of having 2 work at home project managers. I had so stamp their mail received. Open scan email and file each pc of mail addressed to them. And there were often communication issues due to “tones” of emails and that kind of thing. And if there was something up I had to decide how to contact the person based on what the mode of contact i choose says about my feelings on the matter! Seriously! And sometimes these women (not moms by the way) would tell us “you should/don’t need to use email/phone/Skype to tell me this kind of thing. ” it was quite a mess. Just because technology exists does not mean that humans will use it effectively to their advantage

    • Cee

      Oh yes. She’s a successful CEO and now her lady hormones are making her a craaazy woman. She must be some bitchy post partum-ing woman oozing her angry ovary hormones at all the ladies with a functioning uterus. Why don’t we say male CEOs are ruled by their paternal hormones when they make decisions? “Well Bill just became a father again, that’s why Windows 7sucked.” Perhaps the reason why she downplays her pregnancy and motherhood is so dumb things like “her hormones are influencing the decisions she’s making about her company,” which she probably gets from lots of males in the business, she certainly doesn’t need that from females. You should have more faith in the ability of women to lead with their experience and education rather than what she expelled from her vagina.

    • Cee

      “her hormones are influencing the decisions she’s making for her company,” are said

    • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

      “Just because technology exists does not mean that humans will use it effectively to their advantage.” THIS!!
      Not only do some people not know how to use technology well, or refuse to use it, some places cannot afford the most efficient technology. Also, there are differing expectations. Some people assume you know anything that was sent out via e-mail within half an hour of it being sent; they are the same ones who freak if people don’t respond to their e-mails within a hour. Others aim for the efficiency experts recommendations to check no more than 4/5x a day. Maybe it is just (old) me but my Skype time is planned, not impromptu. Yes, technology can be incredible but it is still in thrall to those who use it.

    • faifai

      This is why you don’t let everyone telecommute, just the workers who can actually handle it.

    • NE_Heights_Elitist

      ‘Who knows maybe she had mommy hormones and felt envious of the mothers that were home with their kids while she was away from hers…’ If that passes for a cogent argument your side is doomed.

  • Andrea

    What a bitch. Thank you Ms Mayers for setting back workplace balance a decade. And that goes for mothers, fathers, and everyone.

    And sorry, but here it goes again: BITCH.

    • once upon a time

      And thank you for setting feminism back by calling a woman a bitch for doing something that hasn’t affected you at all.

    • Lawcat

      Intelligent!

    • NeuroNerd

      I really resent the notion that Meyer made this decision because she’s “a bitch” out to get her co-workers. We wouldn’t say this about a man. We would assume that he researched his decision, weighed the pros and cons, discussed it with the board of directors and investors, and picked what works for the company. I’m pretty sure this is what Marissa Meyer did too. Please see my above comment re: her history with Google.

    • visionary_23

      Actually no, Neuronerd, were it a man doing this so publicly, feminist blogs (like these) would instead point out rather absurdly that it’s just another example of misogyny in business, and how if there were more female CEO’s, we wouldn’t have such an evil in industry. With a likely insidious nod towards changing federal laws towards elevating more women into positions of power, qualifications or productivity be dam ned.

      Nary a peep is usually made about truly checking out whether such policies are actually productive, aside from citing irrelevant data that tenuously supports the “teleworking” paradigm (making the equivalence between call centers and Yahoo? Really?). As an example (which you cited), google is tremendously productive but wants people at work ALL the time. Sheryl Sandberg has made her fame talking about said work-life balance as COO of Facebook — ironically a company that was built, and is currently being built, on the backs of round-the-clock developers (usually young males) who barely sleep for days. At the end of the day, most companies need people to work to have productivity — that’s always been the case.

      Kudos to Meyer for not kneeling to the hyper-critical feminist brigade — she’s a CEO, not a mindless human being.

    • NE_Heights_Elitist

      Wow calling someone you don’t even know a bitch! Do work at yahoo? Do you even have a job (with that attitude)?

  • Lastango

    This change wouldn’t happen without a reason. Let’s recognize that Yahoo! is a sinking ship, and (IMO) cannot be salvaged. If so, the best that can happen is maximize the profitability and value of the pieces, and then find a merger partner for the main part while selling off some of the pieces. (That can come about in various ways; for instance, the merger partner can take over the whole, with knowledge that valuable pieces can be sold later.)
    Mayer’s job, then, is to maximize value of the whole and the parts. It’s possible that the work-from-home model is poorly administered there, and no one knows any longer if the stay-at-home staff is really contributing or not. Perhaps people are abusing it because there’s no monitoring. Or, if Yahoo! needs to cut staff, there may be a sense that the stay-at-home employees are the least productive. Getting rid of their status means some will leave voluntarily, and that’s cheaper than firing them.
    There isn’t much time for the executive team to save Yahoo!, and they need to move fast. If there’s a merger partner(s) on the horizon, Yahoo doesn’t want to have to explain to a prospective partner why there are so many questionable contributors on the payroll. If Yahoo! has major programs on the go that need to be completed as quickly as possible, they may need all hands on deck, and have little tolerance for marginal contributors.
    Just because the the work-from-home model is functioning in some environments, or at companies which are in certain situations, or by some measures, doesn’t mean it’s best for Yahoo! at this point in time. Further, Yahoo! may have made a mess of the model, and knows it doesn’t have time to go through the elaborate human-relations challenge of fixing it. So they have to dump it. That sort of measure is typical of a company in survival model, and it isn’t pretty to watch.

  • chickadee

    Her reasons for eliminating telecommuting are at least valid and relevant to her particular industry. Some industries thrive on group interaction, and Yahoo! is in that category. I would also point out that your first study isn’t relevant because call center employees are considered successful when they don’t interact with their fellow employees.

    I don’t necessarily agree with her decision, but her argument is valid.

  • Cee

    Oh no, people are going to have to go to workplaces like everybody else! Families are going to have to do what ONLY the childfree do, which is go to a work site. Oh wait! Families DO go to job sites and have been making it work for them one way or another and everybody survived. It’s time to quit the whining, leave the pajamas at home and try to save the company you work for before your company shuts down and you have no job.

    • Lawcat

      Seriously.

      First of all, anyone working FULL TIME from home does not have time for child care.

      My husband works from home, for a tech company which is out of state. He has to travel to that location at least once a month anyway. Additionally, he’s on conference calls, demos, and other tasks during standard working hours. Granted, he’s got some flexibility in his start time, lunch, and running a couple errands one day a week since he’s not commuting, but he’s mainly in his office for the entire work day.

      What fantasyland are people living in where they are working for a large company and making up their own hours enough so that they can take care of the kids? My husband barely has enough time to give the dog attention let alone our child (he goes to daycare, located at my brick and mortar office). My BIL would shut himself in his basement office even though my SIL was a SAHM with two small kids. No time for daddy daycare. Now they both work from home and my MIL watches the kids when they get home from school.

      If the majority of the working world is on a 9-5 schedule, working from home doesn’t change that. And, newsflash, any professional/executive/manager is going to be taking work home at some point during the week.

      This entire article is just a glowing example of a me, me, me generation. All whining for change but no examples on how to do so.

  • Blueathena623

    I cannot speak for yahoo of course, but as someone who has worked in IT, I really wonder how many hallway conversations there are that are being missed. My coworkers who worked in the office next to me would email me. It’s not an anti-socialization thing, its keeping track of the conversation. Depending on how the set-up (do these people always telecommute, or do they only do it half the time) it might cost the company money to have to find office furniture for these people, the added electricity costs for equipment, heating and cooling, the increase on the network, etc.
    I just think its telling that an Internet company is basically saying they can’t rely on the Internet for its collaborative needs. I wonder how much longer yahoo will last.

  • CMJ

    Interesting. My telework policy specifically states that it is not a replacement for childcare…basically meaning, I can’t telework just so I can stay home with my kids and work at the same time. I also have a feeling that MOST telework policies specify this. It is a more flexible work environment (it helps if I’m sick and need to work, for example) but it’s really not seen as a replacement for childcare (nor should it, in my opinion).

    That being said – teleworking is amazing for work/life balance, saving money, and it really helps me effectively manage my time in and out of the office.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stina.kolling Stina Wargo Kolling

      Agreed, mine does as well. The benefits of working from home way outweigh any perceived deterrences, for *anyone*.

    • LiteBrite

      My company doesn’t have a specific policy about telecommuting and childcare, but to be honest I can’t get a damn thing done when the boy is home, so I might as well take a PTO day for childcare anyways.

      I have no clue why Mayer is doing this; however, working from home is a privilege, not a right. I agree with everything you said about it, but it doesn’t work for every company culture.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

      I’d agree. I’ve telecommuted a few times when sick but semi-functional (no need to get the whole office infected but I could still be kinda productive). But I cannot put in a good 8–or hell, even 5-6 hours–of work doing what I do if I’m dealing with an infant too, and it’s unfair to my employer to claim I did so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

    I wonder how much anyone at Mommyish knows about the internal workings or culture of Yahoo!?
    Telecommuting can work great in some instances and companies but not at all in others; its entirely possible Yahoo! had botched the implementation and she feels it isn’t feasible to fix it at the moment. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    • NE_Heights_Elitist

      You nailed it. Last I checked we don’t ask mommy’s for advice on how to run a business.

    • whiteroses

      And yet the companies CEO is a “mommy”….

    • AP

      Yahoo is a failing tech company that is thisclose to being put out of business. Marissa Meyer was brought on board not to make friends or social statements, but to whip everyone back into shape and turn the company around into one that’s productive and profitable. In a buyout scenario, those whiny telecommuters would be the first ones axed as redundant.

  • once upon a time

    Mommyish seriously needs to STFU and leave this woman alone. What the actual hell? Marissa Mayer can do whatever the fuck she wants with her life, and with her company. And as someone who’s done the telecommute e-journalism thing, staff meetings via email are painful. It takes days to decide on something that ten minute face to face conversation would have determined.

  • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

    Would this even be an issue if a Matthew instead of a Marissa had made this decision?

    • once upon a time

      Nope.

  • Been there done that

    HP did the same thing many years ago and look at them now. Employee sat is at an all time low. Most of their talent was either let go or has left. May yahoo suffer the same fate.

    • bb

      It may very well be that she’s trying to force a layoff without doing an actual “layoff”…

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  • Eileen

    I don’t see how this is more of a problem for working parents than anyone else. If you want to telecommute because you actually want to be taking care of your kid instead of working, then, no, I don’t think you should be able to telecommute. If you want to telecommute because you want to avoid the time loss/fuel usage of driving to work, then it’s not as bad. Personally, I’m not a fan of telecommuting, but there are definitely both good and bad ways to do it. And the worst possible way is to be paying attention to something other than your job.

    And I do agree with the commenters who think that this site does an awful lot of picking on Marissa Mayer.

  • NeuroNerd

    Marissa Meyer comes from Google. Google has an awesome work environment and a ton of amenities on site, but the expectation is that people are there i.e. on premise working.

    One of the things that has made Google so successful is that they allow their employees time for creativity at the office. Many of Google’s most profitable products have come from employees collaborating on projects they designed during their creative time. It makes sense that Meyer would try to mimic this scheme at Yahoo!

  • RumorMiller

    I find it weird that a lot of people are assuming that the only reason anyone would work from home would be to take care of children. I am a copywriter at an advertising agency, and before I had my son I would often pack up early or spend a day at home to write a big project or just think on something without the buzz of office chatter or phones. Now that I have a baby, I refuse to telework unless I’m sick because it’s impossible for me to work and care for a 3 month old. Why are we assuming that teleworking must always translate to tele-slacking?

    It’s also weird that it is somehow acceptable to work from home to save gas/enviornment, etc. but not because your kid is sick. Why do people have so much venom for parents trying to parent? I know, I know…there is a litany of “it’s not fair that so and so gets to do this at the office because they have a kid…” responses just waiting in the wings, but it’s a cyclical argument. Plenty of parents would say it’s not fair that those without children have more free time outside of work and can go on better vacations sometimes or whatever. The argument is childish on both sides and I’m over it. There is no winning, there is no empathy, there is no flexibility on the “who has it better” debate on either side…so maybe let’s stop giving so many shits about what the person in the cubical next to us does or doesn’t “get” out of work or life and enjoy our own choices. As long as the quality of work doesn’t suffer, why do you care? Seriously…why. do. you. care? think about it. And then ponder if that was time well spent. There is nothing fair about life.

    AND this article shouldn’t be a jumping off point for that type of argument anyway. We shouldn’t assume anything about Mayer, Yahoo, or the company’s intentions. The only thing we can do, is be concerned for finding a fit for the type of life we’d personally like for ourselves. Doors opening for some decisions, closing for others and whatnot. If telecommuting is what you want out of your workplace. Don’t work at Yahoo.

    • Lawcat

      I don’t think a lot if people are assuming the only reason to work from home is child care, but more rejecting the notion that telecommuting leaves enough time during the day to take care of kids and also work. Maria’s headline suggests this is going to create some kind of heartache for working parents.

      Telecommuting has a lot of a awesome benefits, but its also hard work and like any other job, generally it’s core hours are still regular business hours. My husband telecommutes and there’s no way he would be able to take care of our son during the day.

      As for what my other coworkers do, it’s sometimes hard to sit back and take up the slack because of someone’s life decision. I think most people try and make up work if they have to leave early for something, but people abuse the system. One attorney at our office leaves an hour early everyday to watch his kid play baseball. I’m cool with that because I know he’s working from home and the weekend and he’s not pushing duties into me. We had a problem at a previous firm with a woman who would regularly leave for “emergencies” and dump her stuff on associates desks for them to do instead. I don’t care what the person in the opposite cubicle is doing, so long as it doesn’t affect me. (The whole more vacations, time, money line is silly. Having children is a choice. That’s the crux of why people get upset. People place obligations concerning children above others. So if Bonnie next to me gets to take off three hours early to go watch her daughters ballet practice for the third time this week, a child free worker should be able to take off for a special camping trip, or training for a marathon, or whatever. But generally employers don’t view these as equals and that where “unfairness” sets in)

  • Another telecommuter

    Some exec don’t like the fact that their telecommuting employees might do laundry while they are telecommuting. But they do like (but not appreciate) that these telecommuters start their day at 7 ends at 5 and log into work from bed before bed.

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  • NE_Heights_Elitist

    Yawn. Some pissed off yuppies might have to work like the rest of us. Who cares?

  • http://twitter.com/PeculiarBlend Push vs. Pull

    Work from home has its dos and don’ts – I’d rather work from office and get done with it. Yahoo is clearly not losing it and quite frankly in today’s age – life is more between Facebook and Google, my sympathies with Yahoo’s team, however, please remember, ”change is the only constant’ — this shall pass too.

    https://peculiarblend.wordpress.com/

  • http://twitter.com/NurraizanA nurraizan azal

    Singapore needs working mothers to be given flexi work arrangement / work from home. http://socialmediajewel.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/why-work-at-home-policy-will-benefit-working-moms-in-the-long-run/

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