Go on with yo bad self, Ms. Mayer

by Beth Anne on February 28, 2013

0227 mayer 630x420 Go on with yo bad self, Ms. MayerThere’s been a lot of buzz around Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo! & her recent ban on telecommuting. People are in uproar, aka OMG HOW COULD SHE DOOOO THIS TO US?! like it’s some personal vendetta against every single working mother in America. Like she has it out for every parent that knows the struggle to get out the door by 7:30am with Dora Lunchbox in hand & hopefully make it to the 9am status meeting without spit-up on her slacks.

Newsflash: She’s doing it because she’s the new CEO & she’s been hired for lots of money (roughly 23.5 million per year) to reboot a flat company.

I’ve worked at a company with zero benefits. I’ve worked at a company that still prefers paper files to email. I’ve worked at a company with great benefits & telecomuters. I’ve worked from home for a tech company. I’ve worked at the disneyland of tech companies. & in all places, I have learned that communications (even in a tech company) run better when people are face-to-face. It is human nature.  What do you prefer – a text conversation or a cup of coffee with a friend?

Maybe Ms. Mayer has seen the work-at-home experience that I have experienced in my own career – toddlers banging on doors while mom huddles in the closet, wishing the nanny would find a way to stop the wailing. Coworkers not available because they’re waiting on the cable man or gasp! on a conference call for their second job that the first job doesn’t even know about. Double-dipping at it’s finest! It is frustrating & counter-productive when abused. Maybe she feels that there is no way to properly control the work-at-home culture. Maybe she’s just flexing her muscles. Personally, I think she’s implementing a genius tactic to get rid of the dead weight at Yahoo!  Don’t want to come in? Feel you’re entitled to stay home? Cool. Someone else wants your job in the office. That’s the nature of this economy & business.

Could it have been done a little more gently, by perhaps keeping a moderated flex time? Sure. But in this economy, I doubt Yahoo! will struggle to find quality folks who are eager to be there & reboot the company.

What do you think?  Smart move to nix dead weight or horrible morale-sinker for an already low company?

Do you think the uproar would have happened if this had been a man?  Or even an older woman who did not just have a baby?

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Case February 28, 2013 at 6:16 pm

To me, it’s not about whether telecommuting works. It’s about what works for Yahoo. She came in, analyzed the company for 6 months, and made changes to things that she doesn’t think works. This happens all the freaking time at tech companies.

I’m even going to defend her on-site nanny and child care because she works a crapton of hours. She is expected to be available 24/7, and as head of a global corporation, I’m willing to bet she travels a ton. I would think the parenting community would rally behind this bc maybe, just maybe, other CEOs will do this so they can see their kids more. And that could lead the charge for on-site child care for everyone else.

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tehamy February 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Honestly, I can see both sides of the coin here but ultimately I disagree with what she did. I do not believe in implementing policies like this for the purpose of getting rid of dead weight. Effective managers will deal with those people on a one on one basis and have the courage to let go of the people that need to be let go.

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Beth Anne February 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm

yes, but a very inefficient way. I think it’s easier to do a first “wave” of clearing out dead weight by saying “Okay, you want the job? Be here. Anyone who can’t be here obviously doesn’t want the job bad enough.” Then move onto performance.

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Violina23 February 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I think the problem with addressing this one-employee-at-a-time is two-fold:
1) It’s been ingrained in the culture, and something that employees have come to “expect” whether they have proven themselves responsible or not
2) Imagine if she went and fired each of the “unproductive” employees who were abusing this policy, and it came out that it was disproportionally affecting working mothers? She’d be sued in a SECOND.

I think telecommuting CAN be done well and responsibly, and it’s great if a company can offer it without impacting productivity (and this depends GREATLY on the kind of work one does — crunching numbers at a desk for 8 hours is different than the kind of tech work that I did, which was incredibly team and CUSTOMER-centric). But I totally agree that companies don’t OWE it to their employees.

I think the best way for her to go is to establish a “you have to be in the office” policy as a baseline — but then consider allowing telecommuting on a case-by-case basis, for employees who have proven their work ethics, and that they can handle their job responsibilities. My employer let me come back part-time after my daughter was born, but they NEVER would have done that for me had I not proven myself an extremely valuable employee in the years before I was pregnant. Not to mention, it was understood that if it didn’t work out for either party, I was expected to either come back full-time, or stop working there. My company didn’t owe me a job, but it was up to them to determine if it was in their best interests to be flexible for me.

So maybe Yahoo will lose some good employees over this, but time will tell if the culture will make a difference for a company that has been (since the advent of Google) struggling to find a new place for itself in the market. The reality is, a lot more than working mothers will be affected if someone like Mayer can’t turn things around. Let’s face it, she didn’t make this decision to hurt or “set back” working women. She did it to try to save her company. And if a man had made the same decision, maybe some people might still be annoyed, but there wouldn’t be NEARLY this kind of outcry.

In conclusion, personal opinions and feelings aside, I understand where Marissa Mayer is coming from, and time will tell if it was the right decision or not. And her gender will have NOTHING to do with it.

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Juliya February 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

It doesn’t seem very fair when she has a nursery built next to her office for her son and nanny and the rest of the company can’t even stay home for the cable guy. Seems like a double standard to me.

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Beth Anne February 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

But the amount of hours CEO’s work is so disproportionate to regular employees.

My CEO has a shower & ability to sleep, change, eat, etc in his office because he works ridiculous hours. I don’t see any difference in the nursery – if she’s working 16 hour days on the regular, I’d hope she’d create some way to see her son. For normal people who work 8-10 hours per day, that’s six more hours they get with their families.

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Arnebya March 1, 2013 at 11:11 am

But that’s just it. When you work from home, you are still technically “working”. Sure, the cable guy may come and that will have little impact on your immediate work, but it shouldn’t be an expectation or even a consideration, really. I think we can’t look at this from the standpoint of how it affets working mothers (only) because it affects working dads and single parents and non-parents and young people in/out of college and whatever other type of person works at Yahoo. I think this will be temporary (but she can’t say that up front.) I think that being on board with changes from the new CEO (and as CEO yes, she gets perks) shows more willingness to change with the times. I have seen telecommuting work. I’ve done it and found myself more productive when not having to be nice to the person in the cube next to me when she wants to talk abou ther weekend. At the same time, I’ve had my lazy days. The climate at Yahoo needs to be addressed if the company wants to prosper. While I may dislike a blanket “you can’t do this anymore”, I still understand from whence it’s borne and why it has to be, temporary or not.

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Ashley February 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I LOVE her for doing this. I think it is the smartest thing she could have done, and I like to think that I would have done the same thing myself. (Hey Yahoo- want to hire me too? I’ll take a measly 5 mil!) I have had the opportunity to work from home in the past and I. hated. it. It was cool for like half a day, but when the novelty of working on my couch, in my pj’s wore off, I had to come to the realization that I just didn’t feel like I accomplished as much at home as I do in the office. I also am constantly worried that on days that I work from home, my coworkers don’t really believe that I’m working. So you know what I do? I WORK EXTRA HOURS. I work more when I’m home, but feel like I’m accomplishing anything, and feel lazy, and think everyone’s talking shit on me.

Or maybe I just forgot to take my Zoloft that day.

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jeannett March 1, 2013 at 9:18 pm

YES. THIS!

I WFH when my son was a baby…and I worked my tail off most days. I secretly worried that my co-workers (particularly the male versions) thought I was just home eating bon bons and watching General Hospital, so I worked SO much harder, and longer hours.

And the opposite problem…at the office there are inevitably times when you are catching up with co-workers, enjoying a few minutes at the coffee pot, making small talk with clients…whatever. Let’s face it, you aren’t working 100% of every second of every day that you are in the office…but when you are home, you don’t get to just chalk that up to regular work life. It gets subtracted (if you’re honest)…but while your co-workers might build in an hour of overhead billing per week, you get to just eat that hour when you WFH. It sucked. Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever do it again. It was stressful…getting dressed and going in was easier.

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Courtney February 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I work for a very large tech company and have been telecommuting for almost 6 years. It started as one day per week, then two days, and for the last 3 years I have been a full time remote employee. For the first 5 years I was the ONLY employee in my work group that was located at my site. So even if I was in the office I was still basically telecommuting with my direct co-workers. It does take a lot of work to build and maintain a solid team enviornment and feel connected if you are neerface to face, but I do believe it can be done. It certainly is not for everyone.

My children are required to have full time care it is in our WFH contract. The only time I WFH with my children is if I cannot be off when they are sick or out of school.

In the more recent years our company has expanded WFH, and I can see where it might be abused. I also feel like her move away from WFH is what she feels is best for Yahoo. That doesn’t mean my company would follow suit. I hope that they see the benefits out way any abuse and handle those issues on a case by case basis.

Personally, I would not leave my job over having to give up WFH, but it certainly would change my work life ballance and NOT for the better.

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KeAnne February 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Mayer has a monumental task in front of her. Turning around Yahoo will require a major culture change; that culture change will require the assistance of and buy-in from every employee. It would be impossible to rebuild the company without having everyone in the office. All hands on deck so to speak.

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Tabitha February 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Well said, KeAnne. And like BA pointed out – if she cleans out the lazy or the ones that really didn’t have respect for the job they had (Who, let’s face it, are likely to not have respect for her either & be complaining behind her back. The ones that help create a culture that is against her, rather than for helping keep the Yahoo! boat afloat), then maybe she can look closer into evaluating the performance of individual people & restoring an appropriate balance to the telecommuting scene.

One of the things that she is well known for is brainstorming in a group setting. So maybe she sees that as so valuable that that’s the culture she’s trying to cultivate. A face to face respect.

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Michelle February 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I disagree with the all or nothing approach, and with the fact that she’s doing this rather than holding managers accountable. She will not fix Yahoo’s culture until she enforces a true performance management approach. Frankly, a targeted reduction in force used to eliminate poor performers would be a better way to cut costs than hoping some people who want to telecommute get pissed off and quit. Let’s face it, good performers are the ones with options. By damaging morale and waiting to see who quits, she’ll likely lose some really good people and get stuck with poor performers. I highly doubt she will end up with a more collaborative workforce. Just my two cents.

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Emily C. February 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I have worked for a company with a generous WFH policy for 5 years and love the flexibility it creates. And there are countless examples of companies where WFH leads to happier, more successful employees. But, in this case, I agree with the Marisa’s decision. As you said BA, she has a big task in front of her: to fix a broken company in a pretty cut-throat market. At Yahoo!’s competitors — like Facebook, Apple, and Google — employees work in the office because they need to collaborate and create innovative strategies and products. That’s why all of their campuses (not office buildings) offer Disney-like atmospheres with free everything and tons of perks. To regain ground in the marketplace, Yahoo! is disrupting it’s current way of doing things, and popular or not, this is one of those disruptions. I hope it works!

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Becky February 28, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I read your post from my phone but had to log in and put in my two cents! :) I feel like the generalization of “work at home” behavior that you mentioned in your post (huddling in the closet while the nanny is there) is what gives telecommuting a bad name. If you are going to work outside of the office, you need a quiet, CHILD FREE zone. Period. Anything else is irresponsible. As is, obviously, working two jobs at once or double dipping, which is also plainly unethical.

Any company has the right to say they will not allow telecommuting, of course, but I think the fact that an internet based company like Yahoo would do it – a company that you would imagine would be forward thinking – is the slap in the face. I have successfully telecommuted for 3 years with “face time” about 5% of the time and it has been the most amzing work experience of my life. I can go for a walk on my lunch break, I can hear the birds chirping from my desk, I have NO COMMUTE (can you imagine the countless hours I am saving and putting to good use?), I am SO MUCH more productive – even when you count the load of laundry I throw in here and there. No, it’s not for everyone and there are trade offs. I make less money than I probably could elsewhere. I don’t ever really “turn off” my work and do catch up here and there on nights and weekends. I am not on some kind of career “fast track” – I do my work and I do a great job and that’s all I expect. For what it’s worth, I also have full time child care *outside* of my home.

The idea that there’s only one way to make something work is just plain silly. Especially with today’s technology. There are plenty of jobs that can be done successfully, efficiently, and in a collaborative manner from home by a happy, appreciative, and loyal workforce of – yes – many moms. The thought that the only way to have a company succeed is to have every person wasting away inside gray cubicle walls and making small talk around the water cooler is just plain depressing. Yeah yeah, I know there are face to face meetings to break things up, but not everyone thrives that way just like not everyone thrives working at home.

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Jean March 1, 2013 at 9:12 am

Well said. I think in BA’s case the working from home situation was thrust upon her a bit, but if you’re going to make a choice to do that long-term you’re responsible for finding child care that will allow you to get work done, just as you do if you work outside the home. If you’re not accountable and productive, then you don’t deserve the job, whether you’re in the office or not. And there are plenty of ways to be unproductive in the office too- chatting with coworkers is a big one, which you can’t do at home!!

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 10:18 am

True! But as I was asking Becky…how do you enforce that when you never see the employee? I’m asking sincerely. I just don’t see how you enforce it.

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Jean March 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

You enforce it by shit getting done :) If it doesn’t, there’s a problem, whether the employee is in the office or out!

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm

ha, true!

I think that brings in a whole different ball game into employment – do you measure by workload getting done or hours worked?

(which has always been a fascinating argument to me!)

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 10:15 am

True, there are definite perks to it. I think in MY experience in several different industries & jobs, things are just done better & faster in person. Efficient & effective.

I would love to see Ms. Mayer re-instate some of the telecommuting as time goes on & the culture changes to what she’s aiming for at Yahoo! But I think for now, she’s made the right move to get folks in the office in order to revamp the company.

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

& I guess my question (seriously, not being snarky I am just curious!) how do you prevent the childcare in the home & double-dipping? I agree 100% that it is unethical & irresponsible to do those things, but how do you truly prevent them?

I thought about this last night a lot – do you turn in receipts for childcare? But what if you have a nanny in another home? How do you prove that? How do you prevent double-dipping? Asking to see tax records?

I think that’s where the “get in the office” ensures that neither of those things is happening.

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Delia March 1, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Accountability. Can you 100% prevent it, no? Can you create measures to hold people accountable to doing their job? Absolutely.
I WAH and my son goes to daycare full time. Even on a sick day for him, I take a sick day. I have goals in place that I need to meet and not devoting myself to my job will likely cause me to not meet them. Not meeting them, may mean I no longer have a job.

WAH is not for everyone. But for those who can & do make it work and are honest, then they shouldn’t be lumped into the same category as those who are bending the rules.

I do see what she is doing for her company and the need to turn things around. But I don’t agree that WAH is a bad idea across the board. There are lots of successful companies with WAH policies.

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Jean March 1, 2013 at 8:33 am

I really don’t think it’s fair to label the WFH employees as entitled. Flexibility was a huge perk of the company, and could very well be a reason many of them took the job in the first place. So these people aren’t just being lazy or entitled- the basic terms of their employment have completely changed.

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 10:13 am

Not all of them. Absolutely not all of them. But some of the comments & reactions I’ve seen? I think they definitely come from a place of entitlement, that the company owes them the flexibility. I think my point is that a company doesn’t OWE an employee anything but a paycheck. Benefits & perks are just that – benefits & perks. Lucky if you get them, good for morale, but definitely not owed. So if the culture changes from the reason they took the job, they need to find a different job. Just my opinion, though :)

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Tottums March 1, 2013 at 10:39 am

I 150% agree with all of this (and was contemplating blogging on it, but you beat me to the punch, lol). When I first started my new job that allowed working from home and pretty much had zero time off rules – I was like, ‘SCORE! I am gonna work at home in my jammies ALL THE DAYS!!’ … and then I actually did it a couple of times. And each time I would come slinking in to work the next morning thinking, ‘whoa. I got NOTHING accomplished yesterday’ … and that’s without having kids at home. I would see the dishes in the sink, remember a DVRed program I wanted to watch, Oops! I need to pick up the dry cleaning! Etc etc etc. I realize that some people are way more focused at home, but I would be willing to bet I’m not the only one out there who doesn’t have the self control to get shitz done on my own.

The point is, she made a BUSINESS decision. If a man had made this call, NO ONE would be arguing it. Everyone would be shouting – ‘look at how hard ass he is! He’s going to turn this company around!’ ::back pat back pat back pat:: This chick is going to have to work 50x as hard as many man would, and she won’t win regardless. It’s never enough for women … either way.

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Jean March 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

I’m not sure I agree with this. I think a lot of people would be shouting that the man was insensitive, didn’t understand the demands of working parents, etc… or then again, maybe we just expect it from a man in that position? It stings more coming from her because we hope and wish that as a working mom she would be more open to it, I guess.

And of course, it’s not just about moms. There are a thousand reasons someone might want the flexibility to work from home. I don’t think that it has to be an all or nothing policy (why not 1 or 2 days a week?), but I guess Yahoo feels they need to start there.

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I think you hit the nail on the head, Jean. That Yahoo! feels like they need to start here. I will be interested to see how it changes over the next few years!

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Helen March 1, 2013 at 10:53 am

I respectfully disagree with your stance. I disagree with the policy because of its inflexibility. I’m part of a large organization that supports telework, but my office does not. However, after maternity leave with my second son I was this close to quitting because I was never getting to see my baby (7:30-8:15am in the morning and 6:15-7pm bed time at night) and it was driving me carzy. I was lucky that my boss agreed to let me telework on an ad hoc schedule 1 day a week and it made all the difference. We had full-time childcare and I did have to “pretend” to go to work and lock myself in my room because my older son wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise, but I did more work on those days than I did in the office because I felt like I had to prove I was working. And sometimes you need a new environment and quiet to get work done. But it made me feel like I was trusted and a valued employee and that cannot be underestimated. I work my butt off, and it doesn’t matter where I am– it’s nice for my boss to acknowledge that.

Besides my situation, I can see the dread of a woman put on bedrest who can no longer work at Yahoo without using up her sick/FMLA leave. Who would want to make that choice? Or someone whose sick child/parent/spouse has appointments in the middle of the day? Should they have to commute on either side of that and take leave for the whole time? There are so many other situations where it is warranted. And I would bet they far outweigh the people taking advantage of it.

I agree in-person presence helps innovation and collaboration, but I don’t think it’s impossible to communicate if you’re not in person. I have plenty of colleagues who work in other locations that I speak with on the phone regularly and email with all of the time. We are not lacking in collaboration.

So while I don’t think it’s necessary to be a full-time telecommuter (and locked up in my room all day, everyday, I would go crazy!) I think the flexibility to allow telework 1-2 days for week can be a win-win.

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I understand what you’re saying.

But that’s just being a working mom. I don’t mean to sound that harsh (I know how harsh it sounds & I’m sorry! Smiley faces behind it!), because it SUCKS to feel like you don’t see your kid, but that’s working. I knew when I got pregnant with Harrison that if I was put on bed rest, I would have to use sick/FMLA leave. End of story. Could I have done my job from home? Yep. But not by company policy. I didn’t feel angry or shafted by it – it’s just the way the company was ran.

But yes, the flexibility to telecomute 1-2 days per week? That would be a dream! I just don’t know if that’s possible when revamping a company like Ms. Mayer is trying to do.

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Joanna March 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I think flex time is more important than telecommuting. I worked from home and I was terribly UNproductive. It was awful. My dad, however, is in sales and rarely works in an office… that works for him.

Our company has core hours. And as long as you put in your time somewhere in those core hours they are pretty cool with when you come in and when you leave. Also, I’ve started writing a blog for the company and have requested to get out of the office a few hours each week so as to not be distracted by calls and other work and just write.

It’s nice to know that I can choose to come in at 7:30 and leave by 4:30 so I can have time with my kids at night whereas someone who doesn’t have kids and prefers a later schedule can do 9-6 and we’re all treated the same.

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Kayla March 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I think you’re painting this situation as black and white when there’s a lot of gray too. I don’t entirely disagree with some of your points though. I am a firm believer that face-to-face communication and relationships are the keys to success within any organization. Without knowing the intricate details of how Yahoo works or what their desired direction is, maybe pulling all 100% work from home positions was the right move. However allowing employees the flexibility to have that option will also be crucial to their success. From an HRD perspective, I can tell you that the business world is moving in a heavily technology based direction. That’s a fact, not an opinion. Many organizations make it work by having employees all over the country. Maybe that just isn’t an option for Yahoo at this point however they should be recognizing the direction that they are heading in and finding a way to work that direction within their own four walls. (and maybe they are and we just don’t know it yet.)

I think it’s awesome that a woman is holding such a high position in a company such as Yahoo. She’s paving the way for our daughters. But you left out a crucial part to this story. She had a nursery built into her office. Every working mother can identify with the “guilt” associated with having to be away from our children all day, every day. I feel like she pulled a “do as I say, not as I do” on her employees and that’s just not cool. And yes, I saw your above comment regarding her workload as CEO which I completely understand but just as you are posing to the other employees “if you don’t want to come in, someone else will”, perhaps her position should be viewed in the same light. I know plenty of working parents who work 16 hours a day outside of the home, there’s no reason for her to be the exception to that rule.

Overall, I definitely don’t think she has it “out” for working moms everywhere and she did what she felt was best (there’s a reason none of us are CEO of Yahoo!) and maybe she’s right. I guess time will tell.

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I agree with you.

But I think that in coming into a company to revamp it & lose dead weight, it’s an excellent choice.

I’ll be interested to see how the ruling alters in a few years if Yahoo! success rises.

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Jess March 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I think it’s awesome. If she’s doing it, so can everyone else. People often get spoiled (myself included) and change sucks, but I can’t imagine that working at Yahoo sucks so I’d just grin and bear it and be thankful I work at Yahoo. For realz.

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Katie March 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm

ehhh. This is so hard for me! I work from home. It is HARD. It is awfully hard (as you know). I don’t really know the details of how this went down, but now I’m intrigued to hear more. For me, my working from home is based on production of what I do. Not necessarily “hours” of time. So if my work is done, great. If it’s done from the hours of 9pm-1am because that’s when my kids are asleep? So be it. I know not every work-at-home can be that way. Although I’m expected to be available via email as much as possible, and also go in weekly for a face-to-face. I don’t know. I just don’t like harshness towards work at home mom’s…being one, I just, obviously feel for that situation. It isn’t a cake walk.

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Jenny March 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Yeah, but then she turns around and builds a nursery in the office so she can bring her two week old in. Is she being 100% productive with her kid 10 feet away? Does everyone else get to have their tiny tots nearby so they can spend more than 90 minutes (based on getting home at 5:30 pm and putting kids to bed at 7 pm each night) with their working parents each day?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2284828/Yahoo-boss-Marissa-Mayer-angers-employees-building-nursery-baby-office.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Yes, she built a nursery but her hours as CEO are completely disproportionate to the hours of “regular” workers. I would wager (based on the CEO’s I’ve had experience working with) that Ms. Mayer’s work day does not end at 5:30pm.

I asked Doug about this & he agreed – that while he’d be incredibly proud of me being the CEO of Yahoo! at 37, if we had a newborn baby, we’d find a way at our expense to make sure I got to see him a few hours a day when I’d be (more than likely) working an insane amount of hours.

I’d be interested if they started talking about the hours Ms. Mayer works. Because if she’s logging 16-20 hours per day, then I firmly believe the perk of building a nursery (at her own expense) is fine.

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Stephanie March 1, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I don’t hold it against her. I’ve been working virtually for almost 4 years. I have a 2 year old who goes to daycare while I work. I don’t work virtually by choice. My husband is in the military and we move every 2-4 years. I was lucky enough to have a job that could be done at home. But I would 100% prefer to be in the office. If one day they give me that ultimatum to come into the office or leave, I’ll sadly have to say goodbye. But this “virtual” job I have is a luxury and I don’t expect it to last forever.

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betsybug March 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I’m the HR Director for a mid-size company, and even given the boost to employee engagement that WFH would bring to my employees, I am not for it for the company, for a few reasons. (And, since I’m a reader of this blog, yes, I have a child, and no, I don’t make the exception for myself, and yes, there are times I think it would have really come in handy.)

1) Culturally, this model is not a fit for optimal productivity. Those few folks who have tried it have not had the level of productive performance results of their in-office peers. People sign up for it thinking of all of the positives, without all of the extra set up and effort, and when the results were not delivered, WFH was the new variable, and how disengaging to have to end the arrangement.

2) The communication piece BA talks about is not only the daily instruction and conversation about getting deliverables done, it’s the very importance communication of setting and reinforcing position/performance expectations. Managers are just as much the problem, because they THINK they do this well, and I regularly mediate issues when everyone is IN the office. Even with coaching, formal training, cheat sheets, and other resources, many of the company’s managers do not take the right amount of time to communicate and reinforce expectations even for people working at the office. I have no doubt the commenters above say it works for them is because they commit a lot of time and effort to meet standards and deliver on expectations. It’s not the norm.

3) Depending on where you work – remember, Yahoo! is a California-based company – WFH can mean a massive legal and financial liability for a company. In CA, hourly employees earn overtime for hours over 40 in a week AND/or 8 hours in a day. The potential wage-hour claims for poor WFH program management can be catastrophic for a company. In this state, until the regulations are modified to acknowledge a technology-driven, service-based economy (and we’re a huge Ag producer, so I doubt it will happen this decade), state wage orders and work rules are stricter than federal law, and WFH is a sticky wicket.

4) That doesn’t include the Worker’s Comp liability. I worked at a company (defunct due to ethical issues, think back to the early 2000s) where I had WFH employees who filed WC claims for burns and other injuries suffered in their home. Legit? Very possibly, but there’s much less grey area when the injury/incident occurred at a work location.

Does this make me the wet blanket? Sorry, but when it was announced, I totally understood it from the business/legal/financial side of it, but the hit to their talent will also be a factor. I mean, on the flip, if she didn’t do something drastic, would it even be around anymore in a year?

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Beth Anne March 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I want to stand up & clap. You just won the internet today.

& HOLY CATS on California’s overtime. For real?? Now I can see Mayer’s move even more.

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Alexis March 2, 2013 at 12:37 am

you just won the internet lolololol

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Kitty March 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I actually disagree with many of your points as I think telecommutting depends on the person and the type of job. I work soley from home and I’m a great contractor. If I was in an office I would still be calling/emailing most of my work and people I work with plus working from home saves my companys lots of money. I dont take advantage of the system and I bill what I work and do an excellent job. Yes, everyone is not like me, but managers should be able to identify an employee who is not mature enough to work from home and make them an in office employee or if their position is suitable for working from home not make it a work from home position. Just my opinion but I do also get what she’s trying to do. I think it shouldn’t have been an across the company decision but maybe on an individual basis which I realize may not seem fair but hard work and dedication should be rewarded. Also, how does her “nursery within her office” work if she’s trying to improve relationships and eliminate distractions?

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Lindsay March 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I’m sorry, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that she’s making that much money. WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THAT MUCH MONEY?! Ok, I just did the calculation – my husband and I (both work full time, granted I’m a grad student) make 0.22% of her salary alone. That makes me feel really awesome. I’m so glad I’m spending AN ETERNITY to get this PhD so that maybe I can make, like what, 0.46% of her salary. Oh a girl can dream!

But seriously, I feel like the fact that she makes THAT much money is putting her out of touch with real working families. I drive a total of 2 hours everyday taking/picking my son up from the babysitter and driving to and from work. I drive that far because we can’t afford daycare and I’d rather use someone we know and trust than find someone random off craiglist. Working from home on Fridays is awesome because I don’t have to wake up at 4:45 am and spend 2 hours in the car. Plus we save money so we can buy groceries! Something tells me she’s not facing the same issues…

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Alexis March 2, 2013 at 12:40 am

I didn’t read anything about this story other than your post here(I haven’t watched the news in about 5 months, I watch sesame street) but I feel like if she has been brought in to improve the company… she came in and evaluated and found this to be an important move… isn’t that enough? If it doesn’t work, well that’s okay… but I assume she didn’t do it with ill intent. Solely for the greater good.

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Caragh March 2, 2013 at 2:45 am

I’m a hug fan of your blog.. Have been for years.
I also completely agree with your post in that he has done the right thing.

But aren’t you taking advantage your employer right now while you have responded to comments throughout the last few days durin business hours and on their time?

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Beth Anne March 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Hey, Caragh! I respond to comments either on my lunch break (which sometimes I break up throughout the day…like, 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there rather than a solid hour) or while waiting for content. My company has a very loose internet policy & I tend to hang out on my blog rather than YouTube or CNN :)

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Nikki March 2, 2013 at 7:28 am

I was on the verge of quitting my Tech management job following the birth of my first son. travel, long hours, and commuting stress was too much aside from feeling like I missed my baby all the time! I was lucky enough that my boss offered me another position that was hourly with WFH hours. One day in the office and the remainder from home. I personally got more done on the days that I was home. I felt that I needed to prove how much I was working. Unfortunately, my other co workers saw this flex schedule and felt entitled to the same. They had not proven their work ethic but if one person on the team has the option they felt entitled to it as well. One employee not only had a second job but also a child in the home with no child care! Another had just the child home with no care and used nearly one sick day a week. The fourth team member was the other end of the spectrum and over worked often working till 10pm most nights. The issue? We had no way to prove the double worker and when she requested a full time work from home position, we denied it. She stopped showing up to work, handed in her resignation, and proceeded to file a claim for unlawful termination! What??? In my experience, it worked for half but it’s really hard to allow some people to have this benefit and not others!

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Beth Anne March 2, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Nikki, that is an awesome point. It works for some, not for others, but how do you offer it to one person & not the other? Great food for thought.

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Ali March 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

I respectfully disagree, for many of the reasons cited above. Here’s the thing though: your generalizations of employees who work from home seem unfair. They are no more fair than generalizations of working mothers (who others say miss work for too many sick days, don’t put in enough hours, etc.). As an employee who is both a working mother and works from home approximately 50%, I have to say that those generalizations just aren’t true. I think the key to avoiding those problems is working in an environment with high accountability–I have so much on my plate, I can’t afford to goof off, or split time with another job, or half watch the kids while also doing job.

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Missy March 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I WFH full time as a salaried manager for a mid-size healthcare corporation; I’ve actually WFH for the last 10 years. WFH is not for everyone, but the generalization that employees who work from home are more distracted, less effective or require more supervision than the average employee is very inaccurate, at least in my experience. I routinely work 12-14 hour days; I put in my 9 hours during regular business hours, and I usually put in a few additional hours in the evenings after my daughter has gone to bed. Sometimes I am envious of people who work in an office, because I imagine they are able to completely “turn off” work in a way that I cannot. My office is in my home so I am constantly popping in to check emails or tackle items on my to-do list, whether that’s on my way to bed at midnight or after breakfast on Sunday morning. While my employer supports the WFH program, they also have high expectations for productivity and accountability; my workload is incredibly high, but I am able to deliver because I have some flexibility as to when I put in the hours (i.e., nights and weekends). I could not/would not put in as many hours or be so amenable to taking on additional projects if I had to do it from an office.

I look at WFH as a privilege, not a right, and I don’t abuse that privilege. I may occasionally schedule a service visit from the cable guy during office hours, but if a coworker requested my attendance at a meeting during that same time, I’d reschedule the cable guy, not the meeting. Work is always the priority. My child goes to a babysitter during the week and has since she was an infant. I think the key to WFH is to treat it as though you’re going to an office – get dressed every day, have a separate office space, and limit non-work related activities during the day. I am sure there are people out there who would abuse a WFH situation, but someone in an office might spend the same 30 minutes I spend with the cable guy on an extended lunch break or even just BSing with a coworker in the next cubicle.

I know very little about Marissa Mayer or the culture at Yahoo, so perhaps removing the WFH program is critical at this particular juncture in the company. Only time will tell if that was a successful maneuver on her part. But I do think she is undercutting her own message by installing the on-site nursery; like the commenter above, I think it comes across as a little “do as I say, not as I do.” Sure she works long hours, but so do a lot of other non-CEOs (probably many who will be working side by side with her) without the means or opportunity to have an on-site nursery.

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jacquelyn March 2, 2013 at 11:08 pm

well said. I completely agree. this is definitely one of my all time favorite posts you have published. soooooooo good :)

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Alena March 3, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I think my major major major problem with this whole thing is that she is basically laying off employees who have been hired out of state to work telecommuting jobs for their TALENT. With out actually laying them off so there are no severance packages/unemployment benefits. It’s a purely business move, and she’s a business women so I doubt she cares what I think. But she’s not just saying “if you want this job you’ll make it happen”, she’s saying “if you want this job you’ll move your family x hours away even though you were hired for this position as a telecommuting position” Forcing people in to a difficult and maybe even impossible situation that will save the company money from laying off people because she’ll force them to quit instead. It’s a pretty gross business move IMO. If they were all local employees, I wouldn’t have an issue. I just think that this was a calculated decision that will hurt many families.

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newmomintheburbs March 5, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I will say kudos to Ms. Mayer for taking this step. I am a full time working mom of a 2.5 year old toddler and as much as I love staying at home and cuddling with my child on weekends (and sick days – which are not fun – duh!) as an employee I know I’m NOT giving my 100% when I do work at home (on said sick days!) and my team does NOT function the way they do when we are all in the same office. A lot of ex-yahoo! employees wrote to her and congratulated her on her decision to stop telecommuting. Back in the day when it was allowed apparently Yahoo! was the best place to launch your own start up. When I had just graduated I remember interviewing with them (from 11PM to 12:30AM EST no less) because the interviewee was on the West Coast and working from home – and despite being offered the job their work ethic was not for me! In any case whatever she does undergoes tremendous speculation – 1. Because she is a woman (and looks like one) and 2. Because she is young. As a younger working mom in my company (younger because even though I am in my early thirties the average age is about 52, and we have about 5% of women in the organization) I know a lot of people think I have it easy and are quick to criticize my decisions and are not always on board to help out and that’s fine by me because people can judge all they like – the results will speak for themselves – and it looks the same with Ms. Mayer – everyone got their knickers in a twist when she said motherhood is easy and looks like every pivotal decision she makes will be met with equal criticism but I congratulate her for doing what she does best!

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