Sometime in the past few weeks, Marissa Mayer, the current pres of Yahoo decided to yank the option for Yahoo employees to work from home. Return to the office, she essentially said, or go work for someone else.
I, like many people, thought it was a ludicrous decision and I’ve been inwardly ragey at Marissa Mayer since, even though I do not (nor do I plan to ever) work for Yahoo.
The resulting dialogue of her decision has gotten all feminist-like and working moms like and family values-ish. I guess that is only natural – and Mayer herself probably didn’t help that perception at all by taking that wicked-fast maternity leave (to each their own, but two weeks? I breezed through pregnancy and delivery and even the hardiest women will experience some shifting as the hormones regulate post pregnancy. Trust me when I say that no one needed to be around me two weeks after I had kids. And frankly, two weeks postpartum? My babies needed me more than any office did.)
But I digress (but clearly, with that side rant, you can see how the conversation goes this way).
The arguments I’m hearing keep centering on work-life balance, parenthood, working moms.
But that’s not why I disagree with Marissa Mayer.
Because you see, I think that the empty nester or the young college graduate who doesn’t have kids yet, they might want to work from home also. And it’s not necessarily about family, but about productivity and about what makes sense for their jobs. It’s about what makes sense for their personality and work style. It’s about what makes sense and what agreements are made between manager and team member.
I worked remotely for six years following the birth of my youngest daughter – and they way it happened was a flukey weird bizarro thing, yes – but for six years, I thrived, working from a home office. Yes, I was able to work around my family. Yes, I could work a big chunk during the days and then pick up to finish my day once children were tucked in at night. I’m an introvert – I didn’t mind that I wasn’t in a bustling office filled with coworkers (in fact, I’m inherently more productive working from home – even with all the distractions that being home affords me).
As a parent, working from home did benefit me. I was able to save money in childcare, I was able to be more present in the day to day events for both of my daughters.
But make no mistake, my employer benefitted too.
A company relocation out of state is what rendered the telecommuting situation necessary – and by keeping me on board rather than hiring someone new at the new location, they didn’t experience any lag in service because I was able to keep doing the work. Given that the job focused around websites and digital communications, it lent itself to a remote work style. My employer didn’t have overhead for me – sure, I used a company provided laptop but that was pretty much it.
For the type of work and for the type of employee I am, it made sense. It was a mutually beneficial agreement that served me well and served my employer well.
It was definitely win-win.
And this is where I think Marissa Mayer screwed up.
This blanket “NO REMOTE WORK” policy changes the work situation for a lot of employees. I’m not sure how many people started work at Yahoo with the condition of working from home, but if I were those people? I’d be peeved.
There are indeed people who would take advantage of a telecommuting job situation – those people shouldn’t be allowed to do so. It’s up to the employee and manager to discuss expectations and it’s up to the management to determine that objectives are being met and that the arrangement remains mutually beneficial. When it comes down to the bottom line, HELL YES, Yahoo (and any other organizations) should want the most bang for their buck – they should want to know that their employees are giving it their all, that they’re not loafing on the couch watching a marathon of Friday Night Lights on Netflix.
But – rather than rule it out for everyone, I believe they should assess each situation on a case-by-case basis. Let each manager work with their telecommuting employee and set goals and objectives. Let that manager gauge each individual situation. Adjust as needed.
As a remote worker, I worked harder than I ever have in my life – because I felt I was battling this stereotype that I was at home being lazy. I worked hard to constantly keep myself visible, present and prove that I was still there and I was pulling my weight, even if I was doing so while wearing pajamas and fuzzy slippers.
Mayer argues that the change is about communication and collaboration. At any given moment, I can think of a handful of methods that can be used to contact me – including but not limited to: Skype, email, text/iMessage, phone, gChat, FaceTime. Documents can be scanned. They can be emailed. I can throw them in Dropbox. There are apps that can be used. Basecamp is also great.
I have had better collaborative work relationships in some cases with people across the country that I’ve never even met than with people I passed in the halls daily. Distance never hampered communication or the ability to collaborate.
I don’t think the focus on working parents belongs here – though I am certain that many work-from-home parents were negatively impacted by the decision at Yahoo. I think the discussion, instead, should center on employee satisfaction and productivity and how people don’t necessarily thrive in cookie cutter situations. Happy employees are more productive, plain and simple. Employers shouldn’t shut those avenues down completely if they can help it.
With any organization, there are jobs that don’t lend themselves to a work-from-home situation. That could well be the case at Yahoo. But by putting the kibosh on all at-home work situations, Marissa Mayer scored a big thumbs down in my book. I imagine she has quite a few unhappy employees, and I realllllly don’t blame them.