Telecommuting banned for Yahoo employees


On Feb. 22, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer released a memo banning employees from telecommuting.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appearing on NBC News' Today Show. Mayer released a company-wide memo banning telecommuting to work. (AP photo)
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appearing on NBC News’ Today Show. Mayer released a company-wide memo banning telecommuting to work. (AP photo)

Newsday reported the 37-year-old new mother was hailed last year for taking the reigns at Yahoo and being a CEO who knows the challenges of being a parent and working:

It’s more than simply ironic that this decision was made by a 30-something female who was hired to turn around the once-giant tech company. Mayer was six months’ pregnant when she started work and was widely expected to be family-friendly, instead of decidedly family-unfriendly.

The backlash and controversy over the decision has spread over the internet like wildfire since the announcement. Agreeably those most affected by the telecommuting ban are working mothers:

The top benefit from telecommuting, however, is how family-friendly it is. It frees parents whose kids need only limited supervision to work and simultaneously be there for their children if an emergency occurs, instead of having to hire someone else to do so. It can often give parents the flexibility to do some or all of their work at times that best fit their schedule.

Moms are up in arms over the new ban. They’re trying to raise families and provide for them, not just financially, but they also want to be there for their families and nurture their children. Tracy Grant, columnist for The Washington Post, agrees:

…why should we give a third of our day (or more) every weekday to colleagues, instead of to our family? If body language matters, why shouldn’t employees give their children the in-person communication – and all the benefits it includes – instead of their co-workers? If impromptu conversations are vital to fostering relationships and trust, shouldn’t parents and children be having them throughout the day? reported Mayer’s fall from grace from the expecting mother who became CEO, to skipping her maternity leave, to placing the ban:

Mayer quickly went from role model to earning the wrath of women the world over when she skipped her maternity leave, taking only two weeks off after giving birth to a son in September.

Mayer’s solution to her own problem? She built, with her own money, a nursery next to her office.

“You can hear the howls of hypocrisy,” writes Scott Colby. “That’s what $117 million can buy you.”

Hypocrisy indeed, but not from Mayer. Colby continues:

There are only 21 women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. That’s only about 4 per cent. It’s hard enough for women to get the job in the first place, let alone mothers.

Let’s turn this around. What if a male CEO had just become a father and built a nursery next to his office. The guy would be hailed as Dad of the Year, no?

Yahoo does have child care programs for their employees; however, telecommuting from home is easier for a parents to take care of their kids. Right now though, Yahoo needs its workers under one roof being productive. If not, there might not be a Yahoo at all.

Marissa Mayer intoduces Yahoo's website's redesign on the Today Show. (AP photo)
Marissa Mayer intoduces Yahoo’s website’s redesign on the Today Show. (AP photo)

Working from home diminishes the quality of work. The collaboration between employees and their mangers is not there, and that’s what Yahoo needs “right now” as the memo states. Right now employees need to be at their desks.

Grant agrees work quality suffers with so many workers at home, and defends Mayer against the claims that she “betrayed the sisterhood” by forcing moms to go to work and be away from their kids.

Mayer made an unpopular decision that she clearly thought was in the best interest of her company’s long-term health (and by extension, the long-term employment of her workers). She didn’t betray women by making the right decision for her company. Being able to realize that is what real sisterhood is about.

It’s an unpopular decision with many moms and single parents, but it has also been hailed by many. Many Yahoo employees abuse their current work-from-home status, and Mayer needs her employees to be more effective. This means they are at work and they are actually working.

Harvard Business Review‘s Michael Schrage writes:

I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood, Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo‘s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her own conclusions about who’s creating real value — and how — in her company. She knows who her best people are.

MarketWatch commends Mayer for taking control of the company and instating the telecommuting ban:

If anything, Mayer should be commended for wanting to be an active CEO and an active mother. In an era where we desperately want and need more women in corporate leadership roles, we should be applauding new and creative ways that women executives are trying to tear down obstacles that might prevent their rise to the top.

The ban is for “right now,” and many believe it will be lifted when productivity rises and Yahoo is back to its former glory.

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