Earlier today I was listening to the Doug Banks Radio Show. The question of the day was about Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO, announcing to the company that as of June 1, 2013 no one will be allowed to work from home. As you can imagine in this day and age this has created quite an uproar. Caller’s thoughts mostly agreed with what I am seeing on social media – she made a bad move.
You may remember the name because she made headlines in the summer of 2012 when she took the job. You see, she was 5 months pregnant at the time. With that action she was seen as a strong woman who demonstrated that even when pregnant, women had power in the workplace. However, she also raised some eyebrows by announcing that she would take only a two week maternity leave. Ok… is she a superwoman? Are the rest of us made to feel inferior because we took our full six weeks or more? Umm… no. And what does her latest action of banning working from home show?
Some say that it is a bad move. I agree. CEOs… especially a CEO that is a mother to a very young child should embrace the modern changes of the workplace and realize that you do not have to physically be IN an office to get work done. If your job mostly involves replying to emails, messaging, social media, or even conference calls… with the internet, a smartphone, a laptop, a desk, etc. at our fingertips, we should be able to work from anywhere, right?
Some may applaud her action. There are some people that make working at home look bad. Some slack off. Some do not answer calls. Some take naps. Some pretend to be working from home when they are really shopping. But, should we let the actions of a few ruin it for everyone?
I personally think that being allowed to work from home, even one day a week, makes for a healthier, happier employee. This is especially true if you have a long commute. For many years when I worked 9-5 I was allowed to work from home one day a week. We were required to be online, at our desk, signed into IM, and replying to emails in a timely manner. And all calls had to be returned within one hour. That seemed very reasonable in exchange for not having to drive in to the office. It is very common living in the Chicago area to have a commute of 1 hour, (sometimes more). Many employees live in suburban areas, and driving into the city can be a true test in stress and patience… and avoiding road rage! It was very common to come in the office and pass by grumpy coworkers who had sat in traffic for way too long. The water cooler chat was sometimes filled with complaints. We all felt the pain. And the pain of that commute can very well carry over into morning activities. And here in Chicago add snow to the mix and you could double that commute.
When working from home we could maybe get a little extra sleep in the morning, have some coffee BEFORE we are forced to chat with anyone, and even work in our jammies. This all makes for a much better mood when logging in at 9:00. And all of this goes for men and women. Men are just as grateful as women who are moms to be able to save on gas money and commute time, and even spend a day or two home watching the kids while working. In this economy working from home just one day a week could actually make a big difference in our income. We save on gas, car wear and tear, possibly parking fees, other commuter fees, buying outside lunch, and maybe even daycare fees if we pay by the day.
The standard that Marisa has set has the potential to reflect very badly on other parents in the workforce. A boss may be thinking “Well if that Yahoo lady can do it, why can’t you?” or “If she only needed 2 weeks of maternity leave, why do you need 6 weeks?” or “Other peer companies do not have a work from home program, why should we?” The truth is that every company is different. Every employee’s situation is different. Everyone’s commute is different. And while yes… there should be standards set across the board for all employees, if you act like Marissa Mayer and decide to toughen up your rules and eliminate programs like working from home, you may just be unknowingly (or knowingly) alienating a certain type of employee. This type of employee is most likely the parent.
What are your thoughts on being allowed to work from home? What do you think about her decision?
UPDATE: And this one really stings me in the eye… I was just told that Mayer paid to have a nursery built IN her Yahoo office so that her son and nanny can be there with her all day. What are the chances that other employees will be able to bring their children to work?