COMMENTARY | I was surprised that Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo instituted a no-work-at-home policy, although not surprised by the outrage and debate that followed. As a fellow member of Generation X, I have witnessed what I believe was a positive evolution from the claustrophobic office cubicle to the wide open world of telecommuting.
During my media career, I’ve had both the experience of working as a freelancer exclusively at home and working full-time in an office. I’ve also been employed with some flexibility to telecommute. When I’m caged in an office, my productively plummets and I lose my ability to concentrate and create. Companies save a lot of money by encouraging the remote office lifestyle.
Although I’m not a Yahoo employee, I was disappointed in Mayer as a professional woman in the work world.
Being less of a micromanager
I know how telecommuting improves my own work, but I’ve also seen it work wonders for people I’ve supervised in the past. When I worked as a supervisor in an office setting, I realized most of my staff members were more creative and productive when I didn’t micromanage. Giving employees flexibility meant they brought their best to the metaphorical “table,” that is now the laptop or other portable electronic device.
Chasing away the best and brightest
According to a recent article by CNNMoney, some critics believe the move to discourage telecommuting will chase away talented employees. It’s just demoralizing to think they would take a giant step backwards. It’s professionally demeaning to be asked to return to the office. It’s almost comical in the sense that there is an entire sitcom series, “The Office,” that pokes fun at the lack of productivity that occurs in an office setting.
Bringing back the latch-key kids
It’s interesting to me that a woman opposes telecommuting since women in the workplace have been fighting for more flexibility so they can balance their roles as parents and their roles as employees. Shouldn’t female executives help women in the workplace, not bring them down? Many of the members of my Generation X were the “latch-key” kids of the 1980’s whose parents left them home to fend for themselves while they worked late at the office.
Throwing out the baby and the bathwater
Instead of making everyone come back to the office, Mayer could have set up mandatory monthly or weekly meetings. If Mayer wants to improve Yahoo, she should start by improving the morale, not destroying it.
At this point, Mayer should simply relax the policy before she goes down in the history books as being the most sexist CEO despite being, as one Business Insider article points out, the first woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company while pregnant. I don’t blame the “mommy bloggers” for tearing Mayer apart for dismantling the remote work culture.
I grew up in the 1980’s when women felt they had to prove they were as good as men and close the wage gap. Now days, women don’t need to wear shoulder pads and mannish suits or lower their voices so they sound more credible when they talk. More men are working at home and participating in the family. Instead of having clandestine office affairs, work-at-home employees more likely hook up with their spouses. When my husband works out of a home office he takes a more active role with our family dog and doing household chores. Many of us now had what we wanted: balance. Mayer’s policy sets us back by 30 years.
It’s nice to hear Richard Branson, the Virgin Group CEO, say he gives people the freedom to work where they want, whether it’s at a desk or in their kitchen. But I would have liked to have heard that from a woman.
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More from this contributor:
When Telecommuting Works Best
Less Vacation is the New Normal
Preparing for a New Recession