Yahoo’s youngest CEO and new mom, Marissa Mayer decided last week to discontinue all remote positions and eliminate flex time for employees. Not only will all remote positions be eliminated, but even employees who have a flex schedule – allowing them to work from home one or two days a week – will no longer be allowed to do so.
As a full-time remote employee – thankfully not for Yahoo - this felt like another blow by a working mom who has the power to pave the way for the rest of us. I guess I should have realized that she wasn’t going to be helping most working mom’s plight with her two-week maternity leave, but I have to admit that I still held out hope.
Some are arguing that Mayer is making the right decision and that Yahoo’s remote employees were milking the company. I’ll be the first to admit that my typical day doesn’t look like it would if I worked in an office but there are certain requirements and expectations that are required as part of my contract. While I am sure there are some people that take advantage of the flexibility — there are others who do the work – and do it well. Instead of banning telecommuting entirely, couldn’t Mayer and her staff worked to identify those for whom it wasn’t working?
It takes a certain type of person to work from home. One must be self-motivated and able to beat the constant temptations of the internet and procrastination to be effective. It isn’t for everyone. But for some – myself included – it’s a Godsend. Not only am I able to be available at the drop of a hat for my children, but I’m also able to have a career – a lucrative one at that. I actually work harder now than I did when I taught full-time at a brick and mortar high school. The challenges are totally different — but as far as actual work produced, classes taught, and papers graded — working online has allowed me to nearly triple my output.
Working from home definitely isn’t all sunshine and roses — there are many negatives — including isolation, lack of vacation, weekend hours, and being attached to a cellphone. But there is also unprecedented efficiency, limited distractions, and the ability to work flexible/off-kilter hours. And the biggest perk — flexibility for my children. Which Mayer must understand at least a bit — especially considering she had a nursery built in her office.
While I am all for women making strides in the workplace, once you have a child (or three), there is no doubt that life is different. There are different needs that must be met. Different requirements for your day-to-day life. For example, on Tuesday, I received a text message from the school at 11 am saying that they were releasing for the day at 12:30 due to snow. If I was working in a traditional setting this would throw my entire world into a tailspin — but for me, it just meant an extra two hours with my kids and working more on Tuesday evening once their dad arrived home and they were in bed.
To successfully balance the craziness of being invested in one’s career and a parent, there has to be at least some flexibility. It’s the age of the Internet. Telecommuting and networking remotely are part of the career landscape. More and more companies are seeing this and acting on it. Why Mayer and the Yahoo Corporation are taking a step backwards truly baffles me.
Homepage photo via Giorgio Montersino on Flickr