Once again, Marissa Mayer disappoints me. Yahoo just announced that employees would no longer be permitted to work from home as of June.
This signals a major step backwards for working parents. If a typical male technology CEO made this decision, there would be outrage, of course. But to come from a new mother who is a CEO? It feels like a sucker punch – and hardly believable. Yet there it is.
There are many industries where you must be at work in person, but technology is not one of them. As a marketing consultant to an international software company, I have worked both remotely and in the office. There are definitely professional and social benefits to being in the office, but I have found that the physical location of my workspace does not affect my productivity or creativity.
Today, I work exclusively from home. I use my time efficiently, and more so than when I went to an office every day. My nanny watches my three-year old daughter while I work from a quiet room. I use conference calls, video conferencing, and email to work with colleagues all over the globe, because hardly any of my coworkers are concentrated in one location. When we need to meet in person, we travel to our home office or meet in a large city.
And while I may grouse about the typical small things of daily work life, the truth is that I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to be able to work without worrying about my child. I am a better, more focused, more productive employee for it. I can contribute to the economy and be a good parent. This is not about waiting for the cable guy. I actually get annoyed with the cable guy, because he interrupts my work day. But let’s be honest – the chatty gal on her phone in the next cube also interrupts my work day.
If Ms. Mayer believes that Yahoo has been too permissive and that she has to shake up the culture to get the engines of growth and creativity revving, surely there are more effective ways to do it. If the company does have that many human dust bunnies working from home, it sounds like there are serious cultural and managerial problems at Yahoo that won’t be solved with this blunt instrument.
I fail to see how forced face time will create accountability and engender the fresh energy she wants to bubble up and transform Yahoo. In fact, it has a high probability of backfiring, with resentful, angry employees who find subtle and clever ways to sabotage this new policy. She’ll lose a lot of the fat she doesn’t have the guts to fire, but she’s going to lose a lot of good people who have weathered the storms at Yahoo so far.
Yahoo is a behemoth, and it will take big decisions to start turning the ship. I understand that. But I can’t help but question the wisdom of this move. In the short term, it earns her marks for boldness as a new CEO. Wall Street is probably high fiving right now.
But at the end of the day, she still has to convince me that she is a visionary business leader who understands that creativity can’t be clustered in a cubicle from eight to six daily.
She has convinced me, however, that working parents should not expect any trailblazing from her, and in fact, she is going to fill in the path behind her.