February 27 2013
by Meredith Turtis
In a memo sent to Yahoo! staff Friday, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer outlawed working from home. The news has since gotten many wondering if Mayer is being unfair to female employees, who may be hurt most by the lack of flexibility. Others say Mayer is just doing her job to strengthen the company.
Here's the a statement released to employees on Friday, from head of Human Resources Jackie Reses:
To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
So, what's the verdict? Of course, it isn't crystal clear, and there's merit to both sides of the question.
At The Jane Dough, Meredith Lepore writes that there's inherent hypocrisy in Mayer's declaration; she has a nursery in her office, being able to bring her child to work, thus making an exception for herself. "On the heels of her announcement that telecommuting employees will no longer be able to work from home, this might be a bitter pill for her colleagues to swallow," Lepore writes. "After all, until everyone has a nursery in their office, leaving kids behind to head into Yahoo! every day might be hard for many less high profile employees."
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, responded in a press release, saying it was unfair to "pile on Mayer," as she was just responding to the needs of her workplace. "As a manager, working remotely poses the challenge of making sure employees are working when they say they are, and that I'm [sic] providing the kind of oversight and assistance to staff that's required to keep an organization running... It’s important to emphasize that every employer will have to determine how best to run his or her individual business."
In USA Today, Joanne Bamberger writes that Mayer is "selling guilt" in the not-so-friendly 2013 workplace for working moms. "The message coming from these C-suite moms [Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg] is less about empowerment and accountability than it is about guilt. Guilt for women wanting to work remotely in order to manage their lives and provide for their families. Guilt for not acting with more ambition. Guilt for daring to put their children and spouses on equal footing with their careers."
Slate's Katie Roiphe says, "Those up in arms about Mayer’s disrespect for 'the work-life balance' should consider this possibility: 'The work-life balance' might be best served by keeping work at work. By trying to pursue that tiny sliver of a chance of keeping the office and the thousands of meaningless work details and memos and preoccupations out of your home.
OK, that's a lot to take in, I realize, but there are strong, thoughtful arguments on each side. Do you think Mayer is creating or perpetuating an an anti-mom or anti-woman culture at Yahoo!, or do you think she's just doing her job as CEO?