Wednesday Opinions: Marissa Mayer’s Work-From-Home Ban Is The Exact Opposite Of What CEOs Should Be Doing

By Lisa Belkin @ Huffington Post
Marissa Mayer/Guardian
What others see as the future of
the workplace, and what parents see as a most important tool for juggling home
and work, Marissa Mayer apparently sees as disposable.
The CEO of Yahoo!, who made news
when she took the position last summer while five months pregnant,announced
through the company’s human resources arm yesterday that employees will no
longer be permitted to work remotely.
“Speed and quality are often
sacrificed when we work from home,” says the memo from HR director Jackie
Reses, and reprinted by Kara Swisher on allthingsd.com last night. “We
need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
No. It doesn’t.
It did 40 years ago, when work
and home were separate realms and workers had the luxury of taking care of one
at a time. More accurately, men had the ability to take care of work because
they knew that women had it covered at home.
It did 20 years ago, when the
tools of work were all in the office — all the files and paperwork; the office
phone, with the office number, and the cord that didn’t reach beyond the
cubicle wall.
It did before there were studies
showing that flexibility improves worker productivity, and morale andhealth.
I had hope for Marissa Mayer. I’d
thought that while she was breaking some barriers — becoming theyoungest woman
CEO ever lead a Fortune 500 company, and certainly the first to do it while
pregnant — she might take on the challenge of breaking a number of others.
That she’d use her platform and her power to make Yahoo! an example of a modern
family-friendly workplace. That she would embrace the thinking that new tools
and technology deserve an equally new approach to where and how employees are
allowed to work.
Instead she began by announcing
that she would take just a two week maternity leave, which might have been all
she needed, but which sent the message that this kind of
macho-never-slowed-down-by-the-pesky-realities-of-life-outside-the-office was
expected of everyone.
And now there’s this. Rather than
championing a blending of life and work , she is calling for an enforced and
antiquated division. She is telling workers — many of whom were hired with the
assurance that they could work remotely — that they’d best get their bottoms
into their office chairs, or else.
Yes, there are some jobs that can
not be done remotely. But a case by case approach, identifying not only which
positions CAN be flexible, but also having managers work with employees on a
clear plan of what’s expected from those positions, makes far more sense than a
blanket ban. Instead, Yahoo! is cracking down not only on those who work from
home full-time, or those who need flexibility because they are parents;
everyone is being warned that their lives don’t matter.
“For the rest of us who
occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy,” Reses writes,
“please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.”
I’d argue that it’s Mayer and
Yahoo! who need to use their best judgment, and, in the spirit of collaboration
should come to exactly the opposite conclusion. Putting employees back into a
box is not good for Yahoo!. It is not good for workers. And it is very bad
business.