The blogs are buzzing with news about an internal memo announcing changes to the work-from-home policies at Yahoo!, a tech company that has seen more ink dedicated to its CEO than its products in the last year. The gist of the memo is this: all telecommuters must report to Yahoo! offices by June, or quit. The gist of the response in my news and social media feeds: CEO Marissa Mayer is setting back women. Personally, I have more problems with the criticism of the policy than I do with the mandate itself.
Marissa Mayer is not the poster woman for working moms, because we don’t need one.
With more than half of moms with young children having jobs, we should be past the point of needing a token female CEO, and yet every move Mayer makes is judged through the lens of her representing working mothers. As CEO of Yahoo!, Mayer’s job description includes making the company profitable, not playing champion to all working parents. Insisting that she be squeezed into that role implies that all women should be measured be the same ruler, which does more to set back women than any one mom’s shortened maternity leave ever could.
Similarly, people who take advantage of flexible work environments do far more to hurt my chances of continuing to work remotely than a CEO who demands accountability from them.
One source has said that the call to bring employees back to the office was issued to smoke out unproductive telecommuters. Apparently, a "bloated infrastructure" has allowed many employees to coast under the radar to the point that "nobody knew they were still at Yahoo."
As someone who hasn’t seen the inside of a cubicle in years, that doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes I swear no one would notice if I stopped working for weeks, and it’s tempting to let the quality of your work drop when no one is looking. Of course, a good manager will notice and will quickly reach out via email and phone to remind you that, "yeah, you’re still getting paid for this."
Does that mean Yahoo!’s work-from-home folks are being punished for bad management? Partly. But they’re also paying the price for having co-workers with horrible work ethic. Those work-from-home slackers are more deserving of ire than the CEO whose job it is to turn things around. And while Mayer could have taken a less sweeping approach, she isn’t beholden to the most family-friendly route simply because she happens to take a uterus to work with her.
I am more than my productivity numbers.
I find it horribly ironic that the same people screaming to be treated as whole people with families and lives outside of work are also insisting that they be judged purely by their productivity on the job. The original HR memo indicated that the energy of an office and the collaboration that occurs between workers is just as important as the "day-to-day job" being done, but work-at-home advocates are insisting that churning out completed to-do lists is the only thing that matters. "As long as I get my work done, who cares when or where I do it!" And then we wonder why our jobs are shipped to the lowest bidders on other continents.
I love working from home, but I also know that phone calls, web chats, and the occasional face-to-face at a conference inspires much more than productivity. And, I’d like to believe that I offer a client or employer more than my word-per-minute or article-per-day rate. If someone who paid me agreed with that, I certainly wouldn’t try to convince them I was an easily replaceable drone that simply produced.
The bottom line, for me, is that Mayer is doing what’s necessary to improve things at Yahoo! What’s been going on there definitely hasn’t been working, and it’s her job to make changes. It’s not her job to continue with policies that are "good for families" but bad for business, and suggesting she should doesn’t further the cause of other work-from-home parents.
But mostly, it ticks me off to still see a female exec held to an entirely different set of standards than a male one would be; I couldn’t find a single article on what Mark Zuckerberg is or isn’t doing for working families.