Marissa Mayer earned a lot of attention last week with her declaration to Yahoo employees that they would no longer be allowed to telecommute.
– Some have said it is not fair to employees who have structured their lives a certain way, and now she’s taking it away. They also think it will backfire and turn away top talent.
– Others have congratulated Mayer for simply saying what is official unspoken policy at thousands of companies.
– Those in investment circles think it’s a move to send a message to Wall Street and shareholders that she is capable of making tough decisions.
– It’s also been reported that it was in response to her reviewing VPN data that showed telecommuting workers were not logging in enough from home (in other words, slacking off).
– And some have called it hypocritical, considering she just installed a nursery for her newborn son in the room next to her Yahoo office, and with a net worth of $300 million, could afford an army of nannies, cooks, maids, and personal assistants.
Mayer, herself, has said she wanted to do this because of the benefits of collaboration that happen from in-person interaction, and lost opportunity from telecommuting.
The Assault on Work-Life Balance
There could be some merit in all of those arguments. But I think the real reason is she wants to draw a line in the sand – weed out those who aren’t dedicating most of their lives to the company. Why wouldn’t she? She took a whopping 2-week maternity leave, while sporting a net worth of $300 million. Raising your child from birth next to your board room? There is no “life” in the work-life balance for her.
Mayer’s proclamation brought me back to something an executive at a previous employer once stated at a company event (amongst crippling employee morale), “Look, you’re either on the bus, or you’re off it”. (I voluntarily jumped out of the back of the bus 2 months later, by the way)
Mayer’s move isn’t revolutionary. And it’s border-line newsworthy. So, why bring it up?
Workers can make productivity claims all they want, and they have good evidence to back it up. Cisco, for example, published a study that showed telecommuting produced $277 million in productivity savings for the company. But lets not confuse the argument with the motives – deep inside there’s only one prevailing reason why anyone wants to telecommute: a looser leash that permits more “life” in the work-life balance equation.
The hours saved in avoiding a lengthy commute, dropping the kids off to day-care, getting small house chores done in down-time or on a break, and avoiding frivolous meetings and work distractions can actually allow you to <gasp> enjoy your evenings and weekends <the horror!!>.
Those who yearn for that kind of balance are not the kind of people who are willing or happy to put in 60, 70, or 80 hour weeks. Increasingly, this is what desirable employers are expecting from their employees. Yahoo isn’t new in this regard. Many of the so-called best employers have unwritten rules around not permitting telecommuting. Even their best employees aren’t granted permission in grant/or lose them scenarios.
It’s a stand against employee empowerment. And in a hyper-competitive workplace, it’s the gold standard. Call it a rat race to the top or rat race to the bottom (whatever your perspective), but it’s a reversing trend that has been turbo-charged since the start of the Great Recession, with employee supply far greater than employee demand.
Companies can clearly do whatever they want when it comes to adding to or taking away from their employees work-life balance. If you work for a company that thrives on the latter and you feel like it’s not a good fit, you are not alone.
- We’ve already established that the U.S. is the most over-worked developed nation in the world.
- At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not.
- The average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950.
- We are the only developed nation with no paid parental leave and no paid sick leave. And we are the only developed nation without paid annual leave (all others have at least 10 days).
- In a Dartmouth study, 70.8% of Americans want to be self-employed (only 7% are).
- The #1 topic of interest for readers of this blog, as shown in this survey, is financial independence/retirement. Hmm… now why would a bunch of 20 and 30 year-olds be so interested in financial independence and retirement at such a young age, I wonder…
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Then Change the Game
All this being said, I don’t blame Mayer or employers that manage in this way.
Because you, as an employee, have a choice.
You need to be honest with yourself – do you want to be a company wo/man and dedicate most of your waking hours to advancement at that company?
Or do you value balance and autonomy?
Because you can’t have both anymore. And nobody is entitled to relative success and advancement when they elect to put in 40 hours when the company officially or unofficially expects 60 or 80.
If you value balance and autonomy, put in your required minimum hours, but use a good portion of your “life” hours to create your new path.
There’s nothing wrong with either path. But the sooner you come to terms with your values and how they may differ from your company’s values, and do something about it, the happier you’ll be.
Wow, one of the best written/researched articles I’ve read in a long time. “Don’t hate the player, change the game” really resonated with me. Corporations are there to make money, if you don’t want to be over worked till you’re 65, find another way out.
It’s unfortunate that the slackers spoiled the rewards for the rest of the company. I worked in a corporation where telecommuting was allowed for about 1% of the staff (that had to move away from our HQ for personal reasons) and the other 99% would occasionally get jealous when the telecommuters called into meetings from the bar while the rest of us had to show up in person on a Friday afternoon for the same meeting. Why not come up with a better policy to police the VPN activity instead of taking it away from everyone?
And hello… it’s not only telecommuters that slack off – plenty of folks in the brick & mortar office building fart around during the day talking football & wasting time. I used to catch grief at my last job for being a “clockpuncher” and only working 40 hours while others were working 60, but I always took the stance that if I’m not missing my deadlines and I can work efficiently to get it done in 40 hours, I’m not going to stay here after dinner each night to give off the impression that I’m a “company woman”. Especially when the 60-hr employees were months behind on their deadlines – if you have to work that long and still aren’t getting your work done, there’s a problem.
LOVE this! First – Marissa Mayer is my hero. She has done amazing things! And, you are so right. Don’t hate the player, change the game. You, alone, are in control of your future. Do something to change it. Thanks for posting!
Can’t help but thinking their managers ought to be fired first. Who depends on VPN logs to determine who is working and who is not? This is patently absurd. Didn’t these people have assignments they were responsible for? If not then there probaby are grounds for a reduction in force. I cannot understand how you could have a group of people reporting to you and the only interaction you have with them is reviewing VPN logs.
Merissa Mayer is a hero, indeed. Her work ethic is something to be admired. Yahoos stock is up what, 40+% since she took over? I think shes making the right calls.
What a fantastic piece of information here and it couldnt be more true. I can speak from first hand experience that work at home is a HUGE benefit for me as it allows me to really handle many things in an week just with 1 work at home day. At the same time I know of numerous co workers who truly abuse the privilege and its unfortunate. Its important to have a work life balance especially for someone like me who works full time, but also works outside of 9to5 doing numerous other things just trying to get ahead financially.
A number of the news articles I read that quotes actual employees said that most people were slacking off at home. Another common problem was many of them were running their own start up companies on the side and/or spending a lot of time applying for jobs.
It is so interesting to read all of the different opinions about this. I am definitely in the camp that thinks it is okay for employees to work from home. I think there are pros and cons to it, but in the end the pros win out. I don’t understand why companies are afraid of telecommuting, considering that they can let an unproductive employees go.
The funny thing is that you are correct in a lot of your points (as a vast majority of people CAN’T have it all, contrary to popular belief), but you skirt around the key issue at blame. You’re a smart guy, it’s clear, but you ovbiously have to dumb it down in order to remain PC.
Anways, I’ll say it for you, that the women’s movement/feminism sold this country a false bill of goods, leading to the two income dependent middle class. Now, before I get called a misogynst by someone in the dark on this issue, I’ll state that I have abolsutely no problem with women advancing in careers and in the workplace, but the idea that women can have fulfilling families and high powered corporate careers is stretch for the vast majority of them. Too bad that this idea was sold to them, falsely, for the greater part of the past 3 decades.
The advice you give on here is priceless for many, but there is no escape from the rate race for most people due to the necessities of needing two incomes to survive now.
To add, I’m glad that Mayer came out and did this. IMO, there is no replacement for actually being face to face on the job, and it is perfectly fine if one doesn’t want to participate in that life, as this is the decision of the esteemed blog host, but don’t expect privelage because you decided to have a family or have other circumstances. We all have decisions to make, and this is just another to add to the list.
As a single male, I think it is absurd when men or women complain about their job commitment while trying to balance a family life. Well, you made that decision, fully knowing the consequences, so why should I feel sorry? The entitlement in this country is becoming absurd.
I completely agree
My last job was at a company where I was in sales and in the field so by it’s very nature was a telecommuting job. I was far more effective and productive as a telecommuter than I can ever be in an office environment. My current job allows me to telecommute once or twice a week which is great, but it’s not the same. I have a one hour commute each way when I do go in so on average, that’s 7 or so hours out of every week that are basically thrown away. I guess I need to either find a new job or create one for myself!
Key piece to changing the game for most Americans would be making employer based health care a thing of the past. No one item gives an employer more control over staff as the threat of loosing coverage. I don’t care if the government covers it or not, just get it away from my employer. Put it out on the free market so I can be on a level playing field and not competing against large contracting groups in the form of employers. That alone would allow so much more of our work force to strike out on their own. It would be nice if America could be known for an innovated work force more than a overworked one.
Who would you propose pay for your health care? I am not interested in paying for your Health care with my Taxes. Insurance is part of your compensation package that you consider.
I recently was enticed to go fulltime with a company primarily because the manager allows work-at-home 2 days a week. She’s very flexible in her approach – possibly because she used to own her own business. Everyone in our team mentions this as a reason to work there.
I think it’s interesting so many (other) articles about teleworking stress employers’ fears that employees are abusing the privilege and “doing laundry on company time”. Those same companies don’t seem to notice that happy employees push and give their all when it’s necessary. You give what you get and you get what you give.
Yahoo has got fat and slow over the years. It has been left behind by google and others. So I think the staff are taking it easy too. Therefore, they need a kick up the butt. Once she gets the ball rolling again and Yahoo start to show good growth and the staff who are just along for the ride have been weeded out I’m pretty sure she will once again allow telecommuting.
I agree w/ Marissa Mayer. Good for her for making tough choices.