By now, pretty much everyone has read about CEO @Marissa Mayer’s decision to eliminate telecommuting at @Yahoo!, with the exception of waiting for a delivery truck or a service call. She did this at the same time she built a nursery next door to her office for her new baby.
Opinions about this edict vary depending on your gender, whether you’re a mother, or if you think working from home is the best idea ever. More importantly, it probably depends on whether your commuting situation or family structure requires someone being at home for at least part of the week. It’s not always easy to change those plans overnight.
If you, somehow, haven’t picked up on this story, here is some background:
- The Washington Post:Collaboration and the spark at the water cooler
- The Wall Street Journal: Yahoo and the Work from Home Debate
- The Boston Globe: Practical Advice for employers and employees on telecommuting
I enjoyed that synergy and it helped to do better work. Second, I find being at home too distracting. When you’re alone, it’s just too easy to put a load of laundry into the washer or start dinner in the slow cooker instead of tackling that tough assignment or dull research. For me, at least, the things that must be done around the home press on me and keep me from focusing on my work. It’s much easier to sit in an office where work is the total object of your concentration.
But there can be no doubt that this announcement was a public relations disaster for both Mayer and Yahoo!. It could have, and should have, been done better. Her HR and PR departments could have given her better advice. Maybe they did and she chose to ignore their recommendations. It wouldn’t be the first time a CEO decided he/she knew best, to the despair of the experts. The crux of the issue is less the policy itself than the hypocrisy of dissing working moms at Yahoo! by limiting their options, while simultaneously exercising a CEO’s perks to take care of yourself.
Here are some ideas on how it could have been handled differently:
- Create separate classes. (1) No more telecommuting on demand for anyone who wants to do so. You must have a good, documented reason to work from home. (2) Deliveries, service calls, etc. are specific one-time events scheduled at the discretion of the employee. (3) Mothers/fathers can work from home (x) days a week but must be in the office for the rest of the time.
- Phase it in.The new rule applies to most employees immediately.Deliveries, service calls, etc. are specific one-time events at the discretion of the worker.Mothers/fathers have (x) number of weeks to find daycare before having to report to work every day.
- Plan to help other working parents.Announce that, as soon as Yahoo reaches a certain level of revenue, some form of daycare support will become available, whether it’s a subsidy or a corporate daycare center.
It’s too early to know whether Mayer has created a trend, a problem for Yahoo! or the answer to the company’s problems. Let’s check back in around the time Macallister is walking and see.