Far more important than the news out of Washington about budget cuts, partisan gridlock, the state of the economy, Iran and North Korean nuclear weapons and all the other mind boggling political conundrums is the news out of Yahoo headquarters about working out of the home. Newly minted CEO Marissa Mayer sent out an email blast to employees that the days of working from home are over.
Yahoo, which is barely hanging on in the world of search engines, is according to Mayer in desperate need of an “all hands on deck” approach to work rather than sitting at the kitchen table in pajamas staring at a computer screen. Females with young families are to say the least furious over the new policy as they see Mayer as family unfriendly. Mayer, who has an infant and built a nursery at her own expense next to her office, does not appear to have a bit of sympathy for the work at home crowd as she believes face to face meetings and idea sessions will help raise Yahoo out of the corporate ashes.
Although Yahoo is not Microsoft or Google or IBM or for that matter Budweiser, women who work at home in large part to look after small children, were blindsided by Mayer’s directive and now wish they lived in Germany, France or all those socialist Nordic welfare states which grant generous maternity leaves and do not see a drop off in productivity if women or men stay at home to perform their work duties.
Not surprisingly, Mayer has her defenders in the corporate world who see value in everyone in the office working together, rather than emailing work or video conferencing from the comforts of home. But many of the proponents of computers, smart phones, video call-in systems have often said that today’s workplace is different and technology can be used to create a whole new work environment. Well it would appear that Ms. Mayer disagrees.
But this is more than just about working at home, it is at heart about how corporations treat women and mothers who are professionals and possess unique skills that benefit their company. Just because Marissa Mayer took only two weeks maternity leave and built a nursery next to her office does not mean that this should be the model for all working mothers. In fact the Europeans have it right when they see the first year of childhood as requiring close attention and bonding by the mother and the father.
Ms. Mayer may be trying to save Yahoo, and I might add build up her resume, but she is creating a parenting policy that most mothers would reject. There just has to be some middle ground here about working from home – half-days, flex hours, and most of all universal daycare or corporate day care. But more importantly, Mayer needs to be reminded that her view of motherhood and time spent with an infant are not shared by everyone, in fact few would agree with two weeks at home followed by building a nursery next to a cubicle. These are babies that need to be taken care of and nurtured, not pawns in a corporate struggle for survival or worse yet some tough love CEO trying to gain attention.