Monday, March 18, 2013

Marissa Mayer and Working From Home

I may be a little late to this, mostly because I've wondered whether it was appropriate to write an opinion on this topic.   But...I decided why not....

You've probably heard of Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo.  She made headlines when she was appointed the CEO of Yahoo, and more recently when it became public knowledge that she'd changed the "Yahoo working from home" policy.  She is also absurdly gorgeous, but I digress....


I found out about the Yahoo memo that will end working from home this Spring from a Facebook post of a friend of mine.  The post was something along the lines of "SHAME ON YOU MARISSA MAYER.  You are the worst ever and hate women trying to balance home and work."  


And then a multitude of other articles came out with a similar sentiment.   And...I don't get the vitriol.  I definitely feel for anyone who was working hard from home and now has to rearrange their life to come into the office, but the outcry has been more than from just people who work at Yahoo.   It's been everywhere and has ignited a whole work-from-home debate.

Here are my thoughts on the the topic.

1) Yahoo needs help.  

Do you use Yahoo to search? neither.  Also, according to Forbes the productivity of a Yahoo employee is around 40% of a Google employee and some Yahoo work from home employees rarely logged into their work computers from home.


So the company needs help.   Changes are needed.

2)  Double Standard?   I believe much of the outcry against Mayer has been because she is a woman and a mom, in addition to being a CEO.

For example, Best Buy did a similar change in policy for work from home lately and there hasn't been the same outcry.  Apparently Mayer was able to build a nursery next to her office, which additionally pissed people off.  But I mean...what else is new?   Since when did CEOs not get insane perks and get to do stuff the ordinary person can't?  (See Larry Ellison buying airline that will serve his Hawaiian island).

I really feel like the best thing Mayer can do for women, is to kick ass at her job, get Yahoo to be more successful, and show the world how great a female CEO in tech can be.

3)  Expectations:  My mind is blown by the amount of people who think coming into work should be optional when you have a job and are getting paid for it.  I mean sure, if you applied for the job with the understanding it would be a remote position and the policy changes THAT BLOWS and I'm sorry.  But, it's not unusual to see policies change over the years in companies, especially when there is abuse of the policy.

Maybe I'm just bitter because I can't work from home regularly.

4) How good YOU are at working from home:   I think a lot of the outcry is coming from people who are seeing themselves as a Yahoo employee, even if they are not.  Or those who think that Mayer's decision will change how other companies do things.

It's possible her change will cause other companies to follow suit, but I kinda of doubt it as it's not like this is some revolutionary policy that has never been thought of.  

I can see in a job that is pretty standard (recording medical billing, for example) where there is little reason to come into the office.  And I get the "I'm more productive from home" statement...because yeah...sometimes I am too.  But Marissa Mayer's policy change isn't a statement on what the whole world should do, just what she thinks is right for Yahoo.

5) It's hard to argue with teamwork:  Time for a running analogy:  I almost always run harder and faster when in a group.  This is why elites tend to have training partners.  We learn things from each other and become better athletes (employees?) and friends when we spend time together.  There is definite value to being around coworkers and building a team environment.

Soooo....What do you think about the work from home policy change?   Have you ever worked from home?  How did it go?   

I think I'm in the minority in how I feel here, so I would love to hear what you think!


  1. As a college professor who teaches on this topic (and is well versed in the research on it) and a virtual employee I can say this - for Yahoo at this time - it was the RIGHT *ducking to not get hit* decision. If a company is looking for increased productivity - a virtual work environment can be great and beneficial. If you're looking for innovation and creativity, it's not the best solution. If Yahoo were on the cutting edge of creativity and NOT looking to try and catch up, this could be a bad idea, but they need to be in the same room in their current situation. Just my thoughts :)

  2. I feel like I totally see both sides of this. On one hand, I love being able to work from home OCCASIONALLY, but on the other I like it because I can do laundry, not shower, and wait for the repair guy to come. But if I had two screaming children at home, I think I would probably be more productive outside the home. Especially in a place like yahoo which really needs to change their strategy ASAP, getting the creatives juices flowing is a must. But I totally see how the NEVER aspect is a problem...

  3. Hi! First time reader/commentor here- I found your blog through RR's recap (great job!!).

    My department recently started allowing employees the option to work from home. It was something we had been asking about for quite some time, so when they *finally* made a policy for it, I was thrilled! But. The policy includes so much red tape just to work from home one day that it is not worth it to me! I have logged in from home after work or on the weekends to finish stuff up or get a head start, but otherwise it's too much hassle.
    This could be completely unique to my department but still. I wish it were easier to take advantage of this option!

  4. One of the reasons I think the thing blew up was the tone of the memo, which rubbed me WAY the wrong way (as an outsider, so, like, who really cares) — the whole "and for the rest of us who occasionally have to wait for the cable guy" bit. The nursery-next-to-office part is interesting to me because I once worked for a company whose founders essentially did that, and while I thought it was pretty awesome overall (we were a small enough company that we could take breaks and hang out with their kid), it definitely DID play into my "of COURSE they don't care about work-life balance when they've made work their life!" thoughts in my less-charitable moments.

    I only have the Silicon Valley perspective on this; I have no idea what it's like to work remotely for Yahoo anywhere else in the country. Here there are shuttles with WiFi that can take you to and from work, so you can work as you commute (provided, I mean, that you can read or type on a bus in shitty traffic). That's part of what enables people to live in San Francisco and work at Yahoo — but I can also understand wanting to save those two to three hours on the road sometimes, especially if that's always been possible. That said, I did the commute from San Francisco to San Jose for a year, and it sucked, and I won't apply for jobs outside of SF now, which is certainly limiting to my career opportunities but also a choice I'm making to prioritize a certain lifestyle.

    I wonder if part of the vitriol is also that we ALREADY have a culture of "working from home" — just, it's in the hours before you (technically) go to work or (technically) come home. I can work from home at my current job; I generally choose to go to the office, but I do plenty of working (email checking/responding, setting up meetings, generally making sure I'm on top of things) from home outside of my hours in the office, too. I think that's common these days, and the idea of hanging on to the flexibility to work from home as a reaction to working ALL THE TIME makes sense to me.

    (Sorry for writing a book in your comments.)

  5. She is pretty! Wait, she is 37 and a CEO, that is pretty awesome. Well said, Margot! Yahoo does need serious help. I like yahoo finance for looking at stock charts/graphs. I use this daily and it has nothing to do with my job, but other than that I do not use yahoo. I could never work from home on a permanent basis. I would be super unproductive, need so much computer equipment it would be silly, and there would be limited teamwork! Every time I log in from home, I get frustrated that data is slow, I dont have 4 monitors, and I just drive myself in to work and get my stuff done. Unless I develop great self control and a computer lab in my house, I am happy to go into the office and work and hang out with my coworkers. More power to you if you can be productive working from home and it works out for the company, too. Also, it seems like it would be really hard to network from home. If I am CEO by 37, I can retire by like 45.... I am def on the right track reading this blog at work ;)

  6. I have heard a lot of commentary about this, and my comment is certainly not going to be as eloquent of some of the above, but my reaction boils down to the following points:
    - For many, many reasons, working from home at least part of the time is more feasible and productive for people. Especially if you have talent that you want to hold onto who, say, have a long commute.
    - If you have talent that you want to hold onto but don't trust to work from home, you should fire said people. If there is widespread abuse of a work-from home policy, maybe it's because people don't like coming to your company. Having a writ large no telecommute policy isn't likely to fix that.
    - If you are forcing people to work in the office, you should have dedicated collaboration time that doesn't come in the form of time-suck meetings. I think everyone agrees that the worst part of working in an office are those instances of groupthink hell. But since you are having people in the office, then create a mandatory, effective togetherness something or other.

    Yeah. I don't know. I tend to think this treats the problem and not the cause.

  7. I think, as CEO, she has earned a position to be able to make these types of calls. If you don't like what's happening, and want the power to change things, then I guess that could be motivation for you to go for that position.

    It seems pointless to be outraged or annoyed at perks she's got access to - like the ability to have a nursery built adjacent to her office - because, again, she's CEO. And you're not. The compensation/perks are just going to be different.

    If I were hired in with the agreement that you could work from home X amount of time, then, yeah, I'd probably be annoyed that now I have to commute, but it is what it is. If it was that tragic, and I couldn't work something out, I'd find a new job. I'd probably bitch about it a little bit, but then I'd remember I'm a grown up, with a job, that I can take or leave. And move on.

    1. Also, dude, why do so many people feel so entitled to stuff? Gah.

  8. Working from home isn't exactly feasible in the medical bit (unless you're a radiologist, maybe) so I never saw that as a viable option for myself. I guess I can see both ways -- I do think compartmentalizes work at work increases productivity. However, it is nice to have flexibility. Interesting post. Really liked it. Good stuff.

  9. If I ran a company, fucking NOBODY would work from home. I'd set up daycare for moms, I don't care. I'd hire people who don't mind a commute or who live close. Bottom line, I don't trust that anybody is as diligent at home (you know they are doing laundry and cooking lunch), and unless you have a unique job that requires absolutely NO feedback, I don't think you can overvalue the importance of face-to-face interaction. For idea flow, for good communication, for company morale, for motivation. All of it. Working with a group of people everyday fosters care for your role and your company.

    Like, um, it's a Saturday and I was hoping to get some work done from home. But instead I'm reading blogs. Maybe I'm lazier than the average superhero, but still. Face time absolutely matters.