I’ve worked from home in various forms for a variety of companies so in a way I get Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer ban on working from home. Sometimes the work-from-home employee just feels distant from the action going on in the office.
Coming into an office for meetings, spending time with your coworkers tossing ideas around, socialising with colleagues and knowing who’s getting engaged, having a baby, breaking up with their boyfriend — these are vital elements for a creative working life and central to feeling part of a team.
I’ve been on both ends of this set-up. I’ve worked for a manager who worked from home half the week and the office felt the absence keenly. I also know what it means to feel cut off from the buzz of the office.
Mayer’s move is being called “anti-woman”. In truth I’d characterise it as more “anti-family” (don’t dads occasionally work from home too?). More damning though is that it’s a just a little, y’know, ’90s. The modern business world doesn’t revolve around sitting in a cubicle and answering a telephone with a curlycue cord.
People DO need to collaborate, but they’re doing that everywhere, with shared documents in a cloud, via smartphone, via social networking. This week BritMums has held two Google hangouts featuring bloggers from all over the UK, talking about the royal pregnancy and chatting live with Marco Pierre White.
Worst of all, Mayer’s edict demonstrates a lack of trust in employees, many of whom I imagine are committed, passionate employees. If they aren’t, it’s her job to get rid of them. It’s also her job to determine if some positions can’t be done from a remote location.
By saying no one can work from home, she’s going against study after study that shows flexible working arrangements make people more productive. She’s also moving counter to the desire of all employees (with families or not) to strike a positive work-life balance at a time when work increasingly bleeds into our evenings and weekends.
For her own situation, Mayer has built a nursery next to her office so she can bring her young son to work. Good for her in realising that a CEO does need to be on deck and available. But that move, coupled with the work-from-home ban, leaves a none-too-flattering impression of her attitude toward working parents: childcare problems are for the little people.