If you haven’t read my colleague Rob Enderle’s post about the colossal mistake Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made when she issued the perplexing directive to ban telecommuting at the company, do yourself a favor and read it. Enderle makes a great case for why the micromanagement of first-line managers is an abuse of CEO power. And Carl Weinschenk argues that Mayer may soon rue throwing off all the great advantages that unified communications (along with telecommuting) have brought to her company. But I would argue that there’s something even more disturbing about her decision: She’s kicking what she claims to be her own core values to the curb.
The irony here is fascinating. Just three months ago, Mayer proclaimed that her priorities were “God, family, Yahoo—in that order.” Two months earlier, she had given birth to a baby boy, so it seemed only natural for a new mom to put family ahead of business. It’s a shame that Mayer has taken such a senseless step that seriously harms the ability of all the other moms and dads at Yahoo to live their lives with the same priorities.
Banning the option to work remotely deprives those moms and dads of the flexibility parents need in the never-ending quest to balance their personal and professional lives. The move bespeaks a detachment from the reality of everyday life for her employees — especially the moms — who struggle to earn an income and nurture their children all at the same time. For Mayer, that challenge probably doesn’t seem all that difficult. After all, with a compensation package that’s estimated to be as high as $129 million, and the wherewithal to hire nannies and housekeepers and all the other help she could possibly need, the idea of a flexible work schedule that includes a telecommuting option no doubt seems entirely unnecessary. It’s probably very difficult to empathize with a mom who sees that option as a godsend.
MomsRising.org, an organization that promotes the fair treatment of mothers and other women, has issued a statement in response to Mayer’s directive. It should be required reading for Mayer and any other executive who might be inclined to follow her lead:
Yahoo’s announcement that it is ending its policy of allowing employees to work remotely is being met with shocked disbelief. The fact that an Internet company, which has contributed to the ability for people to work from home, is ending this long-standing practice is troubling, especially given the immense success of companies who regularly use remote work options. Flexible work environments can be highly effective in many jobs, not just for parents or others with family obligations, but for anyone. Removing this option cuts a company off from the talented and innovative workers they need to remain competitive.
The modern workforce needs modern workplace policies and practices. As technology has made possible these advances, the composition of our labor force has also changed: Women now comprise half the paid labor force for the first time in history and three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force. Most families now need two parents working for pay to make ends meet.
From the highly paid to those making minimum wage, far too few women in America have flexible work options — almost three-fourths of working adults say they don’t control their work schedules. In fact, the top reason identified by highly educated and trained women for leaving the “fast track” is the lack of family time.
Companies like Yahoo, which need highly creative and talented people for their work forces must understand the important benefits of allowing employees to work remotely on their overall productivity and the well-being of our nation’s families.
In other words, Ms. Mayer, if you truly believe that family comes before company, have the decency to ensure that it’s not just your own family that’s able to live that way. You’re not the only mom at Yahoo, just the most powerful one. Have the good sense to use that power wisely.