Marissa Mayer, This Time it Is Personal

When the then pregnant Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo I did not rejoice. I wasn’t happy or unhappy for her, I don’t know her. Given the huge differences between her career and mine, I didn’t really see how her getting this job would have any impact on my career.

When Mayer announced that she would only take two weeks maternity leave I did not take to the Internet to complain that she was setting the cause of working mothers back. In most families at least one parent goes back to work within the first two weeks of having a baby and why shouldn’t it be her? Especially given the support system she must have, and the responsibility she has to a major company and its employees.

When she said in an interview that her baby was “easy” and motherhood in general was easier than she had been led to believe it would be, I did not join the howls of outrage. Because some babies are easier than others. I had one baby so difficult I thought I might never be able to take a shower again. I had another baby so easy that he made me think I was capable of running a major Internet company (side note: they’ve totally changed places).

Also, personally, I think that  if in the past we were all led to believe that motherhood was “easy” and “natural,” today the pendulum has swung too far the other direction. We’re constantly inundated with messages that motherhood is horrible and “the most difficult job in the world.” I’ve shared my thoughts on that absurd statement before.

But this weekend, Marissa has finally gotten on my nerves. This weekend it was revealed that Marissa was ending Yahoo’s work from home policy. In a memo “leaked” Mayer said, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Maybe that’s true of Yahoo. Although really, is that such a smart thing for someone heading an INTERNET company to say? Isn’t the point of the Internet that it brings us together? Maybe just like I wish others wouldn’t take her maternity leave personally, I shouldn’t take her thoughts about how Yahoo works personally. Except today, one of the owners of the company I work for posted a link to the article on Facebook with the message, “She gets it.”

Did I mention that I work from home? Now, technically, I’m a contractor, not an employee, but for the past two years I’ve had one major client (like 90% of my income major) and as I’m sure the owner would agree, I’ve done a kick ass job for them, from my home several states away.

I’ve worked at least partly from home for the past nine years, since my first child was born. I actually moved myself to a slightly different career path right after I got married so that I would be able to have a more flexible career when I did have children (in direct opposition to Sheryl Sandberg’s advice). Working from home has it’s challenges, and it’s downsides.

But, I would argue, that I, as the employee bear the brunt of those downsides. I’m the one who makes less money, has less security, and has to struggle to make sure my words are not misinterpreted with the lack of face to face contact. I’m the one who does not get the fun side of a coffee break, or a business lunch, or drinks after work. Because working from home is so important to me, I work twice as hard to make sure everyone knows that I am in fact working.

Many companies without work from home policies encourage employees to compete to see who can spend the most hours in the office. Guess what boys, I literally LIVE at my office. How macho is that? Yes, I do laundry while I work, and I pick my kids up from school, and sometimes I run out and go to grocery instead of taking a lunch. But, I also check my email 16 hours a day. I don’t mind Tweeting and Facebooking on behalf of my company on a Sunday night because my work life and my home life or intertwined. I can get my work done and have a life. I don’t make separations between the two the way I did when I had more traditional work environments.

Working from home isn’t just about work life balance. It’s about finding the best person for the job wherever they live, and wherever your company is. It surprises me that my client, located in a small town, doesn’t more fully embrace telecommuting. Think of the talent that would become available if they didn’t have to life in a tiny Connecticut town!

Working from home is about letting people with disabilities, of the obvious and the less obvious kind work. What would happen in companies that need tech, financial, and creative people if those notoriously difficult groups could spend less time trying to figure out how to share a kitchen and more time simply getting their work done?

Working from home is about letting people do the work they do best and in the way that they do it best. How can that be bad for anyone?

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2 Responses to Marissa Mayer, This Time it Is Personal

  1. Kate says:

    Marta — all good points. Frankly, my work would be *slower* if I had to be in the office to do it. I do have an office, and I go there M-F, but the hours shift according to the day’s schedule. I also tackle work-related crises at midnight on Thursdays and 3 p.m. on Saturdays. If I have to go into the office to do my job, the turnaround on these issues would be more like 6-8 hours instead of 90-120 minutes. The tradeoff I have with my employers is that in exchange for their flexibility, I give them much more access to my personal time than they’d get if I were required to be at my desk from 9 to 5. I’d be amazed if many Yahoo employees didn’t have a similar mindset about their own work responsibilities — or did, until Mayer’s memo went out.

  2. Pingback: Sheryl Sandberg & What We Really Need | Advice from Marta

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