Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, is the youngest woman ever to lead a Forutne 500 company. She’s a bright, energetic visionary who has been touted not only as the savior of Yahoo!, but as a prime example of the new, twenty-first century woman executive. But is she that, or is she the personification of evil? I vote for the latter, and that’s because she’s out to destroy my way of life.
Instead of being an advocate for the effective blending of work and home life, Mayer prefers to impose an archaic division between the two. If you want to keep your job at Yahoo!, she insists, you need to get your butt into the office; you need to see and be seen.
An internal memo sent from the head of HR at Yahoo! stated, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” The memo went on to say that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”
That’s a bunch of crap, plain and simple. I’ve had more than my fair share of “hallway and cafeteria discussions,” and the least likely outcomes from such encounters are “some of the best decisions and insights.” “Impromptu team meetings” often occur at the expense of focused concentration on critical deliverables.
Hey, I go to the office very day. Sometimes the office is in our condo in San Francisco between the kitchen and the guest bathroom. Sometimes it’s upstairs in our Victorian house in Massachusetts. Sometimes it’s in whatever hotel I’m staying at for a business trip.
I work for a large, far-flung company and I collaborate with people from sea to shining sea. The company embraces telecommuting and I am one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of employees who “homeshores,” as my company calls it. The fact that I am rarely face-to-face with most of those with whom I work has in no way impeded any of us from getting our work done.
What I don’t do is waste time getting into a car and driving to a building where, once I walk in, I feel compelled to engage in idle chit-chat with my coworkers about how they spent their weekends, what they ate for dinner last night, what adorable thing their dog (or kid) did, who should have been thrown off Idol, or how the baby kept them up the whole night. And I don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic on the way home at the end of a long day.
According to government data, ten percent of American workers spend at least one day a week working from home. The percentage of people who, like me, work exclusively from home climbed to 6.6 percent of in 2010 and continues to rise. The truth is that telecommuting cuts down on traffic during peak hours, reduces companies’ real estate costs, and improves employee morale, leading to lower turnover.
Of course, it’s not all roses. A Stanford University study found that the rate at which home-based workers were promoted dropped by 50 percent, seeming to confirm the cliché “out of sight, out of mind.” But I’m already overdue for retirement and I’m not bucking for a promotion, so if my odds of being promoted are somewhat retarded, it’s no skin off my back.
I am simply more productive when I work from home than I would be if I had to go into the office every day. I don’t have to deal with office distractions and pointless interruptions. I have the flexibility to take the dog to the vet during the day, or to meet with some tradesperson to fix something in my home that needs attention, without taking “time off” to get it done. If I take an hour off during the day to run to the grocery store, I can make the hour up that night after dinner if I need to. The key is that I’m paid to get my job done, not to simply “show up.”
So to Marissa Mayer and any other CEO out there who may be considering demanding that their employees show face at the office each day, take heed. The fact is that we live in a wireless world. We have email, instant messaging, phones, web meetings, video meetings, collaboration sites, and online teamwork tools. This wireless world is an always connected world, which means an always communicating and always collaborating world.