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A hapless fool, a few steps behind the rest
February 26, 2013 10:51 PM   Subscribe

Yahoo's Blow to Work-Family Balance: Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, the first pregnant woman to ever become CEO of a corporation, has ordered all telecommuting employees back to the office. (Previously on MeFi)
posted by MattMangels (181 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, do you know what sexism looks like? It looks like when a successful female executive is criticized for making tough decisions aimed at strengthening her organization on the basis of her gender. Do you know what a good test for spotting sexism is? If you switch the gender and the statement falls apart, then it was sexist.

Let's try it: "Yahoo! CEO Mark Mayer, the first man to have fathered a child while CEO of a corporation, has ordered all telecommuting employees back to the office."

Yep. Sexist as hell.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:01 PM on February 26, 2013 [55 favorites]


Flipping things around is generally not a very good test, in fact.

This is a blow to everyone who had to balance telecommuting with other obligations at home.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:08 PM on February 26, 2013 [32 favorites]


I dunno about that. It's women's careers that are traditionally the victims of family-hostile workplaces, because women get pregnant and more often than not end up staying home with the kids. I think it's a pretty reasonable expectation to think the first pregnant CEO would implement policies that are exactly the opposite of what she's doing here, because she would have a better understanding of the demands of having a family. It's a bit like a gay CEO taking back benefits extended to partners of gay employees.

What I guess is going down is the "Got mine" phenomena, where someone assumes because they could handle a difficult life situation it means everyone who can't isn't trying hard enough. It's the equivalent of a guy who drags himself out of the ghetto, starts a successful business, and then judges everyone who's still stuck for not making the same transition. Thing is, if you're on CEO pay then hiring a nanny, expensive daycare, and all of the other childcare expenses are probably not a big deal. Not so for $40K/year IT gal.
posted by schroedinger at 11:09 PM on February 26, 2013 [88 favorites]


Lets try this: "Melissa Mayer, who recently installed a nursery in her office, has ordered all telecommuting employees back..."

It's not about sexism. It's about taking advantage of resources to effectively let her bring her home to her office while not letting others work from home.
posted by parliboy at 11:09 PM on February 26, 2013 [94 favorites]


It's extremely unfair to bring in Mayer's personal life (that's okay, I guess - she can probably take it).

I also wonder what difference it makes if you are a mother (keeping in line with the framing of this post) if you work from home or not.

I'm a dad. I work from home. I work long hours. I have never thought that working from home has really helped with childraising. If anything, it does has negatively affected my parenting, since I'm always fucking working.

Some of the reasons about the decision that were leaked also make sense, from my own experiences working remotely:

- There is more opportunities for communication and innovation
- There is a higher quality of work

In our own case, working remotely keeps overhead waaaay down. We don't have an office, so we can charge less than competitors, in a competitive market.

I can also work overseas, which is helpful, since we have a sick relative who needs our help several months a year.

But the tradeoff? I'm always at work.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:11 PM on February 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Lets try this: "Melissa Meyer, who recently installed a nursery in her office, has ordered all telecommuting employees back..."


This is the important part that isn't really mentioned in the FPP. This blatant hypocrisy and disdain for the workers whose labor she profits off of. It's not sexist at all to call her out on this crap.

"Fuck you, I've got mine" does not magically give you armor that repels people pointing out the brazenness of this with "BUT SEXISM!"
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:13 PM on February 26, 2013 [58 favorites]


It's not about sexism. It's about taking advantage of resources to effectively let her bring her home to her office while not letting others work from home.

Well, there are certain perks that come with the massive responsibilities and stresses of being a CEO of a large company (although it would be interesting to see how Valve handles all of this).

Don't like it? Become CEO.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect this is a decision based on making the company succeed rather than any gender issue, not matter how the FPP (or the tech blogosphere) wants to frame it.
posted by Catblack at 11:13 PM on February 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Catblack: "I suspect this is a decision based on making the company succeed rather than any gender issue, not matter how the FPP (or the tech blogosphere) wants to frame it."

Well, I'm pretty sure they hired her as CEO so she could make the company more profitable, not more feminist, so yea.
posted by pwnguin at 11:15 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems like an asinine move, but only because it's across the board and company-wide.

I work in a highly creative environment that is quite similar to being on a writing staff for a TV show. For my team, it really is best if we are all in the office together. When we can brainstorm and solve problems together, we get more done and we generate better ideas. It's not the same when someone is on the phone or on video.

On the other hand, when work is less creative and collaborative, it works better for us to have people at home. The people who generally get marching orders and carry them out- there's little point to making them come in and stare at a screen at their desk all day. By all means, work at home or at the office, wherever you want.

Point being, it's not the same in every situation. Company-wide policies like this rarely work because not everyone is a WorkerBot 5000 with the same skills, situations, and responsibilities.

Totally tone-deaf.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:16 PM on February 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


Don't like it? Become CEO.
But when everyone becomes CEO where shall we put all of the nurseries?
posted by ominous_paws at 11:16 PM on February 26, 2013 [52 favorites]


It's not unfair to bring in her home life. She is telling people not to do "x" while actually building space in her office so she can do "x". What that "x" is, is really immaterial to me. For that matter, whether she is "x" or "y" is immaterial to me. It's just bad form. And it can lower morale in her company.
posted by parliboy at 11:16 PM on February 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's extremely unfair to bring in Mayer's personal life

On the other hand, she brought her personal life into the workplace. One can say she gets the perks because she's the boss, but then that only underscores how poorly workers are treated when trying to raise kids and keeping a full-time job.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 PM on February 26, 2013 [37 favorites]


Don't like it? Become CEO.

Wait, so only CEOs get some say in how they work?
posted by chasing at 11:17 PM on February 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


Echoing KokuRyu, telecommuting has a particular set of advantages, but it also has costs for both the telecommuter and the organization. Organizationally, this is a totally defensible decision, and one that tracks with trends at other large tech companies, notably Google. You can argue the various cost/benefit packages of the alternatives, but she's not doing something crazy.

I really don't see how Mayer's gender figures into this except as some weird, expectations driven axe being ground.
posted by fatbird at 11:17 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


The nice thing about being Yahoo! is that you have such a bad reputation as an employer that you can do these things and not particularly worry about losing your best people. They all left a long time ago.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:20 PM on February 26, 2013 [62 favorites]


On the other hand, when work is less creative and collaborative, it works better for us to have people at home. The people who generally get marching orders and carry them out- there's little point to making them come in and stare at a screen at their desk all day. By all means, work at home or at the office, wherever you want.

I suspect that the people complaining loudest about this don't think of themselves as having uncreative, 'marching orders' type jobs. From what I've seen it is being contrasted with policies at Google, mostly, which prides itself on the lack of marching orders.
posted by jacalata at 11:21 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, so only CEOs get some say in how they work?

Well, yes. CEOs get to decide the conditions under which they work, and the conditions under which you work, too.

In the tech community, where everyone's a rockstar panda, this may have a net cost of driving out the talent, at which point the board can fire her and point to this decision as the reason why. But for some reason there's a tone to this discussion of incredulity around this, that I just don't understand.
posted by fatbird at 11:21 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


This has nothing to do with gender. It sucks because it shows that Yahoo seems to think that their best employees are those who are willing to make their personal lives suck in order to work there. That would still be the case if the CEO was male.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:21 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK, I'll have a go at not being sexist. Why should we expect the CEO of a media company to advocate for an arrangement that risks cutting into corporate profits just because it may be healthy for the people who make up his or her human resources?

I'm a work at home dad, with the benefit of working for a small company led by a decent and compassionate man, and my working at home has benefitted my family very much.

It's complex though. My company also accepts reasonable limitations on work hours, as apparently Kokuryo's does not. What's really at issue is whether or not, for the company in question, optimal profitability trumps all else.
posted by maniabug at 11:22 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is crappy micromanagement.

People work in different ways. Some work better at home. Some better in the office. Some jobs demand working together in a physical space. Others don't.

Leave it to the managers and the employees themselves to make the call. This seems like it's just going to annoy those who work better at home, annoy the managers of people who work better at home, and cause anxiety in a company that (it seems to me) should be going out of its way to advertise itself as a place where the very best should want to work.
posted by chasing at 11:23 PM on February 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


"The point—and this is hardly groundbreaking—is that different people work differently. Any organization whose success depends on maximizing its workers’ productivity ought to allow their employees some degree of flexibility."
posted by scody at 11:23 PM on February 26, 2013 [18 favorites]


On the other hand, she brought her personal life into the workplace. One can say she gets the perks because she's the boss, but then that only underscores how poorly workers are treated when trying to raise kids and keeping a full-time job.

Besides actually having to show up for work, are workers treated badly at Yahoo? Are there no nurseries at Yahoo HQ? It would seem rather strange, since many other tech companies (Google, etc) would seem to have them.

I know it's unfair that Mayer gets to bring her kid to work, but it's also unfair that she gets paid more than everyone else. It's also unfair that my boss gets paid more than me. It's all soooo unfaaaair!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:23 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why it has to be so drastic. A lot of engineers I know work from home because they're actually more productive there. Why not just cap the amount of hours per week you can work from home -- say, 8 hours (either a full day or two half days)? It would have the same net effect, while allowing people to deal with stuff at home.
posted by spiderskull at 11:24 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Political writer Jim Newell on Twitter: Also if Silicon Valley culture considers working from home a right then they should form a fucking UNION, but they sneer at those
posted by lukemeister at 11:24 PM on February 26, 2013 [42 favorites]


since many other tech companies (Google, etc)

I'm not sure who the etc. would be, and there's been a lot of controversy over Google's...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:25 PM on February 26, 2013


as apparently Kokuryo's does not.

No, I'm in production, so the work just has to get done. I could probably better manage my time. Perhaps if I worked in an office. But probably not.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:25 PM on February 26, 2013


In a way, Mayer and Yahoo are incredibly lucky that people are focusing on the perceived hypocrisy of a working parent CEO. Why? Because it diverts from the real story, which is that this is a company which was so poorly managed, it was bleeding money on unproductive workers both in-house and remotely when nearly every study out there says that worker productivity improves and increases with flexible and remote work, and that worker retention rises.

Mayer is heading a company with a pervasively incompetent managerial class in place if they can't do flexible workplaces right, and that is much more of a problem than an edict from a CEO who made it clear from the get-go that her priority was turning around a company, not being a poster woman for graceful work-life balance. This move is sort of brilliant: It's a way to reduce the workforce without the hassle and expense of layoffs. It may also trim some of the most expensive employees (i.e. parents carrying partners and kids on their benefits) from the payroll/benefits roster.

As for the work-life balance issue: Let this be a lesson to American workers. You cannot rely on the largesse of CEOs for work-life policy initiatives. If Americans want sane and flexible workplace policies for all -- and they should be for all, not just for parents -- then Americans need to begin hassling their state and federal legislators for policymaking.
posted by sobell at 11:27 PM on February 26, 2013 [43 favorites]


And this article is the first response I've seen from yahoo employees: “I agree with what she did. Many workers were milking the company”
posted by jacalata at 11:27 PM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It seems short-sighted to not realise that pulling this move - while simultaneously tacitly acknowledging the problems of work-life balance by building your own nursery - could cause massive employee ill-will.
I'll never quite understand the group of mefites who get super emotionally involved when anyone questions the right of employers to do anything they damn well please without complaint or criticism, ever.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:30 PM on February 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is not a feminist issue or a 'woman' issue.
But not only women take advantage of workplace flexibility policies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly as many men telecommute.
posted by Megami at 11:31 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mayer is heading a company with a pervasively incompetent managerial class in place if they can't do flexible workplaces right, and that is much more of a problem than an edict from a CEO

Actually, 'the management is incompetent and she should fire half of them' was one of the things that I saw everywhere from '"Anonymous Yahoo Employee Thoughts on What Mayer needs to fix first' articles when Mayer began. People seem to be reacting to this news as though they imagine Yahoo is currently a perfectly healthy company with well organised management and motivated employees who are simply using flexible arrangements to be as productive as possible. I just have no idea where they got that impression.
posted by jacalata at 11:31 PM on February 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


The issue might not be sexist but the reporting seems to be.
posted by mazola at 11:32 PM on February 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really don't see how Mayer's gender figures into this except as some weird, expectations driven axe being ground.

Absolutely. This is my shocked face that media and metafilter have turned this into a More-Feminist-Than-Thou thing. Corporate culture in general says fuck you to family values and yes, that overlaps with Feminist issues, but only in that it overlaps with all work/life issues. If you work from home you do your employer's work; you do not do your own housework. You just happen to be working from a different location, which is sometimes a more efficient arraignment for the business and sometimes less so.

I'm speaking as a supermom here: I'm exec working very long hours from home who cooks 90% of the meals, does 80% of the shopping, and takes/bring the kids to/from school nearly every day and still helps with homework.

...except I'm a dude.

That is NOT to dismiss any Feminist concerns here, just to provide an example of how working from home is not inherently a gendered issue.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:34 PM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


This move is sort of brilliant: It's a way to reduce the workforce without the hassle and expense of layoffs.

Then again, there is this take on it:

David Hansson, a partner at 37signals, a producer of corporate collaboration software, said he expects that the least talented of the company's remote workers, who have the fewest employment options outside Yahoo, will comply with the new rules. However, he said, policies like this one hurt motivation, and the new rule may push the most talented telecommuters toward Yahoo's exits.

Says the guy whose bread and butter is remote collaboration software (and not very good software at that!)
posted by KokuRyu at 11:35 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know it's unfair that Mayer gets to bring her kid to work, but it's also unfair that she gets paid more than everyone else. It's also unfair that my boss gets paid more than me. It's all soooo unfaaaair!

I think the issue of pay inequality with CEOs is an important issue, but it is also a larger and separate matter from the increasingly shrinking pool of workplace benefits, already unequal, which this new policy highlights.

In our knowledge-based service economy, we want families to raise educated children who can work for companies like Yahoo!, but the people in charge don't want the expense of allowing flexibility in work scheduling or paying school teachers fair salaries, etc. that facilitates actually making this a reality.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:36 PM on February 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why should we expect the CEO of a media company to advocate for an arrangement that risks cutting into corporate profits just because it may be healthy for the people who make up his or her human resources?

Long term investment. If you want to attract good people to your company you need to treat them well, and similarly if you want to keep at least enough people to have continuity of technology you need to give them an incentive to stay.

Continuity of technical knowledge is absolutely vital. A little section of the product goes out the door with every person who leaves. Hopefully Yahoo! considered that when coming up with the list of people who were likely to simply leave and get a job at a company with a more reasonable policy.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:37 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's all soooo unfaaaair!

Indeed. So, are you going to help put pressure on the people in a position to do something about it or are you just going to complain about other people complaining?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:40 PM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Continuity of technical knowledge is absolutely vital. A little section of the product goes out the door with every person who leaves.
As a complete aside, this to me is one of those unrealised truths that is blindingly obvious as soon as it is pointed out to you. And something my own workplace has suffered a little from, I think.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:41 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Long term investment.

We're talking about Yahoo, right? I'm not sure if there is a long-term outlook.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:41 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Silicon Valley is weird about not making its own local, material, world better. Transportation is awful, the cost of living is through the roof, the civic culture is mostly suburban, and it seems the corporate culture can't function without everyone in the office most of the time. It tries to make up for a lot of this with creature-comfort perks, but I feel like the Valley could benefit greatly in the long run by figuring out how to make telecommuting actually work and work well.

For what it's worth, I worked in the telecom industry in the late 90's and early 00's, and, IMO, that generally-backwards and old-school industry was significantly more forward-thinking when it came to making work-from-home/telecommute arrangements work.
posted by treepour at 11:41 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Indeed. So, are you going to help put pressure on the people in a position to do something about it or are you just going to complain about other people complaining?

I've always thought that if I didn't like it, I could always go get another job.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Americans want sane and flexible workplace policies for all -- and they should be for all, not just for parents -- then Americans need to begin hassling their state and federal legislators for policymaking.

I agree with your contention that better working conditions should be a right for ALL workers, regardless of gender and parental status. But relying on legislatures -- given how many of them are explicitly and actively hostile to workers' rights -- isn't any more of a winning strategy than relying on CEOs to secure better working conditions.

To my mind, the real question this brings up is how do we revitalize and remobilize the labor movement to effectively account for what work and workplaces actually look like in twenty-first century? What form can unions take to replace the old (industrial) model with a new one?
posted by scody at 11:42 PM on February 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wow. I hope they have massive turnover and see how profitable that makes them.
posted by salvia at 11:47 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's all soooo unfaaaair!

Arguably, this isn't just about Yahoo!. Basically, as a society, we reap what we sow. I think there is some benefit to the public looking at this issue beyond Yahoo!, to consider having a discussion about how well we want the next generation to fare, especially when we expect children to be raised up in a two-parent family, sent to college or university, and in a stagnating economy where both parents must work against the backdrop of increasing costs for, well, everything.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 PM on February 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


What about this: "CEO Mark Meyer, who was widely expected to sympathize with the needs of working parents, has in fact made their life more difficult by removing the option to telecommute."

Is it sexist to believe that a female CEO would be more likely to understand the pressures of raising children which disproportionately fall on women? It seems like many people were saying something close to this, as a way of arguing for what is effectively trickle-down feminism: gender equality among white upper middle class executives will benefit working class women of color because white female executives are able to empathize with their struggles. It's the idea that there is gender solidarity among women that transcends class.

But it's turning out to not be true. There is probably a "Nixon going to China" effect, where a male executive would be under far less scrutiny for being perceived as "feminine" than a woman would. But in the end, the pressures on working parents have much more to do with the relative powerlessness of labor against capital than the degree of empathy of the executives.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:53 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised she didn't A/B test this by randomly assigning employees to control groups with different policies.
Well, yes. CEOs get to decide the conditions under which they work, and the conditions under which you work, too.
yeah, it's not like the employees could ever, like, get together and, and like collectively bargain over what kind of working conditions they should get or anything.
In a way, Mayer and Yahoo are incredibly lucky that people are focusing on the perceived hypocrisy of a working parent CEO. Why? Because it diverts from the real story, which is that this is a company which was so poorly managed, it was bleeding money on unproductive workers both in-house and remotely when nearly every study out there says that worker productivity improves and increases with flexible and remote work, and that worker retention rises.
My guess is that while that might be true at some places, it might not be true at a company like yahoo that's so far away from the cutting edge that a lot of the most ambitious and hard-working people might have already left and a lot of the people still there might be more likely to be slackers, using "work from home days" as extra time off.
posted by delmoi at 11:54 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


A memo explaining the policy change, from the company’s human resources department, says face-to-face interaction among employees fosters a more collaborative culture — a hallmark of Google’s approach to its business.

Ah, Yahoo has figured out exactly what makes Google special: their employees work at the office.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:55 PM on February 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Well, the limited gender-based criticism I've seen on this was actually from feminists, in that they called it a mom-unfriendly policy. Melissa Mayer has had an interesting reaction from feminist circles in general, what with her choice to not take maternity leave and so on. Not that I necessarily agree or disagree; I really have no opinion on whether Mayer is pro-women or not; the primary impression I have here is that she's apparently a super-massive workaholic who had to be forced to take breaks by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, while she was at Google. She apparently does more than 100-120 hours a week for three months straight, at which point she takes a week-long holiday, a work-life balance that I find intriguing, in that I wouldn't have minded doing it before being married, but now would be interesting to pull it off, even without kids.

A more interesting chain of thought here is what Mayer seemingly did not bring from Google. Apparently, Google has, off-late, applied econometrics and a/b-testing to its HR policies as well and have mathematically 'evolved' one of the most family/woman-friendly policies out there; they've noted that increasing maternity leave to five fully-paid months has halved its attrition rate among women. Other examples abound; basically, Google is now using data to drive its HR policies. The question here, in which case, is straightforward: to what extent is Mayer also using data to drive her policies? Is that something that Yahoo should be considering, as opposed to a qualitative analysis of work-cultures and entrenched mediocrity or whatever?
posted by the cydonian at 11:55 PM on February 26, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm really not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, we wouldn't be talking about this if the CEO was Mark Meyer. On the other hand, employment changes that make it harder for parents tend to affect women disproportionately; and one of the arguments for increasing gender balance in management is that female executives are better able to understand the concerns of women. I guess this shows that female executives may have more insight into female concerns, but they're still executives and they'll still put the company first. So yay for equality, I guess.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:57 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always thought that if I didn't like it, I could always go get another job.

That strategy has certainly worked for me. But applying social pressure to the CEO appears to work sometimes too.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:01 AM on February 27, 2013


Mayer should offer at-work nursery services for all employees (female or male) and then go hunting for young women who want a career and a family balance something like hers.
posted by pracowity at 12:02 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


we wouldn't be talking about this if the CEO was Mark Meyer

A major (or at least famous) Silicon Valley company banning telecommuting? I'd certainly be talking about it...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:03 AM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


If the CEO was Mark Meyer, who had just used his managerial privileges to sidestep a problem he'd just forced a large number of his employees to face, people would be just as upset.

She could have instituted on-site nurseries. Instead, she just built her own and told everyone else to go screw themselves.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:03 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've always thought that if I didn't like it, I could always go get another job.

Because we all know how easy that feat is these days....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:09 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yahoo will be out of business soon and then all their pointless management layer people can spend as much time as they want at home.
posted by colie at 12:19 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meyer has made this a "women at work" issue by announcing her (non) maternity leave and the construction of the nursery and speaking about both in those terms. We know those things for a reason, and the reason has to do with her personal PR strategy and the issues she wants associated with her name. We wouldn't be talking about this if it were Mark Meyer because Mark Meyer wouldn't get nearly the personal-branding bang out of the PR buck needed to make it an issue.

I think it's also now clear that one of the reasons why she was so eager to PR her childrearing decisions is that they draw attention away from the fact that the situation at Yahoo! is clearly worse than even the press thinks. This is essentially a quiet layoff of a large number of employees, since Yahoo! has recruited for years based in part on the flexibility it offered - a large number of employees depend on that flexibility and have structured their lives around it. Many of them are technically skilled people who do have options elsewhere. This decision will make some percentage of those people move on (a percentage HR has an idea of, no doubt), allowing for a large number of "voluntary" departures in an economy where that rarely happens on its own.

Announcing you're laying off lots of men and women looks like one more sign of a sinking ship. Announcing that your new PR-ready "superwoman" CEO is revolutionising the arrangements for "working women" puts your layoff out of the business section and into the women's section - excellent damage mitigation!
posted by Wylla at 12:24 AM on February 27, 2013 [47 favorites]


Marissa Mayer Has Made a Terrible MistakeWorking from home is great for employees—and employers.
posted by homunculus at 12:26 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Marissa Mayer doesn’t particularly care for feminism

Does it Matter if Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Think She’s a Feminist?
posted by homunculus at 12:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing this is a corporate culture thing. Anybody who's ever worked at a big tech company knows people who 'slip through the cracks'. You know who I'm talking about. Chronically underperforming individuals who generally could not give a fuck about their work. They do the bare minimum to get by; if you give them something hard, they fuck it up; they put no effort into upgrading their skills; they're basically just there to cash a paycheck. They get bounced around from team to team because nobody wants them, but they never get fired because it's actually hard as fuck to fire someone in the corporate world. My guess is that Yahoo had a particularly liberal work-from-home policy, and a lot of these Miltons were taking advantage of it. Mayer probably sees cutting off their lifeline as an easy way to trim some fat, and I say more power to her.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


I still don't get how Yahoo has remained open for the past 6 or so years. What, really, do they do? Their 'web portal' front page is outright execrable. Yahoo Answers is the blind leading the blind. The only good thing they've done is Flickr.

Agreed with those upthread- this is a disguised layoff.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:36 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


schroedinger: I think it's a pretty reasonable expectation to think the first pregnant CEO would implement policies that are exactly the opposite of what she's doing here, because she would have a better understanding of the demands of having a family.

Perhaps that's exactly what she has, and she's doing away with telecommuting because working at home, and serving the demands of your family, is not serving Yahoo's needs.

She's not there to make employees happy. She's there to make Yahoo successful. We often confuse the two, but they are not the same, and Yahoo is failing to execute in a pretty major way. Bringing everyone back into the office, when the corporation is doing so poorly, may be exactly the correct decision.

Good for her. Working from home is fine if the company is prospering and you're keeping your managers happy, but the company is not prospering. And her being female or not, or pregnant or not, is entirely irrelevant to the decision, which is about making Yahoo back into the success it once was... and then, of course, doing even better.
posted by Malor at 12:37 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I said nothing when they removed the Galaga machine from the break room, for I did not hold the high score.
posted by thelonius at 2:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I suspect this is a decision based on making the company succeed rather than any gender issue, not matter how the FPP (or the tech blogosphere) wants to frame it.

Well then, there would be skads of evidence that working from home has a general rule has a lowering effect on productivity. In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

Don't buy the line about it a retrenchment in disguise - from a PR perspective, as someone who works in PR, that's a pretty bad strategy. Don't know enough about US Labour laws, but here in Aus, you would have to be very careful indeed and someone would be poring through people's employment contracts with a fine toothed comb.
posted by smoke at 2:09 AM on February 27, 2013


Good for her; only a woman CEO could pull this sort of thing off. If she was a man, everyone would be howling for her head.
posted by Renoroc at 2:12 AM on February 27, 2013


If she was a man, everyone would be howling for her head.

As opposed to what's happening...?
posted by smoke at 2:13 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's not about sexism. It's about taking advantage of resources to effectively let her bring her home to her office while not letting others work from home.

Well, there are certain perks that come with the massive responsibilities and stresses of being a CEO of a large company

Don't like it? Become CEO.

If you can't handle the stress and responsibilities of being CEO without wasting company money on a bunch of perks, maybe you should just take one of those breezy, care free, low pressure jobs like being a software developer.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don't know enough about US Labour laws, but here in Aus, you would have to be very careful indeed and someone would be poring through people's employment contracts with a fine toothed comb.

While I am sure that some senior people are, in fact, going through their contracts, and that some who were recruited with explicit wfh arrangements will get settlements of some kind, American workers have far fewer protections against this sort of thing than Australians.
posted by Wylla at 2:50 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect this is a decision based on making the company succeed rather than any gender issue, not matter how the FPP (or the tech blogosphere) wants to frame it.

Yahoo doesn't have a "working from home" problem. Yahoo has a "longstanding pattern of mismanagement from top to bottom" problem. It's borderline hilarious that anyone thinks that Mayer will fix this problem with tighter leashes on all employees.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:21 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have no idea what the institutional culture at Yahoo! is like, and how their work-from-home policy has functioned in practice. Maybe it has been horribly misused, and it's not about work-life balance or family-friendly corporate policy at all for the people who use it, and it's haemorrhaging money and productivity right, left and centre, or whatever else. I doubt it but okay, maybe.

But even so, it is disappointing to see the idea of work-life balance or family-friendly corporate policy itself getting discussed as some sort of high level corporate perk, on a par with office footbaths or shiatsu massages or something, rather than something which a) addresses an issue that disproportionately affects women in the first place and b) is good for society as a whole. Being able to have a job and a family both shouldn't be a luxury reserved for the Marissa Mayers of this world (or the Mark Mayers, who historically would have achieved this just fine with the help of a wife at home); it should be a basic human right.
posted by Catseye at 3:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


Worker productivity isn't what she's trying to improve, nor is she trying to decrease non-wage labor costs - the two things working at home seems to be positively correlated with. She's probably trying to accomplish two things - stealth layoffs - though I suspect someone recruited with a promise of working at home now told to come to an office has a fine constructive dismissal lawsuit to file, and she is trying to fix what she perceive to be a broken corporate culture. Her sex has nothing to do with it and the CEO's of most large companies have perqs and services far beyond the rank and file. Frankly the fact she paid for the nursery herself is a positive surprise.
posted by JPD at 4:00 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Its fucking nuts working at a large company where half the people work from home, we are talking tens of thousands of peple here . I work at a comparitively sized company with a work from home policy. We have people who just up and move to different time zones. Their own managers don't know how to find some of these people. I get emails from random PMs asking where people are. I don't even know where HR or desktop support is. If my laptop breaks, I don't even know where to bring it. Add to that the fact that we have entire floors empty we are paying for. I'm sure yahoo is the same. If I wanted to, I could completely slip through the cracks and draw a paycheck forever.


I still think they are going for Workforce reductions and maybe a sale. Once they get everyone in the office they can identify the underperformers and start pruning. Even if she doesn't sell, she has to make her numbers or she will be the one out of a job.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:02 AM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


Being able to have a job and a family both shouldn't be a luxury reserved for the Marissa Mayers of this world (or the Mark Mayers, who historically would have achieved this just fine with the help of a wife at home); it should be a basic human right.

That is why many companies have daycare, medical, dry cleaning and other services on site. The idea that "working from home" is the only way to achieve the luxury of raising a family is not really true - it can be achieved many other ways.

Plus, if you consider this to be a basic human right, you need to completely gut the service industry, which has bartenders, mall workers and others who have to work on 24-hour cycles in order to operate to satisfy consumer demand. I had more than one single mother bartender co-worker who worked until 3am while her child stayed with someone else. How do you propose we balance this for more than just those with a computer science degree?
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 4:24 AM on February 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


I am all for pro-family workplace policies and flexibility. But that said, if you are still being paid like you're a full-time employee, you should not be working from home to care for your kids. Caring for your kids is work. It's valuable work! It's work people should get credit for doing. But if your boss thinks they're getting you from 8am-5pm with an hour's lunch, and during that time you're caring for two children under the age of eight? They are not getting eight hours of work.

I say this with tons of sympathy for moms. My best friend is the mother of two small children who would like to go back to work. Right now, she's staying at home, though, and her whole day is full of those two kids. If she was working from home? Her day would still be full of those kids.

Child care is work. It has value. It's important for women that it be valued. To say that women should be entitled to work from home to perform child care tasks while they do their other jobs is to say that child care is something that can be done in essentially no more hours than one would be entitled to spend playing Freecell while in the office. It's not true. It seems to me to be a gross disservice to women and parents in general to say that the solution to work/life balance is that it's somehow reasonable to expect women to accomplish both to an adequate level simultaneously. I'm all for telecommuting, but if that's the sort of arrangement that was common, I would be rethinking the policy, too.

Or else it's not common, which would make this just as likely to be about the number of people who spend their days on Youtube and the difficulty of measuring who's getting anything done.
posted by Ex-Wastrel at 4:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [24 favorites]


Continuity of technical knowledge is absolutely vital. A little section of the product goes out the door with every person who leaves.
As a complete aside, this to me is one of those unrealized truths that is blindingly obvious as soon as it is pointed out to you.


One would think. I've seen very much the opposite, there is an incredible degree of basically magical thinking in corporations. That mixed in with success measured by very localized criteria, internecine warfare between departments that need to cooperate, it's often amazing many can keep doors open.
posted by sammyo at 4:31 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm puzzled by the thinking that going into to the office makes it harder for employees to duck work / slip thru the cracks / etc. Surely we've all seen that play out with office dwellers... if anything, that's the more common scenario.
posted by MeatLightning at 4:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why can't I have one of those jobs where I slip through the cracks?
posted by josher71 at 4:38 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Once they get everyone in the office they can identify the underperformers and start pruning.

If you need to get everyone into the office to identify the underperformers, you're doin' it wrong. I worked at an IT dept. in a Big Important Institution known for its conservative and slow-moving nature. The department Veep worked from home 3 days a week, and she was constantly singled out for excellence by Mahogany Row and the Board. She had no problems moving quickly and communicating good ideas and receiving and acting on feedback.

Meanwhile, recruiters are licking their chops - the top talent at Yahoo! won't put up with that bullshit, the bozos will. It's gonna be payday for placement firms and growing companies looking for experienced hands... they won't even need to outbid their old salary, just kick in some work/life balance guarantees. Work-at-home arrangements are just normal IT workplace perks these days, like vacation time and tuition reimbursement.

She can't roll back the clock: managers and front-line grunts across the industry are dismayed at the prospect of losing a cherished benefit, and unless she's remarkably successful in turning the company around in a very short timeframe, this is going to haunt the rest of her career.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:40 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Obviously I don't work at Yahoo but I'm not talking working from home 3 days a week. We have people who have been into the office once or twice in years.

I'm not sure it is easier to slip through the cracks if you are still in the office where people can lay eyes on you every day and and monitor your Internet usage.

Think about the turnover and management shakeups there. I bet there are people who no actual roles anymore, attached to no projects.

You also gotta ask yourself, WTF do 11,500 people do at Yahoo. They could stand to lose a few.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:49 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of people seem to be missing the fact that many of these workers live nowhere near a yahoo office, since their job was 100% telecommute. They just told a big portion of their workforce that they're moving.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:50 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm curious how the constructive dismissal lawsuits will play in the press.

I also am curious why the rule went to 0 telecommuting ever as opposed to limited telecommuting/required office appearances 2 days a week.
posted by jeather at 4:55 AM on February 27, 2013


I also am curious why the rule went to 0 telecommuting ever as opposed to limited telecommuting/required office appearances 2 days a week.

Many of the workers don't live near a Yahoo office, so the two day a week thing isn't really possible.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 4:57 AM on February 27, 2013


I think it's a crappy situation to change someone's terms of employment without serious aid in either paying a stipend for daycare or opening a daycare on site.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:10 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Work from home is great for being there for the cable guy, not for watching kids. Which is why putting in nurseries is a stupidly obvious idea that lots more companies should do. If I could go check on my kid at lunch and see them on the drive there and back, I would much rather come in to the office. It's cleaner than my house and it has grown ups to talk to. Trying to work while watching a baby or toddler is hell.
posted by emjaybee at 5:11 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


The idea that "working from home" is the only way to achieve the luxury of raising a family is not really true - it can be achieved many other ways.

Again, it's not working from home that I consider to be a basic human right, but the ability to have both a family and a career in a balance you're not totally miserable with. Raising a family shouldn't be a luxury.

How do you propose we balance this for more than just those with a computer science degree?

If it's up to me personally? State-supported childcare, paid and flexible maternity/paternity leave, the possibility of additional parental/carer leave even if unpaid without repercussions to the employee, bigger employers offering things like on-site nurseries and childcare co-ordinators, employers being willing to adopt flexible working policies including job-share arrangements, part time employees, people working compressed working weeks, allowing varying hours where possible (e.g. for employees who need to work different shifts during the school holidays) and not pulling things like assigning people shifts outside their usual pattern and made responsible for finding alternative cover if they can't do it, and, yes, allowing people to work outside the office some of the time, where suitable and appropriate for their job. To start with.

I've spent a lot of time in hospitals over the past week due to a family illness, and it's been a weight off my back knowing that I can take my big pile of undergraduate essays with me and mark them during quiet periods. Can I do all my work from wherever I please? No, not at all, but damn it's a relief knowing that the option is there some of the time. So yeah, it's disappointing to see this kind of discussion getting viewed as people wanting the expensive luxury commodity of children while whining about not getting CEO-level perks; we're people with lives and families, and we deserve our wider culture to treat us as such even when we're not earning Marissa Mayer's salary.
posted by Catseye at 5:17 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Telecommuting is not the only possible family-friendly arrangement. I have just one child, and quite frankly, if I were "working from home," there would absolutely be no work getting done. I'd much rather see part-time, flex time,
on site childcare, emergency child care, and sabbatical options rather than rely on a telecommuting scheme. Unless you've a nanny at home, you cannot work effectively when tending your child. It's fine for rare emergencies, but it can't be your primary means of managing work-life, especially at the salaries Yahoo pays.

Yahoo has been a poorly managed company. Having employees who are completely remote doesn't make it easier. It adds to the management overhead when they're trying to become less bloated and ineffective. There's also no evidence that these people were doing to balance work and family. It's just being assumed. My company's telecommuting workers aren't even parents -- they just don't want to move. It works because we are small, but I honestly don't know how it'd scale.

I'm also unsure whether this affects the occasional situational-based work from home day, or just the formal telecommuting arrangements. The former is a perq, the latter a business culture decision which Meyer is well within her rights to make.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Catseye, that's well and good if it's applied fairly. If parents can get paid maternity leave/paternity leave, shouldn't folks without children get paid family leave?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:30 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Katie Roiphe, a writer and academic who works a lot at home, argues that Yahoo is right and that this will improve work-life balance. I'm not sure how, as Meyer works 100 hour weeks and so the employees will be able, I guess, to not think about work at home, primarily because they won't be at home.
posted by jeather at 5:33 AM on February 27, 2013


I'm sure those free meals are totally meant to increase work life balance too.
posted by smackfu at 5:40 AM on February 27, 2013


The issue here isn't that Mayer is a woman. It's that she built a private nursery in her office. We don't, I think, know if Mayer has plans to improve nursery facilities in Yahoo HQ. A smart move would be to, clearly.

But I empathise with Mayer. Yahoo is in a crappy situation. It is overstaffed, underproductive and drifting. It needs a fairly drastic response and that, unfortunately, will be painful. Nobody disagrees that Yahoo is dysfunctional and needs something done.

The response to that is to regroup, to get the whole company on board with your strategy, to prune ineffective management, close down unproductive teams or business units, shape the workforce and the culture of your company around your strategic goals and communicate a lot. The kind of collaborative effort needed to refocus the company is exceptionally hard to achieve under any circumstances.

Achieving that task with a large percentage of your workforce offsite makes the job much harder. Achieving it when you know you remote manage poorly makes it even harder and arguably, in Yahoo's case, impossible in the time frame Mayer is working to.

I've run a mid-size business that had similar problems to those Yahoo faces, albeit on a far less grand scale. I made similar choices - not closing down homeworking (we had none), but shutting down outlying teams that were problematic, and where the effort needed to get them back on track was strategically not viable relative to building up centrally. It was painful and controversial and heavily debated internally, and made a third of my workforce redundant during a recession. I had people in tears begging for their jobs, even in offices that were secure. And it weighed on my conscience. But the teams I shut were rebuilt at HQ, and within six months were performing better and were happier than the established they replaced. They got better training, could access the company perks, got clearer communications that made them actually feel part of the team. Like Yahoo, a lot of the problems stemmed from previous poor management. Unpicking that, even if I'd had the resources to do so, would have also been painful and stood a good chance of failing.

Mayer will lose talent. Set against the deeper redundancies she'd have to make if Yahoo went further backwards I suspect she's ok with that.

Company culture is a sufficiently mercurial beast that legions of consultants make their corn advising on it. But at its heart, more face time, more collaboration and more communication are central to making change work. It's a shitty deal for the people it affects, and particularly shitty for people who have made life choices around their working arrangements. But I think it's pretty unfair to characterise Mayer as an enemy of feminism for making what looks like a pretty sensible business decision in her bid to stop Yahoo rotting away.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I work for a Silicon Valley based tech company and we're not allowed to work from home as a general case and friends who work for other tech companies say the same thing. Obviously we're allowed when a kid is sick or we're waiting for the insurance adjuster or such but as a rule, we're supposed to be in the office. I think that policy is pretty common in the tech world.
posted by octothorpe at 5:42 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


People have been saying that Y! has been badly managed - to my mind, this is understatement. There's been four CEOs in 2012 alone.
posted by boo_radley at 5:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This wasn't a move to kill working from home.

This was a stealth layoff.

Yahoo was trimming the people it had on its rolls that were both less skilled and inflexible. Trust me, the red-hot engineer that ocassionally works from home won't be asked to change. It's the so-so guy that needs help from co-workers who also won't come into the office that'll lose.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:55 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know if you guys know what "work from home" means in the tech world. I have coworkers on my team who I've never met in person, because they live thousands of miles from the office and never visit. The ability to do this is a pretty great job perk -- imagine earning a San Jose salary living in Kansas City. But it does cost the company in a lot of little ways so I understand why the CEO of a struggling company would ban it.
posted by miyabo at 6:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"[Zappos] locks all office doors except one so employees are forced to run into more people on the way out ..."

I'm sure they looked into fire codes and safety, but wow, that is still incredibly creepy.
posted by rewil at 6:16 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


One issue I haven't seen addressed is employees who work from home because of health issues. What about those who are physically incapable of working from the office? Are they just screwed?
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 6:25 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The issue here isn't that Mayer is a woman. It's that she built a private nursery in her office. We don't, I think, know if Mayer has plans to

I'm picturing a nursery building with several levels. The babies of execs get cashmere blankets and trilingual nannies, organic juices, infant education specialists, gourmet baby food---basically Blue Ivy treatment.

The children of the janitors get to play with dust bunnies in one of the subparking lots.
posted by discopolo at 6:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Its fucking nuts working at a large company where half the people work from home, we are talking tens of thousands of peple here .

How is this different that working at a large company? Everyone has meetings. You can't collaborate with 10,000 people -- you don't even know where their office is. The idea that being within 1 mile makes a difference -- and on a large campus, you may not even be within one mile -- is just fucking inane. You don't collaborate with 10,000 people, you collaborate with 10 or less, and if you can do that -- and do that well -- no matter how far away you are.

You do need some face time, yes. But the idea that if you're not there every day for 10 hours, you can't "collaborate" is nonsense on the face.

Cool Papa Bell hits it. This is a stealth layoff. And I'll bet the policy is quietly reversed once it has done its work.

I work remotely, though I'm in the main office once a week for some face time. This turns out to be pretty damn cheap, because I'm close enough to do a day turn and flights don't cost that much. My boss, and my company, are thrilled by me, and have proved this in the most direct way possible -- a long series of bonuses, raises, and promotions.

I'll be honest. There are days I do basically nothing. Sometimes, I don't mean that to happen, sometimes, it's because I went down a research thread, only to find at the end of the day that well, this ain't gonna work, and every so often, because I lose one of the two things at home I have to have to work -- electricity or internet connection.

There are days the battery in the headset dies from overuse. That's annoying as hell.

But for every day I do nothing at home, there are days you are doing nothing at work. Admit it. And then add the days I've been available off hours when something needed to be done right now, I was thirty feet away from my office, and it was done right then, rather than waiting to get a hold of someone who couldn't work remotely and get them into the office. Yes, a very large company has 24x7 staff. That doesn't mean that they don't call for help.

There are people who cannot work at home. It was tough for me, I had to set up rules to make sure I was in the work mindset. I have a work space. I get dressed for work. The one cheat I do -- and it doesn't cost much company time, is I do laundry during the day.**

There are people who get vastly more done at home, esp. as offices shrink cubicles and lower partitions to foster "collaboration" but raise distractions so high that a person can't think to code or configure. There were days where I'd bring a laptop into the datacenter so I could think about the configuration changes I was making before I dropped a service we needed.

There are people who thrive in both environments, by optimizing their time. The face and collaboration time happens in the office, the think and work time happens at home.

And, of course, there are those who do nothing either working from home or at the office.

I've had cold offers from a couple of well known Silly Valley companies. In each case, the answer was quick. "I thank you for the offer, I am flattered by it, but leaving Chicago is not an acceptable condition of work."

Speaking of which, time to get going.

The ability to do this is a pretty great job perk -- imagine earning a San Jose salary living in Kansas City

Well, to be honest, I have this exactly backwards. :-) Imagine making a St. Louis salary living in Chicago. Thankfully, it's more than enough, but for my first two years, the move back to Chicago was an effective cut in my wages.

But it does cost the company in a lot of little ways so I understand why the CEO of a struggling company would ban it.

The assumption is that everyone working from home is wasting their time and would be more productive in office. This is unlikely to be completely true, more importantly, you'll find that some of your best are doing this, and they will leave, because they're good enough to get a new gig at the drop of the hat.

Thus, you've brought the bad ones into the office, to be bad where you can see them, and driven the better ones away.

This helps your struggling company how?

As a stealth layoff, however -- where you intend to somehow *not* get those people into the office, it could work very well.




* Did you know in Chicago, you could watch all the matches for free, if you could deal with Spanish commentary? Univision FTW!

** Do you have *any* idea how much that rocks?
posted by eriko at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Their own managers don't know how to find some of these people. I get emails from random PMs asking where people are. I don't even know where HR or desktop support is. If my laptop breaks, I don't even know where to bring it. Add to that the fact that we have entire floors empty we are paying for. I'm sure yahoo is the same. If I wanted to, I could completely slip through the cracks and draw a paycheck forever.

This just seems like working at home is revealing existing deep flaws in the company.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


the top talent at Yahoo! won't put up with that bullshit, the bozos will. It's gonna be payday for placement firms and growing companies looking for experienced hands... they won't even need to outbid their old salary, just kick in some work/life balance guarantees. Work-at-home arrangements are just normal IT workplace perks these days, like vacation time and tuition reimbursement.

Very true. All of the people with any talent who've been working remotely will be out the door. The people who spend all day playing minecraft will move back into the office, and waste their time gossiping instead. If your people can't work remotely, the "remotely" is the least of your worries.

No matter what your business, if you can't judge the staff's output without having a manager walk around behind them, you've got deeper problems than telecommuting arrangements. And if a tech company like Yahoo can't manage internal remote collaboration, who's dumb enough to trust them to do anything else? I have coworkers in Bangalore, in Brazil, in the Czech Republic, and in arbitrary customer locations, that I interact act with all the time. How seriously am I supposed to take Yahoo's talent now if what I view as routine, they view as insurmountable? Even as an investor, I'm going to have faith in a tech company that says they can only manage people onsite?

But the people who'll really get screwed are the ones who have the misfortune of working far from a Yahoo local office. That bunch has my sympathy.

This was a stealth layoff.

Yep.

But, y'know I wish there was a word for this: I want to stop doing business with a company out of disgust. Then I realize that hell, that company produces no worthwhile goods or services I might want anyway....
posted by tyllwin at 6:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Their own managers don't know how to find some of these people.

Sounds like a bad manager. That's the first thing I'd do if I were them, and if I couldn't find them, I'd be calling HR, and if I couldn't find HR, I'd be calling my immediate report *and* the immediate reports of that manager.

I get emails from random PMs asking where people are

Sounds like a bad PM, who should be contacting managers, not sending random emails. It also sounds like a bad admin/support staff, who should have a company directory online in a known place and have it easily reached. They should also have IM running so you could simply search and ask them. Indeed, the company directory in email should help here.

I don't even know where HR or desktop support is.

They should be at the end of a phone, where they can then tell you where the

Ask your direct report. If you can't reach your direct report, work up the chain. If you get to the CIO, explain why you are calling them. I had to do that once. Once.

Of course, all of this assumes you're new at the job. Once you find HR, I would make a note to them that new employee orientation is lacking, etc. Then again, if you are new at a job, well, you think you're just going to be able to walk up to people and get them to do things?

I know what I tell people who walk up to the admin staff and demand help right now. "This is where you fill out a ticket." Because you are *not* the only fish in the pond. The admins want to help, they will help, but if they drop everything to help you, they'll then drop you to help the next person who walks up, and *nobody* gets any help.

And, to be honest, that seems to be what you want. You want to be able to walk up to anybody and demand work that instant. Guess what? Not gonna happen.

If you've been there for years, I'll be frank -- you have *already* slipped through the cracks. Enjoy your paycheck, and go find a job where you can make a difference.
posted by eriko at 6:45 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let's try it: "Yahoo! CEO Mark Mayer, the first man to have fathered a child while CEO of a corporation, has ordered all telecommuting employees back to the office."

I would criticize this as well. Pretty dickish of you to assume people wouldn't.
posted by spaltavian at 7:03 AM on February 27, 2013


Catseye, that's well and good if it's applied fairly. If parents can get paid maternity leave/paternity leave, shouldn't folks without children get paid family leave?

This is a trumped-up fight, here.

A. yes of course single/nonparenting (and parenting!) people should get time to care for family members if they need it. Unless they are caring for an elderly parent who is dying, they are not going to need it on a regular basis. But most certainly, it should be available to anyone who needs it.

B. Being able to take time off to have a baby is an acknowledgement of the fact that having a baby is a huge, but normal and necessary, undertaking in life. It benefits society, in the sense that society needs new people and someone has to create and raise them.

It is not a special perk, but an acknowledgement of the difficulty involved. Just as handicapped parking is not a special perk, but an acknowledgement of the difficulty involved. Handicapped people do not cackle evilly at having to walk 20 fewer yards than the non-disabled. Parents covered in puke and changing diapers at 3am are not cackling evilly at getting time off those nonparents don't get.

Breeding (sorry) resentment between parents and nonparents is both shortsighted and non-helpful. It is not selfish entitled parents vs. noble hardworking nonparents that is the issue.
posted by emjaybee at 7:09 AM on February 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


I have to say I'm with her on this, as a seasoned telecommuter for any number of consulting gigs, its always been an excuse to get up late and have long lunches. And remember this is Yahoo!, a bullshit company.This could be an entirely reasonable way of culling its content farmers.
posted by Damienmce at 7:16 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always thought that if I didn't like it, I could always go get another job.

At that job, you would be effectively stealing from shareholders who were entitled to your labor at a lower price and worse working conditions, in line with the rest of your industry. At the very least, that is how the shareholders would quickly view this arrangement of yours over time.

You can jump from job to job until there are no more jobs left, but you're effectively just engaged in a long term check-kiting scheme: shareholders and CEOs will view your perks as coming at their expense. And, honestly, you kind of seem to agree with them, since you're perfectly willing to allow that the executives deserve a better workplace environment than you do.

This reminds me of the "Pret A Manger" thread which had a bunch of people chiming in with, "if you wanted to be treated with dignity, you should have gotten a better job."

(and I more or less agree with the concept of reducing telecommuting in Yahoo's case. But the CEO's personal nursery is tacky, tacky, tacky)
posted by deanc at 7:23 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Their own managers don't know how to find some of these people.

What does that mean, exactly? That the manager doesn't know what city the person's in? I'm not sure what difference that makes. I've had managers who've forgotten or gotten it mixed up. They could easily look it up, they just don't care. If the situation I'm working on is in NYC, who cares whether I'm in Chicago or in Boston? Or in LA? "That meeting's kinda late for me," doesn't really cut it as an excuse.

Or do you mean that my manager doesn't know why I'm not at my desk right then? My boss didn't know that when he worked 40 feet away. I'm working to deadlines, and goals, not being paid by the hour to staff a particular chair. Am I at lunch? In a meeting? Down in operations? I've got a phone, and this is crazy, but it's during normal business hours, so call me, maybe?

I get emails from random PMs asking where people are

Uh huh. I'm ignoring that PM, and my actual boss has blown them off, because they either they want hourly updates when I'm days away from my deadline, or because they don't have the resource forms filled out to start tapping my department for labor and want to end run that.
posted by tyllwin at 7:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


The last time I was employed by other people (2004) telecommuting was the only way I could get work done without being interrupted every 15 minutes by somebody stopping by my desk to chat.
posted by the_artificer at 7:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I cannot find where I read that there are, approximately 500 out of 15,000 that telecommute. I also read that the prior management "relegated" their troubled-employees to home rather than have them in the office, spoiling the well. Not a great management decision. If true, however, this will bring that portion of Yahoo's past to a formal close.

/what coolpapabell said
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2013


My work recently underwent some reorganizational....things. The biggest impact on me was that my regularly scheduled work-from-home day (one day a week, Wednesdays) and those of any of my colleagues who had similar arrangements was taken away. I'm kind of resentful, in large part because I work in the California office and my direct supervisor works in our DC office, so we're already remote to each other - but word came down from higher up that working remotely on a scheduled basis was no longer okay.

My boss and I are still remote from one another, of course. My boss and half my team. On my scheduled work-from-home days I usually booted up my email around 6:30 am Pacific so I could check in with my East Coasties, and I stayed on email and working until usually 6 or 7 pm in order to be sure to catch any late West Coastie stuff. Now I check email when I get to work around 8 am Pacific and don't check it after 4:30 pm.

I was told that my work wasn't the problem; I was always responsive and speedy when things needed doing or people had questions or whatever. But we can't work from home because we need to "show face." My office is in a downstairs (basement) corridor. HR never strolls by to see if we're here. My boss's boss, who sits upstairs from me, comes down maybe once every couple of weeks, usually to ask the IT guys something, since they're down here too. He literally does not see me any more often than he did when I worked at home one goddamn day a week. Grrrr.
posted by rtha at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yahoo was trimming the people it had on its rolls that were both less skilled and inflexible. Trust me, the red-hot engineer that ocassionally works from home won't be asked to change. It's the so-so guy that needs help from co-workers who also won't come into the office that'll lose.

This.
posted by davejay at 8:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ex-Wastrel: " But if your boss thinks they're getting you from 8am-5pm with an hour's lunch"

Wow, a job where I clock in and out at set times and have a sacrosanct lunch hour. I'll definitely get one of those, once I set the time machine for 1956.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Chrysostom,

In my experience, that is normal among the non-exempt office employees that I work with.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2013


If it's up to me personally? State-supported childcare, paid and flexible maternity/paternity leave, the possibility of additional parental/carer leave even if unpaid without repercussions to the employee, bigger employers offering things like on-site nurseries and childcare co-ordinators, employers being willing to adopt flexible working policies including job-share arrangements, part time employees, people working compressed working weeks, allowing varying hours where possible (e.g. for employees who need to work different shifts during the school holidays) and not pulling things like assigning people shifts outside their usual pattern and made responsible for finding alternative cover if they can't do it, and, yes, allowing people to work outside the office some of the time, where suitable and appropriate for their job. To start with.

Those are all very progressive ideas, but almost none of them are applicable to the majority of the service industry, particularly in small business where owners are often parents too and the responsibility of adjusting to employee flexibility almost exclusively falls on them out of financial necessity. I mean, people can work part-time but in most service industries, they already have that option. Firemen, police, janitors, sales clerks - these people are required not just when school is in session.

Working in an office where there is flexibility in how the sausage gets made is a luxury. A lot of jobs are in small businesses where physical presence is required at the time of demand, which is usually related to when office employees are not working. So it might be great to suggest that a janitor could work different hours during a school holiday, except that they can't because most offices have a problem with someone vaccuming during office hours.

I don't disagree with you that employers should do what they can to accommodate flexibility in their work for the betterment of their employees (and to attract the best and brightest), however I do balk at the idea this is a basic human right. If it is a right, it needs to be enforceable across the board.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


MisantropicPainforest: "In my experience, that is normal among the non-exempt office employees that I work with."

We're talking here about Yahoo employees who work remotely, right? Developers, project managers, and the like? I would suspect they are mostly expected to deliver X by Y date, regardless of the hours involved.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013


I work as a software engineer at a growing tech company and do almost all of our recruiting and end up doing a lot of the writing about our corporate culture on our blog. So, as a saleswoman of the company itself I have a disproportionate amount of say in many of our lifestyle policies for someone without a 'C' level position.

A lot of the policies we enact are there because human capital is any tech company's biggest asset. Sure, it's possible to document as much as possible, but at least some of the 'what', 'why' and 'how' of a software company is tied up in actual human brains, and it's valuable to be able to access that quickly when something goes wrong. So, we spend a lot of time trying to hire the right people and then keep them for as long as possible.

I went back to work two weeks after having my daughter, mostly because I could. I was given six weeks of maternity leave that I could cash in an hour at a time. I managed to stretch it out until she was three months old. From the age of three to six months I worked full time with the kid at my side.

Those days she went in with me and spent most of her time napping under my desk in a bouncy chair or on play mat with me sitting next to her with my laptop. I also worked quite a few days from home starting at 4am because that is the timing that worked the best for my baby and my brain.

This is a perk that is available to everyone in the company and something that has sustained me as a fiercely loyal employee. I know it won't work for everyone, but in an industry where skills go stale faster than a loaf of bread, it kept me plugged in to my workplace without having to sacrifice bonding with my daughter. Plus, it was cheap to implement and it works with our corporate culture.

I can understand the need for face time in the office, and it's debatable whether working from home adds or subtracts from productivity. However, working from home can be a real life line that minimizes worker turnover and worker stress. And not just for parents. We have one employee whose commute just lengthened to an unsustainable level. He works from home a few days a week and we all get to share in that two hours that he is not sitting in his car.

So, I really can't talk about how this is going to work at Yahoo and whether this is going to turn anything around, but I can say that workplace flexibility and our other work-life balance policies are pretty vital to our strategy for competing for talented workers. I fight Google *every day* for engineers and it's crucial to have as many tools as I can for selling our workplace.
posted by Alison at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sure, maybe my company has managed telecommuting particularly badly. Maybe we have bad managers and bad employees as well. We don't have all the bad managers and bad employees though, there is a good chance Yahoo has some as well.

Sure, when everything works it doesn't matter where people are. I was just trying to express how how insulated some telecommuters are. Some people exist only on IM and email. If something breaks and we need a fix I can email and IM them and hope they are around. I can't look across the office and see if they are there. In most cases I can't call because we stupidly don't issue phones, Yahoo at least does that I hope.

It isn't like timezones apply only to telecommuters, but not knowing what time zone people are in compounds the issue. In our case the office they theoretically work out of offers no hint. For example, WE have developers in Florida attached to the Denver office. For the longest time I thought they were in Denver and always figured they were working when all the other Denver peeps were. I'd send an email at 5:00 assuming they would still be around, since they were in Denver. Nope, they were offline for the day. Sure, maybe I should have checked sooner, I'm just giving an example where it kinda mattered.

Our two offices in India are a whole other can of worms.

Sure, we operate on iterations. Everyone knows when things need to be delivered. Under normal circumstances it doesn't matter which hours people work. It makes it somewhat harder to kick around ideas if people are working random hours and it takes 5 hours for them to reply to my IM, but I can live with that. This is software though, sometimes shit falls over and we need to get people working asap.

For all the issues it pretty much works for us. Hell, even when I worked in the office I argued against "core hours". We have some people with no investment in the company, that nobody had ever met, and do their tasks competently. That is what we want. We let people go eventually if they don't.

Yahoo seems to think it is not working for them. They want people invested in the company and "innovating". They want people talking in the halls and having lunch together. They probably don't want 5 day email sagas because everyone is working random times and some people in Chennai or London have some kind of holiday us UScentric people know nothing about. This is do or die time for them
posted by Ad hominem at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not a feminist issue or a 'woman' issue.
But not only women take advantage of workplace flexibility policies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly as many men telecommute.


This argument presumes that men and women work at equal rates in jobs where telecommuting is available. And actually, given that only "nearly as many men" telecommute, women would have to work in such jobs more than men. I strongly suspect this is not the case.

At the highest level, men are more likely to work than women (64.5% of civilian noninstitutional men employed in 2009 versus 54.4% of women).

With regard to a company like Yahoo (NB these stats are national, not specific to Yahoo): only 29% of computer and information systems managers are women, 24.8% of all computer and mathematical occupations (programmers, database admins, network admins, etc), 9.4% of electrical and electronics engineers, and 8.6% of computer hardware engineers. You get near parity or above parity in some areas like human resources and marketing, but I suspect Yahoo is male-dominated, at least among positions that formerly offered telecommuting.

So, yeah, telecommuting is almost certainly something that women take advantage of more than men, all else being equal, and it very likely has to do with (among other things) gender roles surrounding child rearing and home maintenance.

If Yahoo wants to stop people telecommuting, that's its business, but I hope it replaced it with a big childcare subsidy. I'm sure it didn't, which basically means it's forcing out a bunch of women and other employees with children. This will also likely disproportionately impact older employees, since it's not like 22 year olds straight out of undergrad have a lot of kids. Basically more of the same sexism and ageism that plagues the rest of the IT sector.
posted by jedicus at 9:32 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


The nice thing about being Yahoo! is that you have such a bad reputation as an employer that you can do these things and not particularly worry about losing your best people.

I can't actually figure out why Yahoo still exists. What are they for? Why does anyone care? Does anyone outside the company care? Why does anyone continue working at such an obviously burned out leftover from the dot-com-bubble era? Perhaps Mayer is actually doing people a favor by making it so clear that there is no future in her company.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:47 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, do you know what sexism looks like? It looks like when a successful female executive is criticized for making tough decisions aimed at strengthening her organization on the basis of her gender.

Feminism is not just about getting some women to be executives. It's about improving conditions for all women.
posted by jonp72 at 9:48 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


>I've always thought that if I didn't like it, I could always go get another job.

At that job, you would be effectively stealing from shareholders who were entitled to your labor at a lower price and worse working conditions, in line with the rest of your industry. At the very least, that is how the shareholders would quickly view this arrangement of yours over time.


At the end of the day, it's a sad fact of life that it's always going to kind of suck working for other people.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:51 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Things I learned from this thread:

Mayer is laying people off; this is actually a clever way of doing it, while getting much needed PR for her company. (good or bad PR doesn't matter, people are talking about Yahoo! and that's a relatively rare thing these days)

People who claim they are very productive working from home seem to view trolling around Metafilter as work-related research.

Everyone on this thread works more than I do.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's true, I did just go to the Yahoo home page out of curiosity.
posted by josher71 at 10:32 AM on February 27, 2013


Watching cat videos and reading MetaFilter is part of my process. At least for me, programming is more thinking than typing.

I'm also not sure why Yahoo should be so worried about losing all those superstars that got them where they are today.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:42 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marissa Mayer Is No Fool:
Let's be serious: if significant portions of Yahoo top performers were "stay@home" coders, testers and project management telecommuters, do people really think Mayer would arbitrarily issue edicts guaranteed to alienate them? It's possible. But that would imply Mayer hasn't learned very much about her company's best people, best performers and culture since joining last July. Most successful technical leaders I know avoid getting in the way of their best people's productivity. But what do leaders do when even very good people aren't being as productive as you want or need them to be? Challenging them to be better onsite collaborators hardly seems either unfair or irrational.
posted by chunking express at 10:48 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I cannot find where I read that there are, approximately 500 out of 15,000 that telecommute.

The original news at AllThingsD said 'this will affect several hundred employees'
posted by jacalata at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I'm also not sure why Yahoo should be so worried about losing all those superstars that got them where they are today.

Yahoo!s problems aren't from implementing things poorly. Yahoo! Mail is a perfectly well-executed e-mail web app that did exactly the wrong thing (emulate 15 year-old desktop email applications).

If their product design meetings were happening over crappy teleconference lines then I can see them wanting to do something about that, but people doing the implementation work aren't at the core of what's killing Yahoo!.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:10 PM on February 27, 2013


I just want to throw this out there in regards to a few comments about this issue: when people talk about family care and work from home, I think they are generally not talking about working while actively watching children. I have, though, worked with people who were "on call" during the day while they cared for small children and did the bulk of the "get shit done" in the evenings. So, you'd have someone responsive by email and picking up tasks to do and delivery of said tasks in the morning. But that was a specific and temporary arrangement.

And, wow, that's a serious haul of work and pretty tough on the employee. I wouldn't do it.

My husband just did a short stint of temporary telecommuting. He had an office in the house but out of ear and eyeshot of the rest of us. What did this arrangement give us? A dad who was present and available in the morning and ready to eat dinner and take over childcare duties by 5:30 every evening. No commute. Less stress. He got a HUGE backlog of work done within the first weeks of telecommuting and was very efficient without all the office interruptions and "watercooler" chats. There's this idea that when people are in an office they are more productive but we all know how hard it can sometimes be to be productive in an office.

My most productive days in my last office setting were when the PM who sat next to me was away because he would have an endless parade of people at his desk to talk (about work and non-work chitchat) and lots of phone calls and he was loud. It was very, very distracting to me and took a lot of concentration to drown him out. Unfortunately, it was one of those jobs where telecommuting doesn't work so well. But, I am a big fan of it when it works. It gives you real time back to your day, it gives you flexibility when necessary and it can be very productive.

Anyway, for some reason whenever this topic comes up, someone wants to boil it down to women running around watching toddlers and pretending to work. There are lots of different scenarios in which working from home can be a win-win for employees and employers.

But, yeah, I think Mayer is working on a strategy for Yahoo which may or may not work. I'm interested to see how it shakes out but also very interested to see if this is a bellwether or something which actually expands the conversation of work/life balance.
posted by amanda at 12:22 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]



that, but people doing the implementation work aren't at the core of what's killing Yahoo!.

I understand the argument going around that Yahoo middle management is the real issue, it has a certain appeal. The problem I see is that saying "I do the implementation" and washing your hands of it doesn't really fly anymore. Yahoo could get rid of all their US based devs if all they wanted was bodies to implement stuff. Developers who are invested in the success of the company can and will try to push their ideas up the chain. People don't usually kill ideas for the fuck of it, convince your manager it will be a coup for the team and they will help.

At any rate, if we really are talking about several hundred out of 11,500, then we are making a mountain out of a molehill. I also believe telecommuting can work, I've been in the office maybe 5 times in past 2 years, it is just not working for yahoo at this moment.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2013


My most productive days in my last office setting were when the PM who sat next to me was away

This is the most idiotic way to do "open plan" offices. Put people whose job is to be on the phone and meeting with people all day right next to people who need to concentrate.
posted by thelonius at 1:11 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't imagine that there's anyone who's 'red hot' at Yahoo! anymore because why would they stay and work on that crap? The people I know who've worked there were all recruited away to Google or Facebook or VMWare or similar years ago. Of course, none of them were particularly remote, all being in the Valley.

So I tend to agree that this is a way of getting rid of a bunch of people. I don't necessarily think it's about getting rid of underperformers because the whole place is a stink of underperforming, but maybe it is. But it will get rid of people and that's probably a very good thing in any case for a place that bloated.

I do think it's a terrible bit of PR though. Instead of saying "Yo, slackers, we need you in here showing face because we don't trust you at home with your diapers and cable TV." and forcing people to do it, why not start by creating a culture where the best people are attracted to come in to it? Restructure so that core projects where you're focusing your real turnaround work, that are going to be aggressive and funded and high profile (which you NEED LIKE WHOA) are office-only. Oh, sorry, you want to join Awesome Perk'd Out Dev Team? Sorry, that one's on campus in building A but let us know when you put a downpayment on a place in Sunnyvale and we'll talk, okay? And oh yeah, the office there has an on-site free daycare. In the meantime, keep working on Yahoo Dating, snerk snerk, while we turn this ship around.
posted by marylynn at 1:29 PM on February 27, 2013


I'm guessing this is a corporate culture thing. Anybody who's ever worked at a big tech company knows people who 'slip through the cracks'. You know who I'm talking about. Chronically underperforming individuals who generally could not give a fuck about their work. They do the bare minimum to get by; if you give them something hard, they fuck it up; they put no effort into upgrading their skills; they're basically just there to cash a paycheck.
That's exactly what I was thinking. And there probably are a lot of slackers out there. Like I was saying, it depends on the company at some places, like Google or Facebook or wherever you're going to have highly motivated employees who actually like their jobs so much they'd do them in their spare time anyway. On the other hand, there are probably lots of fat and bloated old companies where things go well enough that some lazy or half-ass employees don't cause too much of a problem.

My guess is that a lot of people at yahoo were happy to 'coast' on their positions, but it seems like there should be a way to actually measure productivity - I mean, this is a woman who demanded a designer test 200 different shades of blue, why would she suddenly demand this one size fits all policy?

I think part of it could be a lack of empathy for people who aren't as big of a workaholic as she is, if she "works" 100 a week* she doesn't understand that some people don't actually want to do that, they want to put in 40 hours (or maybe 35) and do what they are paid to do. There isn't anything wrong with that, but she might see those people as slackers.

The other problem is that you might have people who come in to work everyday - but just like having the option of staying home if they want. People value the ability to do things they never end up doing quite a bit. Look at all the people who buy SUVs but never, ever go offroading or use the cargo space.

(*which, IMO, even if she does spend that much time in the office, it's not going to be time spent doing stuff she doesn't actually want to do with her time - and it could well be she's just micromanaging stuff that doesn't need to be micromanaged)
I still don't get how Yahoo has remained open for the past 6 or so years. What, really, do they do? Their 'web portal' front page is outright execrable. Yahoo Answers is the blind leading the blind. The only good thing they've done is Flickr.
It's like AOL. Pure momentum. I read the other day that shut down husk of megaupload - still gets millions of hits a day, since there are so many (now dead) links out there for files.
Perhaps that's exactly what she has, and she's doing away with telecommuting because working at home, and serving the demands of your family, is not serving Yahoo's needs.

She's not there to make employees happy. She's there to make Yahoo successful. We often confuse the two, but they are not the same, and Yahoo is failing to execute in a pretty major way. Bringing everyone back into the office, when the corporation is doing so poorly, may be exactly the correct decision.
Sure, but let's keep in mind why this is a "feminist" issue. You have people like Sheryl Sandburg (Facebook COO) saying stuff like women don't succeed because they don't "want it" as much - Remember Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" thing, along with his statement that he tried to make his governorship more women friendly by allowing flexible hours?

Part of the problem is that women often end up quitting work after having kids, in academia that ends up being a problem for women because they have kids in a sensitive period in grad school or whatever, when they need to be publishing papers and such.

Probably there are some guys who need to take care of kids at home and work at yahoo, but people think the effect of this is going to disproportionately hit women and especially mothers. In fact, a lot of the highly successful women out there are people who chose not to have kids or even not get married at all. So if you look at successful female role models it looks like you might have to chose between having a family or a career, while men don't have to do that.

And you have to ask: Why do people even want female CEOs of large corporations in the first place? It's not like having more female CEOs is going to benefit very many women directly, since there are so few CEO positions in the first place.

The argument has always been that if we have women CEOs and women in the board room, you're going to get more female friendly policies for the workers down the line.

Yet, here we have one of the most high-profile female CEOs out there, and she's actually doing things that make life worse for working moms, which in turn makes it more difficult for women to advance the corporate ladder unless they decide not to have kids.
I had more than one single mother bartender co-worker who worked until 3am while her child stayed with someone else. How do you propose we balance this for more than just those with a computer science degree?
Well, those jobs typically have more flexible hours, or at least they should. And with a higher minimum wage, people wouldn't need to get as many hours as they could to make rent.
posted by delmoi at 1:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The other thing people need to keep in mind: Yahoo isn't really a technology company anymore. Not the same way that Google, FB, Amazon, etc are. They are a media company. They get hits and they sell ads. Obviously technology underlies what they do, But how many of their top people are programmers? Probably not all that many.
posted by delmoi at 1:34 PM on February 27, 2013


delmoi: "(*which, IMO, even if she does spend that much time in the office, it's not going to be time spent doing stuff she doesn't actually want to do with her time - and it could well be she's just micromanaging stuff that doesn't need to be micromanaged) "

Exactly. If your job takes 100+ hours a week, consistently, it's either poorly structured (you don't have the proper support staff, you're really doing the job of several people, etc.), you enjoy work more than life, or both.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:50 PM on February 27, 2013


Yahoo Issues a Statement on Work-at-Home Ban
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2013


Will Yahoo!'s Work-from-Home Ban Backfire? -- "Even if Marissa Mayer is merely circling the wagons and purging disaffected workers, Yahoo! is sending the wrong message to the Internet universe."
posted by ericb at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2013


I still don't get how Yahoo has remained open for the past 6 or so years. What, really, do they do?

The same thing any company does when they have resources, a solid customer base, and profitable product: keep selling their product to their customers to make a profit. That's as straightforward as it needs to be, and has nothing to do with being universally popular (otherwise McDonalds would have closed their doors long ago, right, and Sony, and any other company that suffers the slings and arrows of many but also profits from a large customer base that likes what they do.)

The trick, then, is how do you make sure you take advantage of the state of things as they are, in order to (hopefully) make a leap forward -- witness Apple just before the iMac and again just before the iPod, they sure weren't popular but they had enough money to fund innovation and did so -- or (at worst) make the business sustainable.

At the end of the day, I get the Yahoo hate, I suppose, but I look at it as not unlike hating on, oh, Hush Puppies for making non-trendy shoes. If there is still a market for Hush Puppies, and a profit can be made selling Hush Puppies, why hang it up because the cool kids aren't wearing your shoes? But you'd be foolish not to try starting a new, youth-oriented brand using Hush Puppies profits, because your customer base is aging. See also: Cadillac and Lincoln.

does that mean success will occur? no, but it might
posted by davejay at 2:42 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Even if Marissa Mayer is merely circling the wagons and purging disaffected workers, Yahoo! is sending the wrong message to the Internet universe."

Mayer isn't out to send any messages to the Internet Universe, the memo was leaked. She's out to cut out a policy that was being widely abused and that was far more liberal than that of Yahoo's peer companies.

Remote work isn't a social justice issue like gay marriage or something.
posted by GuyZero at 3:24 PM on February 27, 2013


The worst part of this whole sordid affair is that Mayer forces everybody to install RealPlayer on all the Gateway 2000 machines running Windows ME that they have in the office. Also, anybody know where I can buy a 128MB USB thumb drive for under $300?
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:55 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Remote work isn't a social justice issue like gay marriage or something.

Arbitrarily reversing a policy that has come to be depended on by a certain group (mothers) kind of is, actually.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:10 PM on February 27, 2013


I.e., it's not the policy itself, it's the manner in which it's being changed.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:10 PM on February 27, 2013


Mayer isn't out to send any messages to the Internet Universe

No. She just doesn't care. And, not caring about how things are perceived out on the Internet is the very core of Yahoo's problems. But the message is now sent. And maybe it'll work out well for Yahoo despite that. I'm not sure I understand what Yahoo's path back to profit is, and it's entirely possible that this tactic will keep the sort of people Yahoo wants and project the image that Yahoo wants to project. I just can't imagine what that sort of ugly niche market it would be where that's the case. Something partnering with Fox News and RIM, umm, make that "Blackberry" maybe.
posted by tyllwin at 4:18 PM on February 27, 2013


Arbitrarily reversing a policy that has come to be depended on by a certain group (mothers) kind of is, actually.

Do you have specific information that this harms specific working mothers? Certainly Yahoo hasn't said who this will affect. And the new policy at Yahoo is the same as the existing policy at Google which has plenty of working mothers (and fathers and familes where both parents work).

I mean, it can be interpreted philosophically or it can be interpreted as a very specific policy fixing something that was problematic.

But basically I work under this system today and it really doesn't seem like anybody is being oppressed. They didn't ban taking your kid to the dentist, they banned permanently working out of you home and in many cases these people were nowhere near any Yahoo office at all.
posted by GuyZero at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never thought I would see the day when I would see MetaFilter stand up for the right for people pulling down 150k to never go into the office.

Welcome to the dark side!
posted by Ad hominem at 4:29 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh hey, look, TechCrunch says the same thing.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


No. She just doesn't care. And, not caring about how things are perceived out on the Internet is the very core of Yahoo's problems.
Oh please. A little Bad PR on tech blogs is the least of yahoo's problems. It could be good or bad for employee morale/productivity, we'll have to see.
posted by delmoi at 4:57 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


We’ve checked and some people who work from home haven’t even logged into the VPN…” she apparently said.

Corporate culture is so crazy sometimes. No manager wants to fire their people. Not only do they lose their head count it makes them look bad, they couldn't manage their employees. Having reports who never even log in to the VPN makes you look totally incompetent, which then makes your manager look incompetent and so on up the chain.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:08 PM on February 27, 2013


A little Bad PR on tech blogs is the least of yahoo's problems

I didn't mean it that way. I mean that it typifies a sort of stodgy, pre-2000 mindset. Yahoo, after all, is a survivor of the first internet bubble, and not exactly, today's big thing. That'd be a very hard thing to take back, and I don't see anything here that makes me expect it.

Having reports who never even log in to the VPN makes you look totally incompetent

Of course it does. I, at least, don't argue that working remotely always works. You have to have competent managers, but if you don't have that, having more people in the office isn't going to fix it.

BTW, since it hasn't been said, I'll be the one to comment that this disproportionately effects people with physical disabilities as well as women. Of course, I don't know that Yahoo has any such workers.
posted by tyllwin at 5:17 PM on February 27, 2013


You have to have competent managers, but if you don't have that, having more people in the office isn't going to fix it.

You are right, they should probably just fire them instead of giving them a chance to redeem themselves.

I think Meyer is being generous here. She is acknowledging that management played a role in systemic abuse of the policy. People get to come back to the fold.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:24 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll be the one to comment that this disproportionately effects people with physical disabilities as well as women.

Why? Again, Yahoo's competitors have disabled employees who come into the office every day just like everyone else. I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure the ADA ensures that they're accommodated.
posted by GuyZero at 5:29 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure they make accommodations for employees with physical disabilities that prevent them from coming in to the office.

All of these people adversely affected are hypothetical, versus the very real people who are ripping off the shareholders, are too stupid to notice their reports are ripping them off, or are allowing them to do so.

AS for good press, is it worth the millions of dollars they are likely losing? Let's say a developer is 200k all in, so it only takes 5.

Reading the thread it is like "yahoo is on the brink of insolvency but they should keep doing what they are doing"

I'm pissed on Meyer's behalf, I would probably fire 20% of the workforce and let the moms and disabled employees stay home and work though.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:55 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


New Yorker's cartoon editor tries the same approach.

But seriously, here in San Luis Obispo (midway between LA and SF) there are occasional news stories about the highest-paid local tech hotshots who work here for big name companies elsewhere. I recall the last two have both featured Yahoo! execs here who changed jobs... one of them went to work for GoDaddy, and I thought "that can't speak well for Yahoo".
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:48 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't mean it that way. I mean that it typifies a sort of stodgy, pre-2000 mindset. Yahoo, after all, is a survivor of the first internet bubble, and not exactly, today's big thing. That'd be a very hard thing to take back, and I don't see anything here that makes me expect it.
Yeah, but you can't really say that Marissa Mayer is stodgy and has a pre-2000 mindset? I don't know that I'm personally a huge fan of hers, but she obviously was a huge influence at google and thus on the entire post-2000 internet itself.

Like others, this really seems more about trying to fix yahoo's specific internal dysfunction then an overall then about best practices in general.

My basic criticisms are that 1) Yeah, it looks pretty bad when you build a nursery for yourself so you can take your baby to work every day then make it so mom's can't work from home. 2) This is an example of the kind of policy that can affect women more then men, and specifically slows women down from climbing the career ladder.

With respect to yahoo itself, we don't know how the policy will play out. It could lead to resentment and losing "the best" people, and simply causing slackers to slack off at work, or it could result in clearing out the biggest slackers and causing everyone to work harder.

I think she could have found a better way to do this, though. Maybe build an automated system to track specific tasks to see who's getting assigned what, how productive they are, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 6:49 PM on February 27, 2013


Maybe build an automated system to track specific tasks to see who's getting assigned what, how productive they are, and so on.

I've used various task tracking apps as part of Agile. They were forced upon us by a certified Scrum Master. In that case tasks are created as part of sprint planning. Tasks were bite sized chunks of a feature, meant to take less than 8hrs each. Creating tasks and estimates were left up to the developer, they could be as granular as you wanted. Some developers gamed the system, breaking features into dozens of tiny tasks so it looked like they were doing lots of things and the features they were implementing were really complex. Those same devs intentionally left bugs so they could fix tons of things and look like superstars to the people who looked at the metrics.

All this planning introduced its own overhead, if a sprint was 14 days, we were spending 3 planning it.

CSRs and support people typically have their own ticket systems, it is much easier to tell if they are fucking off because customers actually complain. How do you track everyone else though.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:14 PM on February 27, 2013


Yes, we did Agile wrong, our Scrum Master was an idiot and our developers pretty scummy, we are talking about a company where people don't work at all and still draw a paycheck, how are they going put any kind of process in place the right way.

Even if you put in place system where tasks and time estimates were determined by a panel of internationally known experts, being told "this will take 4 hours, no excuses" would be more demoralizing than coming in to the office.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:21 PM on February 27, 2013


I can see why Mayer doesn't care about this, especially since it's likely to be considered to disproportionately burden women and she famously let people know she doesn't consider herself a feminist:

I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don't, I think have, sort of, the militant drive and the sort of, the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it's too bad, but I do think that feminism has become in many ways a more negative word. You know, there are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there is more good that comes out of positive energy around that than comes out of negative energy.
posted by discopolo at 7:37 PM on February 27, 2013


She's not a feminist; she just believes that women should have the same rights and career choices as men.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:49 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


The same thing any company does when they have resources, a solid customer base, and profitable product: keep selling their product to their customers to make a profit.

Yes but what actually is that product, and who are its customers? I mean what does yahoo the corporation actually DO? I remember they used to operate a search engine, back before Altavista ate their lunch, and they used to have a webmail service back before everyone switched to gmail, but what are they actually doing in 2013? I just opened up yahoo.com for the first time in probably a decade to see, and it looks like they are a news site now...?
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:04 PM on February 27, 2013


This is an example of the kind of policy that can affect women more then men, and specifically slows women down from climbing the career ladder.

So I'm not a woman and I'm not going to deny anyone's experience if they tell me it's different than mine, but in my experience the only thing I ever saw slow women down on the career ladder was not being in the office.

If you think that it's beneficial for anyone's career to rarely see their boss and co-workers face to face then you have a vastly different workplace experience than I do.

Remote work has it's advantages, but climbing the corporate ladder is not one of them.
posted by GuyZero at 9:59 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've used various task tracking apps as part of Agile. They were forced upon us by a certified Scrum Master. In that case tasks are created as part of sprint planning. Tasks were bite sized chunks of a feature, meant to take less than 8hrs each. Creating tasks and estimates were left up to the developer, they could be as granular as you wanted.

All this planning introduced its own overhead, if a sprint was 14 days, we were spending 3 planning it.
That certainly sounds annoying, and any time you come up with metrics to try to measure productivity, you're going to get people trying to game the system, for sure. And it's certainly true that programmer productivity can be difficult to measure.

And in the short run, more overhead might be a waste. But in the long run, even at an individual level programmers can become better at estimating how long things are going to take, at knowing what kinds of tasks they're best at so they can be distributed across the team and so on. So it in the long run you might gain more time then you lose.

And if do have slackers, or people who just aren't good at managing time having more frequent and shorter duration deadlines can be really helpful.

I think it really depends on how good and/or motivated your programmers are.
She's not a feminist; she just believes that women should have the same rights and career choices as men.
I think anyone who gets to the position that she has is going to be part politician, so I think she's probably saying what she thinks will help her out in the tech world, which is interesting.
So I'm not a woman and I'm not going to deny anyone's experience if they tell me it's different than mine, but in my experience the only thing I ever saw slow women down on the career ladder was not being in the office.
But, if a woman were to quit her job and stay home for a decade to raise kids, how would you see it? I've seen various studies that show it can be a problem for women advancing in academia - and obviously most companies are not going to publish studies about why they don't have many female managers.

As far as remote work harming your chances at advancing, I guess that's an issue, but less of one then simply not taking the job to begin with.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mayer also did an interview where she claimed she was very gender unaware and that if she had paid attention to that she would have been distracted.

She's also not really interested in specifically encouraging women into going into CS:

However, the Makers' interview wasn't the first time Mayer distanced herself from feminism; she once told Slate that she was "much less worried about adjusting the percentage [of women in the industry] than about growing the overall pie.…

which makes me think she isn't really interested in the struggles of other working women. In short, she'd like you to quit your complaining because it's keeping you from also having a penthouse "atop the Four Seasons" and a $5 million dollar house in Palo Alto where she had time to make spreadsheets with cupcake recipes in them and criticize an applicant for getting a C in a non-major class.
posted by discopolo at 12:18 AM on February 28, 2013


That last comment is referring to this profile:

At a recent personnel meeting, she homes in on grade-point averages and SAT scores to narrow a list of candidates, many having graduated from Ivy League schools, whom she wanted to meet as part of a program to foster in-house talent. In essence, math is used to solve a human problem: How do you predict whether an employee has the potential for success?

A scrum of executives sit around a table, laptops in front of them, as they sort through résumés, college transcripts and quarterly reviews. The conversation is unemotional, at times a little brutal.

One candidate got a C in macroeconomics. “That’s troubling to me,” Ms. Mayer says. “Good students are good at all things.”

Another candidate looked promising with a quarterly rating from a supervisor of 3.5, out of 4, which meant she had exceeded her manager’s expectations. Ms. Mayer is suspicious, however, because her rating hasn’t changed in several quarters.

“She is looking for a way out,” Ms. Mayer says.

posted by discopolo at 12:27 AM on February 28, 2013


I wonder what would happen if a big company tried just having no CEO. You could probably sell this to the business press as some kind of Zen Business Warrior thing. The self-leading corporation! Hire out-of-work actors as needed to do conference calls or give presentations.
posted by thelonius at 4:43 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Despite Yahoo's ban, working from home may be the future -- "For millions of American companies large and small, telecommuting has become a critical force in boosting worker productivity and growing profits in the information age."
posted by ericb at 4:49 AM on February 28, 2013


I find the profile disturbing because on the one hand the selection part is being touted as objective, the math part, but really if the numbers don't pan out to the preferred interpretation then very subjective interpretation is used, "she is looking for a way out." So that a numerically qualified candidate can be cut from the pool. You see, all things are not equal. The underlying assumptions that your high school and undergraduate records dictate your presence and though your development as an adult may have been vastly different(late bloomer) means less than the chrysalis or even pupa stage. Fostering talent includes untapped talent, her model assumes only ready talent should be fostered. How limiting.
posted by jadepearl at 4:55 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The underlying assumptions that your high school and undergraduate records dictate your presence and though your development as an adult may have been vastly different(late bloomer) means less than the chrysalis or even pupa stage. Fostering talent includes untapped talent, her model assumes only ready talent should be fostered. How limiting.

I think the point of it is supposed to be "limiting." In any of these situations, there is probably much more talent than there are available positions. What happens in these cases (eg, Harvard admissions), is that the selection process starts to tilt over onto the "wacky" side as they want some kind of "standard" to do pare down the possible pool of applicants while at the same time would feel uncomfortable using a lottery system.
posted by deanc at 7:40 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Deanc, I do not mind that there is a criteria being applied, however, I think it is a bit disingenuous to say that it is objective, the math part, and is instead quite subjective. It is the veneer of the objective rationale that SCIENCE! MATH! is the final arbiter when really, it is not.

Selective schools and even not so selective schools have been forthright that it is not purely numbers that dictate admission. In any case, coming back to the fostering talent selection process of Mayer, it is the article's implication that numbers, straight numbers are the criteria.
Ms. Mayer says she relies on charts, graphs and quantitative analysis as a foundation for a decision, particularly when it comes to evaluating people.
However, that is not the case being shown.
Another candidate looked promising with a quarterly rating from a supervisor of 3.5, out of 4, which meant she had exceeded her manager’s expectations. Ms. Mayer is suspicious, however, because her rating hasn’t changed in several quarters.

“She is looking for a way out,” Ms. Mayer says.
Again, I don't mind a criteria being used but do be honest about it's nature.
posted by jadepearl at 9:56 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think anyone who gets to the position that she has is going to be part politician, so I think she's probably saying what she thinks will help her out in the tech world, which is interesting.

I don't think so. If one wanted to be uncharitable one could accuse Marissa of being borderline Aspergers... I know it's a trite armchair diagnosis for tech people, but there's a kernel of truth to it. She is not an ideologue, sort of. She is an ideologue about always being driven by data. She doesn't care about broad issues or why things are the way they are. This is the woman who allegedly split tested 40 shades of blue for a page payout to see which one performed best.

Ms. Mayer says she relies on charts, graphs and quantitative analysis as a foundation for a decision, particularly when it comes to evaluating people.

She's numbers-driven to a fault. And for better or worse she's blind (perhaps willfully, perhaps not) to any broader issues when she makes decisions.
posted by GuyZero at 9:58 AM on February 28, 2013


Here's another, less flattering profile of her and a better look look at how she got shut out of Google's select operating committee:

Page had taken over the running of Google’s day-to-day operations from Eric Schmidt, the company’s longtime CEO, in April 2011, and immediately launched a major renovation of the company’s structure and priorities. Mayer was bruised in that reshuffling. For about a dozen years she had presided over “search”—which is to say everything the user saw, felt, and experienced when navigating Google—but now she was shunted away from that core business and put in charge of “local”—maps, restaurant recommendations, and the like. This was arguably a demotion and at best a lateral move. And when Page overhauled the operating committee, or “OC,” Mayer’s reduced status was made both explicit and public. The committee was renamed “the L-Team,” after the boss, and he pushed Mayer off in order to make room for a handful of others, including Android and YouTube masterminds Andy Rubin and Salar Kamangar. “She was not included,” says her friend Dylan Casey, who left Google last year. The L-Team is Google’s Sanhedrin, a group of insiders that decides strategy and vets acquisitions.
posted by discopolo at 11:05 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm at a company that has a WFH policy that is left to the discretion of your manager. So far in the teams I've been on, we've been able to work it out among us. Usually we pick a set day but no one has any real problem with people doing more or less. Because we're so well managed, we tend to be in the office during high intensity projects or heavy meeting days and spend more time at home if we have a specific individual project that needs our undivided attention.

I don't understand the wfh as childcare thing though. It specifically states in our HR documents that WFH is not to be a substitute for finding childcare during working hours. Is this not the case elsewhere?
posted by asockpuppet at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm going to throw this out because it's circling in my head and maybe someone will understand and help me make sense of it:

Using this decision as some sort of feminist litmus test is kind of a mistake but I feel conflicted about a lot of what we say when we see someone like Marissa Mayer at the head of a tech company. It's important that we see women in these roles and even more so that they're successful because if they fail then they fail As Women - their femaleness will matter a great deal in failure, but in success, as we've seen, even they dismiss it. But looking to someone in such an extreme position to make any kind of major change on behalf of Womankind (were it so monolithic) is a mistake. Because once you're Mayer the fact of the existence of a set of ovaries matters far less than the fact of your enormous bank account. And in these cases, they came from enough privilege that the one disadvantage they have structurally (you know, that lady thing) isn't enough to hold them back. It's like that analogy of being born on third and thinking you hit a home run, she was born maybe on 2nd and still sees the home run. So I guess I see why she doesn't get it, as much as I wish she did.

Also, she tricked us with that girly cupcake thing. Pink and fluffy and cupcakes might be girlie, but girlie doesn't a feminist make.
posted by marylynn at 1:01 PM on February 28, 2013


i think it sounds just as bad if a male CEO made the decision. or maybe it's a good business decision, i don't know.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:07 PM on February 28, 2013


I'm still waiting for someone to really explain to me what telecommuting is supposed to enable that makes it so extra-special for women. I work in the tech industry, and the only tele-commuters I've known have been guys with very long commutes. If one spouse works far away from where they live, I see that tele-commuting can be a great plus. But women aren't realistically taking care of kids while they tele-commute. Maybe early after having a baby they could more conveniently breastfeed while a nanny takes care of the kid (which I'm sure is what's happening in Marissa's nursery). What am I missing?
If anything, it feels somewhat anti-feminist to claim that tele-commuting is terrible for mothers in particular. Because fathers can't be the ones to pick the kids up from school? I'd rather see all workers band together to support work-life balance initiatives like better working hours, parental/family leave, etc. That to me is essential to building efficient companies that don't suck their workers dry, not just having everyone work from home.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:02 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those of you haven't experienced it directly, it is really common for women who have "made it" in a mostly male field to have this kind of "one of the guys" blindness...men are still superior, but an exemplary woman can be just as good! Not like all those other women, they're stupid. Token Syndrome, if you will.

I used to run into it a lot, in the form of real hostility from older women in my field who had been through the wars, regarded their turf as The One Woman Who Made It hard-won and non-expandable, and therefore me as competition. They would be downright chummy with guys my age, but freezingly hostile to me. They always had the same sort of "not a feminist, oh no!" spiel and spoke disparagingly of women in general.

Sexism has lots of ugly ripple effects, even when you "win."
posted by emjaybee at 8:30 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


But basically I work under this system today and it really doesn't seem like anybody is being oppressed.

Ditto. I mean, plenty of Googlers work from home 20% of the time or more. It's far from banned, and its not clear to me exactly how Yahoo's policy is changing. And certainly things like appointments/etc are common WFH reasons for Googlers and I don't see people getting penalized for it.

The only thing Google frowns upon is 100% WFH, really. And while I know it is possible for some people, it can be difficult enough to work with people in remote offices (which for me includes Mountain View). For your closest team members, I think its hard to have the level of communication and information sharing you get from working together physically through any other means. Despite having G+ and gmail and talk and Hangouts and all that stuff, it does not play out the same. I've been the remote member on a team that was otherwise co-located, and it really sucks. Much happier to be on a local team again.

Of course, this is just a comment about software development. If you work a mostly solitary job (which programmers at large companies really dont) then WFH seems entirely reasonable. Plenty of people have careers where they don't really have a "team" -- maybe a manager/boss they need to sync up with a few times a week, but thats it -- thats do-able over phone or videochat or whatever.
posted by wildcrdj at 8:47 PM on February 28, 2013


I'm still waiting for someone to really explain to me what telecommuting is supposed to enable that makes it so extra-special for women.

Firstly, it's extra-special for parents. We haven't really looked at it from that perspective, but Ms Mayer is a parent and she's arguably letting Team P down as well as Team W. Yes, people shouldn't look after kids while working from home, but working from home gives you extra flexibility when your kid is sick and saves precious commute time in which you can take kids to daycare or a doctor.

Secondly, even though we live in a post-sexism era, the fact is that in two-parent mixed-gender households primary responsibility for childcare typically does fall on the mother. Part of this might be the fact that she probably spent the past nine months carrying the child, and this leads into my third point.

Breastfeeding.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:46 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Beware of broken glass: the media's double standard for women at the top.
posted by chunking express at 7:58 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Feminism is not just about getting some women to be executives. It's about improving conditions for all women.

I wonder if any women are Yahoo shareholders.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:57 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


jonp72: "Feminism is not just about getting some women to be executives. It's about improving conditions for all women."

Somehow missed this comment.

This is the definition that leads executive women to declare themselves not feminists. The "if women ruled the world" crowd gives off an implicit assumption that women CEOs will behave differently than men, even though the exact incentives and motivations apply. Moreover, pretty much any board of directors favors profitablity over worker's rights. So the CEO adopting your version of feminism would be seen as at odds with shareholder's interests. About as close as you can get is retaining talent, and the "backdoor layoff" subtext mentioned up thread means you're already gonna lose some talent.

tl;dr: Show me the feminist mutual fund.
posted by pwnguin at 4:35 PM on March 7, 2013


We’re All Bystanders to the Sandberg-Mayer Mommy Wars
New York City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn is single-handedly blocking a bill that would ensure paid sick days for all workers in the city. This news item, which should be at the heart of the work-life balance conversation, has rarely been noted as we huff and puff about Sandberg’s circles and Mayer’s nursery. “While we all worry about the glass ceiling, there are millions of women standing in the basement,” British feminist Laurie Penny once wrote, “and the basement is flooding.” Have you read much about the domestic workers’ strike in California, much less participated in a Twitter debate about it? Me neither. The “mommy wars” is like a discourse borg that manages to absorb and distort all conversations about women and work.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2013


New Study Exposes Gender Bias in Tech Job Listings
posted by homunculus at 7:58 PM on March 12, 2013


Silicon Valley Poverty Is Often Ignored By The Tech Hub's Elite
posted by homunculus at 8:01 PM on March 12, 2013


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