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What’s Up Yahoo!? Why The Huge Step Backwards?

In my old attic office.

In my old attic office.

Maybe you’ve never heard of Marissa Mayer. The only reason I know who she is is because she became The CEO of Yahoo!, last summer wihle five months pregnant.

One pretty big step for Mayer, one giant leap for womankind, I thought at the time.

Of course, back then I envisioned a bright future full of bold initiatives. After all, at 37 Mayer became the youngest woman CEO ever to lead a Fortune 500 company. And pregnant, no less! You go, girl!

Much like Lisa Belkin over at The Huffington Post, I hoped Mayer would “use her platform and her power to make Yahoo! an example of a modern family-friendly workplace. That she would embrace the thinking that new tools and technology deserve an equally new approach to where and how employees are allowed to work.”

But it wasn’t meant to be. After taking a scant two-week maternity leave that must’ve ended in a few popped stitches she hit the Yahoo! corridors running, beginning with her recent decree that Yahoo employees can no longer work from home.

Huh? But… You’re Yahoo! A pillar of the Internet. And the cool thing about the Internet? It’s almost everywhere. No matter. Apparently Mayer thinks those of us who log online from home to work are just frittering about on the company’s dime.

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices,” the memo, obtained by Kara Swisher on allthingsd.com, states.

First and foremost, working online is the way of the future. It just is. Sometimes we are frittering about while working from home but no more than the people you want to haul into the office. In fact, I daresay we work harder because when we waste about on the Internet we’re wasting our time, not yours. I’m more likely to kill time on the Internet while clock-watching at the office than I am at home when I have a thousand things I need to be doing. And the thing about working from home is that you’ll know that when we don’t produce results. If we get the job done, we get it done and what do you care that we did it between 9 and 5am or 9 and 5pm so long as we do it and we do it well?

The more employers learn to trust employees to get it done in whatever way best works for them the happier we’ll all be. Not all of us are the most productive between 9 and 5. In fact many of us do better in the wee hours. Or the early hours. Or maybe on weekends. It’s different for everyone. Some of us work better when we sit down for five hours and hammer it out, others do better in two hour spurts of productivity with breaks in between.

Point is, we all work in different ways and the beauty of working on the internet is that it allows us to find the right pace for our productivity not only based on personality but by what our current family situation requires. In this work-from-home advocate’s opinion, Mayer is taking a huge step backward not only for her company but for parents everywhere trying to find the right work balance that’s best for their family – a shocking move for an allegedly forward-thinking tech company. Lisa Belkin, as usual, nails it saying “Rather than championing a blending of life and work, she is calling for an enforced and antiquated division.”

Mayer’s move immediately brought to mind a report I did back in Salt Lake City on BYU professor E. Jeffrey Hill who, after studying 24,000 IBM employees came to the conclusion that working from home makes for happier employees and happier employees are more productive employees.

Here’s the gist:

Employees who work flexible hours from home at least once a week experience less burnout and can work longer with less work-life conflict than traditional 8-to-5 office dwellers, said lead study author E. Jeffrey Hill, a professor in the School of Family Life. “When you have that sense of autonomy … in where or when you’re going to work, then the natural outgrowth of that is job satisfaction,” Hill said. “When you add flex time to flex place, the benefits are dramatic.” Of the more than 24,000 IBM employees Hill studied, those on a set office schedule reached burnout at 38 hours, while telecommuters with a flexible schedule went nearly 57 hours before reaching work-life conflict. Hill can personally attest to results like these, having been one of the first telecommuters at IBM in the early ’90s.

Not only that, but think of all the time wasted on commuting and water-cooler talks with co-workers. I wasted faaar more time in my job as a news producer at FOX news than I ever do at home. At home I get online, get my work done and I’m out. I’m grateful to work for a company like Babble who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. I have a sick kid I email my editor and tell her an assignment might be late and she’s fine with it. Usually I can get it done a few hours later when my kid is sleeping as opposed to having to call in sick for an entire day and play catch-up the next.

Employers, like Marissa Mayer, need to learn to trust that the people they’ve hired to do the job will do the job. As Professor Hill says, “When there’s trust, people perform better. They give more of themselves to the job, and they’re more successful.”

You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.

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