Scream all you want but don’t Yahoo! at home
There’s something ironic, perhaps disconcerting, about a tech company built on people’s ability to access it from anywhere forcing its employees to work in the office rather than at home.
And there’s something equally head-scratching that a new mother, hired in her third trimester to take over a Fortune 500 company, who was viewed as a role model for shattering glass ceilings would issue an edict that goes against the grain of allowing working families flexibility to do their jobs. It’s almost, well, man-like.
Welcome to the world of Yahoo!, where an internal memo telling workers to report to the office by June 1 or find another job is causing quakes inside and outside Yahoo!’s California headquarters. While some CEOs, mostly men, were split, reaction from the working masses to the dictate by new CEO Marissa Mayer has ranged from muted annoyance to outright outrage, with little sympathy for one of the legacy tech companies.
Yahoo was originally an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,” one that many see fit to hang on Mayer. Mayer was lured from Google last summer when she was six months pregnant, giving working women everywhere hope that families were no longer an impediment to advancing up the ladder. That a major multinational company would lavish a five-year, $117 million contract on a 37-year-old mom said louder than any commercial could: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd quotes Mayer’s friend Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, who wrote the world of technology is “changing the emphasis on strict office hours since so much work can be conducted online.” Mayer must not have gotten the memo.
The memo from Yahoo! human resources basically said those who worked from home were potential slackers and the creative juices flow more freely when intermingling with co-workers rather than hanging in a bathrobe chasing around a toddler with soiled diapers while trying to write code for the next great Yahoo! innovation, which, truth be told, has been a while.
Experts and telecommuters both panned the approach, especially given the source. “She’s in a technology company, and she’s running a technology company. Technology companies are usually on the vanguard of these kinds of virtual workplaces,’’ Boston College management professor Brad Harrington told NECN. “It’s very unusual for a technology company to say, ‘Well, if you’re working remotely, you’re really not connected to the office.'”
Other stories cited studies that showed productivity increased when workers were given the flexibility to perform some of their responsibilities from home. “It would not be possible to raise my son the way I feel it is my duty to do, and work in an office,” Whit Andrews, a tech analyst and single father of an 11-year-old son from Shrewsbury, told the Globe. “For me to do my duty with this boy, this flexibility has been essential to my sense of self-worth as a father and as a worker.”
But fear not, Yahoos, which is how the company refers to its workers, there is some flexibility in the new rule.
“For the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration,” the memo says. That is probably so the Internet line can be installed so you can use Yahoo! from home – on your spare time, that is.
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