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Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change

I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good example for maternity leave policies for working women)

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After a few hours of, you know, working and minding my own business, my disgust at this news somewhat subsided.  I learned that there was a bit more to the situation than the earliest reactionary headlines suggested.  In particular, Yahoo!’s policy change is designed to target employees who have been working solely from home, as opposed to working most of the time in an office environment, but with the flexibility to work from home when needed for family or personal reasons.

As much as I love to hate on Marissa, I can get behind spending the bulk of work time in an office environment when your job duties involve creativity and collaboration.  So it appears that the policy change is not so much about eliminating flexibility options for working families, as to change the work culture of the company.  I only hope that Yahoo! doesn’t eliminate the potential for occasional telecommuting when the need arises.  Because that would be a true jerk move.

Andlthough I haven’t seen nearly as much confirmation on this, I did hear whispers that she has also eliminated flex schedules.  That, my friends, I see as an unnecessary thumb-of-the-nose to working parents.  If true, elimination of flex time is inexcusable.  That deserves true scorn.

Working parents and their supporters so frequently demand, and praise, “flexibility” in the workplace.  But “flexibility” is so ill defined as to practically be meaningless. Similarly with “support” for working families.  We want the work environment to change to “support” working families, but what does that mean?

To me, a “supportive” work environment for working families means:

-The flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.

-Paid parental leave for a reasonable duration at the birth/adoption of a child.

-A workplace culture that trusts you to be a professional and accomplish your work (whether it’s at 3pm or 2am), without hovering over you and tying you to outdated notions of face time.

-Most importantly, a culture of flexibility. That means coworkers and superiors accepting that maybe you’ll be out for an afternoon here or there or sometimes you have to unexpectedly deal with illness or whatever, but not penalizing you for that.

-In an ideal world, employers would offer stopgap “Get Well” childcare.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be paid for by the employer. I’d be happy to pay for it out of pocket. Just if the employer could have a service in place to provide emergency childcare when your kid’s got the flu but you’ve got a deposition that took four reschedulings to find a date where eight attorneys could all show up.

-A change in perspective that these flexible measures are not just for parents/kids.  Everyone can benefit from this kind of supportive work environment.  Everyone needs a little flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, a parent, your beloved Fido, or a mental health break for yourself.  Flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue, and it can benefit everybody.

What do workplace “flexibility” and “support” mean for you?

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