Yahoo kills telecommuting. Three cheers for Marissa Mayer!

Thank goodness someone finally had the courage to stand up and say that telecommuting is officially banned. Because telecommuting has been implicitly banned for a long time in Silicon Valley, but only Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has the courage to say it, point blank, without apology.  And her honesty is going to help all of us.

Telecommuting has been dead for a while.
Facebook has something called lock-down, where no one can go home. Kids come to Facebook if they want to see their parents. Really. Which means that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has also been promoting the end of telecommuting, but it’s actually more difficult for her to come out and say it when she is also championing the cause of women and encouraging them to “lean in” and have kids alongside a huge career.

Both Mayer and Sandberg really want women to succeed in business. They don’t want affirmative action for women. Mayer and Sandberg have young kids and they are giving up their time with their kids – in an extreme way – so that they can run big, important companies.

The message here is that if you want to work at a company where people are doing big and important things, you have to give up everything. It’s okay to say that. Sandberg and Mayer are giving up everything so why can’t they ask that of everyone else?

Telecommuting is for people who don’t want to give up everything for their company. Mayer doesn’t want to work with people like that.

Companies move more efficiently if everyone is at the office.
The reason flexible jobs are hard to find is that most companies demand that you show up and put in face time at the office. We have been clamoring for ages that women want flexible work, but companies don’t want to give flexible work. (In fact, women are so fed up with the lack of flexible work that they are starting businesses at a higher rate than ever and Forbes called entrepreneurship the new women’s movement.)

The Harvard Business Review combines easily-found data to show that innovation happens faster if people work at the same office, and company culture is easier to control and more energizing if people share physical space. Also face-time is linked to higher performance, which is linked to the idea of propinquity, the word to describe why people work better if they are in the same room. If you are near someone, you get along with them better. It’s how human beings work—it’s part of our social DNA that goes back millions of years. We understand each other if we see each other, which makes sense since we read so many nonverbal cues.  So people who are physically together are more efficient, more productive, and more innovative than people who are not physically together.

This is the type of data Mayer is relying on to justify her demand that people work at the office. Sure, there is data that individual workers are more productive if you let them handle their personal life with flexible work. But there is also evidence that top firms don’t need to accommodate those people. In Silicon Valley, home to Facebook, Google, Airbnb, none of most desirable companies make room for a personal life. They don’t have to. They have plenty of people hoping to give up their whole life to the company.

Telecommuting encourages a less dedicated workforce.
The poster-child for flexible work is Deloitte. Vice chairman, Cathy Benko, wrote the book on flexible work, literally, and Deloitte even goes so far as to do consulting for other companies on how to make flexible work for women. But let’s be real. Deloitte is a consulting firm, which means people with power and big careers there must travel. A lot. And they are flexible for the sake of the client, not for their employees’ kids. If you want to telecommute at Deloitte, your career is on a slow track. It’s an alternative career.

People telecommute so they can decrease the conflict between work and personal life. Brigham Young University shows that people can work sixty hours a week as a telecommuter and still maintain low conflict in this area because of the flexibility that telecommuting enables.

Mayer doesn’t want to work with anyone who is working sixty hours a week. She is in Silicon Valley where an 80-hour week is full-time and 50-hours is part-time. In fact, women who have taken the mommy track at big law firms have been saying for a decade that at top firms, 50 hours is a part-time week.

This is true of startups as well. I have written before that the reason women are not startup founders is that startups require 120-hour workweeks. When I cut back at my own startup to 60 hours a week, my co-workers talked about how I had basically quit working.

CEOs should get to choose who they work with.
If you want to have a slower career, you deserve to be able to make that choice. But you shouldn’t get to work with people who are giving up everything for their job. It’s not fair. Of course it’s fine for you to leave work to eat dinner with your kids and put them to bed. Actually, I think it’s really nice. But it’s not fair to go home to your kids at 5 pm and start working again at 9 pm when your co-worker has been at the office those five hours. Your co-worker deserves more than that.

Who do you know who has given up more of their life for work than Marissa Mayer? I can’t think of one other person, actually. She was renowned as one of the hardest workers at Google, where hundred-hour weeks are de rigeur. And she is renowned for being the only CEO in US history to deliver a baby while running a Fortune 500 company. Marissa Mayer can tell anyone that they are not putting in enough hours. She’s giving up everything for work, she has a right to demand that her co-workers do the same.

This is true for most firms where A-players work. People who want to be top in their field want to work with other top players. That seems fair.

The future of work is better with Marissa Mayer running the show.
Mayer is more honest than everyone else. The workforce divides into two sides: people who try very hard to decrease the conflict in their life between work and home, and people who try very hard to get to the top of the work world. You can’t do both. You know that, you just don’t like that Mayer is institutionalizing it.

Once we get honest about what you need to do to get to the top, we can start having a real discussion about how to make choices in adult life. The reality of today’s workforce is that if you want to have a big job where you have prestige and money and power, you probably need a stay-at-home spouse. Or two full-time nannies. Which means most people don’t have the option to go on the fast track, because most people have not set their lives up this way.

So let’s just admit that most of us are not on the fast-track. Stop bitching that people won’t let slow people on the fast track. Stop saying that it’s bad for family. It’s great for family. It means people will not continue operating under the delusion that you can be a hands-on parent and a top performer. People will make real choices and own those choices.

This is true for men and women. There is no longer a gender divide at work. The declaration that Yahoo no longer allows telecommuting is monumental because Marissa Mayer smashed the last shard of the glass ceiling. Today anyone can rise to the top if they give up their life to do it.

Women graduate college at a higher rate than men and women earn more money than men. Until there are kids. Then women slow down.  By choice. Women tend to start slowing down at work around age 28  in order to be done having kids by the time they are 35. Generation Y women are well aware of this, and the pattern is so ubiquitous that business schools unofficially let women in earlier than men because women need to finish working at full-capacity so early in their career.

Which means the top performers at work are mostly men. But it’s not a gender thing, it’s a time thing. That’s what Marissa Mayer is saying: don’t think about coming to my company unless you’ll give everything for your job.

Mayer is not saying parenting is bad. She is saying she doesn’t want to work with hands-on parents. But look at the CEOs of any Fortune 500 company: they rarely meet anyone who is a hands-on parent aside from their spouse. Hands-on parents don’t exist at the top of the Fortune 500.

People still have lots of choices, you just can’t have everything.
Family historian Stephanie Coontz writes that today’s workforce is so demanding that families can only handle having one person in the workforce. She shows how the average work week does not allow for people to take care of children, which means that one partner needs to drop out of the workforce and take care of kids. The Harvard Business Review reports that if someone works 60 hours a week, they are three times more likely to have a stay-at-home spouse.

This workplace shift has already happened. Mayer is just forcing us to admit it.

If you want to parent—really be there for your kids—then you need an alternative career track. You can telecommute, you can work part-time, you can freelance, you just can’t work with people who don’t need those same accommodations.

So today, people have choices, people have more control over their lives than ever, and people have good information to make intelligent decisions. Mayer is forcing you to make hard decisions. You don’t like that. But don’t blame her.

323 replies
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  1. PJDJ
    PJDJ says:

    Not that Yahoo! is really a player these days, but she is perpetuating the same shitty business attitude of all companies, instead of being an element of change?

    This may be good for revenues, but is it good for people and quality of life, too?

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      Mayer is new at the top and female. She has to make a dramatic, no-exceptions gesture to give the boys on Wall Street any confidence in her. They’re not going to appreciate anything more subtle.

    • Bob
      Bob says:

      By “shitty attitude” do you mean the one where a company expects its employees to work to keep it in business? How is your employee’s quality of life if the company goes down the drain?
      I occasionally have to work from home and I can tell you nothing beats face to face contact. When I am not in a room during a meeting or discussion my ability to contribute and comprehend is drastically reduced compared to those that are physically together. For Yahoo to survive it needs all its people 100 per cent focussed on executing their jobs and that is a very difficult thing to do from a home office. Especially with distractions like kids, pets, and whatever.And that’s not to mention the fact that when you are in a facility with your peers and bosses you are much less likely to putz around on non work related stuff.
      I dont know if Yahoo can be saved, but it sure cant be saved by a workforce that is complacent, disconnected and not focussed.

      • Ram
        Ram says:

        Our culture needlessly celebrates working hard. It’s this era’s claim to righteousness. Ambition and achievement are not the sole things in life and to shame people who like more balance is a pity.

        • Ali
          Ali says:

          Ram, I believe those who shame we who enjoy balance in our lives know exactly what they’re doing. This current culture of excess clustered at the top, where robber-barron crony capitalists exploit their “resources” (aka human beings) at all costs cannot survive without a certain percentage of plebes willing to play along. I am not one of them and some of the most brilliant people I have worked with (men and women alike, mostly married and childless by choice), refuse to capitulate to the robber barrons’ taunts, either.

          We could have been shining stars at the Yahoos and Facebooks of the world, but recognize that in the end, all that sacrifice amounts to so much noise, wasted time we can’t get back, and a lot of zeroes in the bank accounts of the fat-cat global 0.1%. We are unwilling to play the game, and are only amused by those who react with fury and shaming tactics, i.e. “You just don’t want to be the best,” which is quickly and deliberately manipulated by the media they own into flat-out lies such as “You’re a lazy leech.”

      • Betsy14
        Betsy14 says:

        I’m a singleton who rarely telecommutes, but I can say that sometimes there’s TOOmuch interaction in the office. Teleworking allows me to really concentrate on something. Most of my job involves a lot of interpersonal interaction, and I like that aspect of office life – but I also have certain must-do assignments that require extended periods of deep concentration, and its very difficult for me to mentally focus on these projects when there’s someone popping by my desk every 10 minutes or so. Telecommuting allows me to get those projects done in half the time.

        • Ali
          Ali says:

          I’m a married and childless by choice woman who totally agrees with you and I want to thank you for pointing out why so many of us REALLY want to telecommute. It is not to chase toddlers around or fold laundry while billing our bosses for our chores. If you ask anyone I know who has children, they will tell you that they treat telework with MORE gravitas because they don’t want to lose their telecommuting privileges – and inevitably, wind up sending the kids to the babysitter so they can enjoy 9-10 hours of pure, uninterrupted concentration and accomplishment.

          Currently I work at one of the world’s top companies, and absolutely hate it. In fact I am interviewing aggressively and hope to be in a new job by the middle of the year. Why? Because the CEO decided back in 2011 to adopt the open-office plan as a cost-savings measure. After years of having my own space and producing outstanding results that increased our bottom line about 275%, I am now stuck in a work “pod” with three other people. The first two are mid/late-30s men who joke and laugh ceaselessly while blasting YouTube videos and inviting dozens of co-workers to drop by and act like Todd Packer on the office. The third is an early/mid-30s woman who spends all day discussing her quest to trap a man as her personal sperm donor/ATM. She also screeches like a loon in her hideous and deliberate Valley Girl/vocal fry accent and when we’re not paying enough attention to her, blasts auto-tuned pop without headphones.

          No, we are not just underachieving kids out of school. We are ALL senior/director-level employees (although one might wonder how my “pod” mates made it as far as they did). This makes no difference, since everyone below the C-suite has this arrangement. Encourage productivity? More like quash any hope of getting one stitch of work done. Some people will even work 12-hour shifts for months on end in an effort to make themselves seem like overachievers, but they get about as much done as the rest of us, which is to say, basically nothing at all. Is it any surprise our company has slipped precipitously in the rankings since the open-office edict was handed down? About as surprising as the global 10% “workforce reduction” we suffered last year.

      • Ape Inago
        Ape Inago says:

        I think he is referring to the asinine requirement of expecting everyone to do 120 hour work weeks because the CEO does that level of work.

        Working that much on a job that has a chance of just getting fired out of the blue is not fun for anyone. It leaves no time for hobbies, skill development, or a personal life. The CEO can afford to put all their eggs in one basket, but its not reasonable to have regular employees put that much investment in a company that has them on at-will employment.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Did we read the same article? Penelope is saying that she’s not trying to be good for people and their lives. She’s trying to be good to top people who want to work all the time to win. She’s drawing a line. It’s a bold move.

      • Tony
        Tony says:

        Bold move perhaps, but Yahoo is a “me-too” portal at best and a white elephant at worst, which the parade passed by years ago and is about two steps ahead of AOL, a gate people passed long ago on the way to the Internet. Mark my words: if you sell your few precious years taking care of a child to any company, you have sold your soul and birthright to the devil. Remember this when Ms. Mayer is Yahoo’s next CEO through the revolving door.

        • Ali
          Ali says:

          As someone who works in the hi-tech field, I agree with Tony. Mayer has not earned my respect or lost it due to her gender or her position as CEO. She has lost my respect because, despite her demand that all employees work at 100% facetime capacity, Yahoo has become more of a joke than ever under her reign. Tony’s thoughts on the quality of Yahoo’s products echo mine. Yahoo is nothing but a third-to-fourth-tier portal site, and draws from concepts that the rest of the tech world abandoned by the mid-2000s at latest to create its “product.” User experience is a joke, and so is quality at Yahoo. The fact that people are abandoning it – have abandoned it – in droves for Google speaks volumes. It is also eminently clear that Yahoo’s best workers are leaving in droves after Mayer’s no-telework edict. Why? Because they have options that trump lingering at a third/fourth-tier company whose best days are about 12 years behind it.

          Trunk claims that the “most successful” Silicon Valley (in NYC where I live, it is called “Silicon Alley” but I digress) companies require 100% face time, and that is not true. NetApp is one example offering a prestigious career and flexible hours, Etsy is another, Razorfish is a third, Zappos a fourth, and I can think of dozens more. She also falters by presenting work as an all-or-nothing, black-or-white dilemma while insinuating that people with children or people who must telecommute will never succeed. The definition of success as 100-hour weeks is how Trunk alone defines it, but many Americans do not agree with her. Most define a successful career as one in which they are paid enough to meet their needs, save, and enjoy their lives. To those who see the world in black-and-white this is incomprehensible, but I assure you that few of us, whether male or female, younger or older, are particularly interested in being “the absolute best” or making it to the C-suite.

          It is not that Americans are unhappy because we clamor for positions working 100-hour weeks at Facebook but cannot land them. I can tell you with confidence that most people in this country are not happy because they work too many hours for too little pay performing pointless tasks. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work high-paying white-collar jobs are also miserable because the vast majority of us (around 75-80% at last count, according to multiple surveys) are forced into open-office setups where noise is ceaseless and concentration is impossible. Yes, even those of us who are senior-level or management. We are then faced with the eternal dilemma: Do we go along with this latest management stunt to curry favor with our bosses – a stunt that is PROVEN to lower productivity by all real measures and which treats people as expendable resources to be exploited as a cost-saving measure – but risk making mistakes that could cost us our jobs? Or do we demand more opportunities to work from home, ensuring our work is complete and error-free – but risk alienating the bosses whose paychecks we depend on?

          I shouldn’t have to point out, either that this dilemma is mostly faced by those of us “lucky” enough to work well-paying white-collar jobs. Most of the folks in my NYC neighborhood struggle to make ends meet, because the majority of jobs no longer support a bare-bones middle-class lifestyle, even with two parents working. Like most who claim to represent the American worker, Trunk is narrowly focused on a small slice of workers – those who clamor to be the best, perhaps burning with desire to impress others or become a household name, and are willing to sacrifice everything in their lives, including their health, to do so. To be in this position requires immense privilege from the get-go. It helps if you are born to parents who are middle-class or higher, can attend university for free, are in perfect health and remain so until retirement, and have the right skin color and name. It is also curious that Trunk claims to know so much about the lives of most working people when she herself has made it plain that she has focused on founding companies, not working for them as most of us do.

          I can also tell you, as the close friend of a high achieving software developer who works at Google, making it to a top-tier company is not all its cracked up to be. My friend – like most of his colleagues, childless and parents alike – is miserable at a company that Trunk claims comprises a model career. Google, in reality, overworks everyone, pays them salaries that are a joke compared to how much time these workers put in, and is actually starting to slip like Yahoo did back in the mid-2000s as its leaders turn away from the quality of their products to focus on press-wooing gimmicks like work buses. The same is true at Facebook. The day is fast approaching when that platform will no longer be on top. And what then? What will happen to the egos of those who gambled their entire lives to build a platform enabling teens to bully each other and suburban housewives to play the “compare” game online?

    • John Webber
      John Webber says:

      The author’s notion that silicon valley is all 80 hour work weeks all the time is twisted, and frankly, presents a highly unappealing and Orwellian future.

      Further, its a false notion. Working at a prominent silicon valley company for over a decade, I have seen smart and high impact employees rise successfully with a combination of hard work weeks offset with balanced work weeks.

      • Recovering Hipster
        Recovering Hipster says:

        Penelope has made good, logical points in the past. But the reason that her current outlook may not line up with the reality you describe in Silicon Valley is because that’s not the point. Penelope has developed a reactionary worldview over the years that she now incorporates into nearly everything she writes. When she talks about the eighty-hour work week or how it’s impossible to raise a family if both spouses work, she’s not talking about the world as it is (even if those ideas have some validity) – she’s talking about the world as she wants it to be.

  2. Mary Kathryn
    Mary Kathryn says:

    “You just can’t have everything.” So very true. The whole world talks about “pro choice,” but the reality is, we don’t want to have to pick and choose. We want to have it all. In real life, kids have needs, and if you want to have kids, you’d better meet their needs. They need you. It’s about women having to choose who they want to be when they grow up. Yep.

    • Ali
      Ali says:

      Mary, I’m not quite sure who wants to “have it all,” as you claim. The media has intentionally created this fallacy whereby people are “entitled,” “selfish,” and “lazy” when they work toward and desire basic needs, i.e. jobs that pay enough to house and feed a spouse or a few children (or both), offer useful benefits such as health insurance, and enable them to have some semblance of a life outside of the office.

      The media and the corporations that want us all to work 100-hour weeks for peanuts are one and the same, and I am sad to see so many people falling for their manipulations and lies. Alas, I see it all the time, be it accusations that women want “too much” because they’d like to hold down a basic 40-hour/week job and support their families, or the shrieks that new graduates in low-cost cities like St. Louis are “entitled” if they hope to land a basic $12/hour job with bare-bones health insurance.

  3. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I still believe that we expect far to much of human beings in general. It is absurd to expect someone to work 80 hours a week.

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        This is also the argument for why the Americans “can’t afford” more than two weeks vacation per year, while Swedes, even the ones in high-powered career tracks, take five weeks a year.

        (And they take it seriously — for example, if an employee gets injured on the job, and didn’t take their full vacation the previous year, the company can be liable because vacation is considered necessary for the employee to be mentally prepared to work safely and productively)

        It’s a cultural idea, not a fact.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          … and they have health insurance. And paid maternity leave for more than a week. And fruit baskets (I was in Sweden for half a year in 2011 and they had fruit baskets with delicious, in-season fresh fruit in the common area twice a week to promote employee health. I miss the fruit baskets).

          • Jordan
            Jordan says:

            My first assumption would be that workers in America tolerate these kinds of conditions because they don’t have a choice- jobs are tight so you have to suck it up, employees don’t have the leverage of being in demand enough. That can’t be the whole story though, if we consider that European countries are first world nations with similar unemployment rates (albeit not of late).
            So the cultural aspect seems to be pretty important. The cultural attitude in Germany and Switzerland, as I’ve heard it from people who’ve worked there in corporate positions, is that people who work ridiculous hours are looked down upon. They aren’t seen as ‘dedicated/passionate’ like they are here, but as inefficient or having bad priorities. It’s low status, so people avoid being seen like that. Because as a culture they view work differently, there is basically a collective action to demand more from employers.
            Is it clear that there isn’t a better way to organize the work place in the US? Is our way really most efficient? Why not hire an extra worker instead of requiring more workers from your existing crew? If you’re working 120 hours a week then your salary is technically half the hourly rate of someone working 60 hour weeks, so this seems like a status thing and less of a money thing motivating workers to accept these terms. And it’s pretty easy to imagine how this culture would impose itself upon future hirings- people who had to work 120 hour weeks won’t want to see people who worked fewer hours advancing; it invalidates their own strategy.
            Is this US work culture inevitable? Or will changing our culture and what we view as statusful change how we work and raise kids?

        • Andrea
          Andrea says:

          You are absolutely right. This is an issue very specific to the United States. There are numerous examples of how it can be done differently. I agree with you that it is a cultural idea.

        • mh
          mh says:

          Yes, yes, Sarah, I agree Sweden has it great.

          You can buy a lot of comfortable “cultural ideas” when the United States taxpayer is footing the bill for your national defense for 3 generations.

          Thanks, America!

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            Sweden is officially one of the neutral countries (with Finland and Switzerland also in the club). You could argue that the US has invested a lot in its military presence in Europe – which is true for some countries who paid for this with the loss of their independence as a military power. Except for France and England. Let this be as it may – the cultural decision is a very high tax rate. About three times as much in the US, which is what pays for a much denser social support network. You might not like this because it is in the US usually maligned as the socialist model but the system is paid for by the high tax rates. And it is also a conscious decision of the country to not invest in a huge military prowess (which would indeed be at least a little funny considering the size of the country).

          • Paul
            Paul says:

            Oh yeah, nothing to do with brownnosing, jealousy, the culture of face time, bosses’ tendency to squeeze blood out of stones, etc. We’re all just working together to defend democracy.

            Why don’t you, rhetorically speaking anyway, go play in traffic?

          • Corey
            Corey says:

            While they may not be “top earners”, what is the proportion of their middle class vs. their upper and lower classes?

            The US has one of the smallest upper and middle classes, and one of the largest lower classes in all of the industrialized nations.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            this is actually an answer mostly to Paul’s note:
            “Oh yeah, nothing to do with brownnosing, jealousy, the culture of face time, bosses’ tendency to squeeze blood out of stones, etc. We’re all just working together to defend democracy.

            Why don’t you, rhetorically speaking anyway, go play in traffic?”

            I think all of the above can be found in every country, Sweden, China, US… and yes, there are huge discussions going on in countries with more densely developed social safety nets, and health insurance. No system is perfect.

            In case you mean by “go play in traffic” that I should go and live in one of the countries with the high taxes and dense safety nets” I have, in several different ones, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems, the one in Sweden and the one here in the US. And the decision in which country to live is for me made by the specific circumstances in terms of job offers, work and life at a given point in time.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            well, one explanation might be that the US has a population of 315 Mio, and Sweden has only 10 Mio.

    • deb
      deb says:

      You don’t have to work 80 hours if you don’t want to. You just won’t be able to work at that company. There will be plenty of people who will gladly work 80 hours for the chance to work at a company where they perceive the rewards are worth it to them.

      • bottom of the food chain
        bottom of the food chain says:

        And thank God there are other places to work. Sounds like a miserable existance…I’ll take a mellow, fun work environment with lower pay and prestige over quarterly-results obsessed, mypoic, workaholic drones anyday. But it’s good that the telecommuting thing is less fashionable…it always sounded so boring…and annoying for the people who actually bother going to work

      • Greg Gentschev
        Greg Gentschev says:

        None of the big Silicon Valley companies expect you to work 80 hours a week. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, let’s say. Facebook and Google aren’t startups any more, they’re big companies. They expect you to work hard, but that probably means 50 hours in many cases unless you want to be a star.

  4. Ben Brooks
    Ben Brooks says:


    Interesting and thoughtful post. I appreciate your courage in giving the straight talk on this issue. I think it is important for women to make and speak about these changes.

    I think there needs to be more expectation management in career development, essentially saying “you can’t have it all; choose.”
    I remember heading off to college someone said “in college you can do 2 of 3 things: sleep, get good grades, and have fun…choose.” I feel like life is kinda like that.

    Hell, I’m a Libra so I should be all about balance, and deep down I am, but as a practical matter I and others must make trade-offs to optimize around what is most important to them.


  5. Malingerer
    Malingerer says:

    Sorry, but no.. Live by another sector rules then institute a change when it feels right for you. Two faced and, genuinely, despicable.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      Back on the Street, where men and male attitudes run the money, it will be seen as bold and simple leadership. The cynical truth is that investors respect a hardass even when they don’t produce results.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      Mayer wants to be acceptable and normal, and in her world, that means you get married by age x and form babby by age y.

      • Kayla
        Kayla says:

        Totally agree with that, Paul. The marriage and the kid are “accessories”, just like in Hollywood….

        It’s good these execs make a lot of money, because their kids will need a damn good psychiatrist when they reach adolescence. If not sooner.

        • Lisa
          Lisa says:

          I always call those “resume children.”. It seems that there are many women who just want to be able to say that they had children.

          I once worked for a woman who had a two year old and yet she worked insane hours — seldom going home before 11 pm. I imagine that the child had more of a mother-daughter bond with the nanny than with her. And the question I always asked myself was “why have kids when you don’t make the decision to spend time with them?”

          Has *my* career suffered at all because of my decision? Of course… I’m middle level and I have seen men and women pass me by. Do I feel “loss” sometimes? Yes. Do I regret my choice? NEVER!

    • Barbara Saunders
      Barbara Saunders says:

      People who work 120-hour weeks are kidding themselves. There are limits to the capacities of the human body and brain. Exceed them and product defects, bad business decisions, etc., are the result.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      I suspect the “new Pen” will put a prohibitive price tag on those alternatives. There are only 168 hours in a week, and if I follow her math, that’s probably not enough for a truly independent career path.

  6. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    Except that Mayer built a nursery next to her office so she could spend more time with her child. Will she allow other Yahoo-ites to have one next to their cubicle?

    And later, when the kids are a bit older, who be at home when they get home from school if both parents are still at work?

    What Yahoo (and other companies that ban tele-commuting) are really saying is that they want 20-something workers who are still young enough not to be overly concerned about giving up their lives for work.

    As they get older, they’ll realize that this blind loyalty to their company is a one-sided affair that lasts until the next recession, when they are laid-off, no matter how many hours they’ve put in.

    • Sara
      Sara says:

      What Yahoo (and other companies that ban tele-commuting) are really saying is that they want 20-something workers who are still young enough not to be overly concerned about giving up their lives for work.

      Yes. That is what they’re really saying.

      As they get older, they’ll realize that this blind loyalty to their company is a one-sided affair that lasts until the next recession, when they are laid-off, no matter how many hours they’ve put in.

      Mayer does not want anyone working for her who would ever be laid off.

      She wants people who are keepers, people who leave because they’re starting their own company. People who, as they get older, are weighing whether to start another company or to launch a foundation to cure polio — not people fretting that their resumes aren’t up to date.

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      Thank you for making a sane comment. I’ve done the jobs where I had no relationship and no kids, practically lived at the office, didn’t make big bucks, but believed I was investing in the company and therefore my future. Only to have the CEO start an affair, forget to come to work, lose money, then pay his bills with my 401k. And then got let go when I had the audacity to confront management about it. Perpetuating the attitude that you should live for the job often allows those at the top to make the concessions for themselves while you have no life.

      • Sara
        Sara says:

        Wait — you’re UPSET that you lost the opportunity to work for a CEO who started an affair, forgot to come to work, lost money, then paid his bills with my 401k?

        You are a loser.

          • Paul
            Paul says:

            Sara is part of a very large group who resent telecommuters as entitlement-oriented crybabies, and are happy, even gloating, to see a blow struck for the traditions of workplace control. They’re coming out of the woodwork thanks to Mayer’s decision.

          • Sara
            Sara says:

            I work from home, Paul. That’s why I, like you, have time to waste here.

            That doesn’t keep me from seeing that Penelope is right.

        • Ali
          Ali says:

          Paul, interesting point. I would argue that, based on her conduct here, Sara is a person who resents telecommuters because then she can’t have something they don’t – something she can lord over them. People who act like this are seldom happy with themselves which is likely what prompted her to call a poster who was disappointed by a layoff after years of hard work a “loser.”

    • Harkonnen
      Harkonnen says:

      Excellent reply to this post! You hit the nail on the head. What Marissa Mayer is doing is essentially driving out anyone who is 35 or older (since those are the ones who want flexibility) and replace them with desperate 20-somethings who will do anything to retain their jobs. The young are also less-likely to question and are easier to mold.

  7. Cheri Sundra
    Cheri Sundra says:

    The part about the “women’s movement” that has always bothered me most of all, is that it forgot that parents are raising future women (& men) and this task involves a tremendous amount of dedication and time. You can “have it all”, you can’t just have it all at the same time….or maybe there are parts of “it” that some people should never have….there comes a point where you ultimately will have to choose between career responsibilities and childcare/nurturing responsibilities. Hopefully this is a move towards making that decision when it SHOULD be made—prior to actually having children.

  8. Rich
    Rich says:

    I like the posting, and I thought there are a couple of different thoughts (telecommuting, women in the work force, women leaders, silicone valley culture). I have been telecommuting for 8 years, I have been able to change companies and advance my career. I spend more time working than when I was in an office, I am tremendously more productive. However I think there are two big distictions to make:
    Telecommuting kills innovation. You have to be able to read the room and connect with people. Even my most effective teams are challenged to achieve breakthroughs without some time face to face. I like your research supporting this.

    However, the vast majority of jobs are effective as telecommuting roles. Most companies are not google or AirBnB, most jobs are just jobs. Drive through any metro area and ask your self…what in the hell to all the people that work in the Wells Fargo/Aetna/Regions bank building do all day? They don’t go to work because it is the only place they can process claims, review mortgage applications or discuss sales strategy, it’s because of archaic management or personnel approaches that insist on seeing people in the office in order to call it work. There is no innovation, there is no 80 work week, those jobs barely exist in our economy. So for the rest of them, get off the interstate and work in your PJ’s

    Your posts are great, and I find them motivating and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    • John
      John says:

      Rich, Have you ever worked in the corporate offices of a bank or insurance companies? Retail banking & consumer insurance is some of the most competitive business in the nation. The successful ones are constantly driving innovation and improvements.

  9. adam
    adam says:

    I feel compelled to point out that Mayer is not giving up everything, not even close. She paid to have a nursery and a nanny IN HER OFFICE so while she’s asking employees to give up family time by eliminating telecommuting, she’s absolutely being a hypocrite.

      • Sara
        Sara says:

        What a stupid comment. Everything in Mayer’s life has been a sacrifice. That’s the only reason she has that job.

        • Lisa
          Lisa says:

          If the other women (and men) at the office have no time to be with their children (as there is not a daycare for all employees), I’d say that’s a sacrifice they are making that she is not.

          • Sara
            Sara says:

            Yes, I want my cushy tech job and it’s an OUTRAGE that I be required to leave the condo for it.

            Especially because then people can see that I’m on Amazon and HuffPo all day.

          • Ali
            Ali says:

            I agree with you again Lisa – and remember that Sara is ranting against telecommuting and “cushy tech jobs” while admittedly working from home. Telework is okay for Sara but not for others. It’s funny because she’s made it clear she knows nothing about this field. If she did, she wouldn’t be calling us entitled, pampered jerks because we, too, require the quiet and ability to concentrate that she enjoys as matter of course.

            I assert, again, that Sara rails against other telecommuters because if she is only one of many people allowed to work from home, she stops being special. This is a person who calls others “losers” for expressing disappointment after working very hard at a company that folded, after all. Empathy is not one of her strong points.

  10. Liz
    Liz says:

    This whole thing makes me depressed. So, the corporations that offer you no security or pension want you to be soley theirs- available at all hours, 24/7 with your Blackberry’s and iPhones, and we do it. Because we weren’t clever enough to have come up with the next great entrepreneurial idea. We work corporate with the hope that we won’t be laid off in a cutback. With no pensions to protect us and all these years into the game, what’s benefitting us these days? All I can see is the honor of having a job- even for the small time you may have it- and the honor of looking for another one who demands even more..
    I’m not saying that everyone should work at home. That doesn’t work. But partial telecommuting does work.

    • Sara
      Sara says:

      You don’t have to be “clever enough to have come up with the next great entrepreneurial idea.” You just have to acknowledge that the culture has changed completely.

      If a train is heading right at you, getting depressed will not solve the problem. The problem is solved by stepping off the tracks.

  11. Nirupama
    Nirupama says:

    Had been waiting to hear your thoughts on this topic, Penelope!

    The first step to any change (flexibility or otherwise) is admitting reality. Good post!

  12. Kai
    Kai says:

    Today Scott Hanselman wrote this about Mayers move:

    “A veiled attempt to trim the workforce through effectively forced attrition by giving a Sophie’s Choice to remote workers that management perceives as possibly not optimally contributing. It’s easy to avoid calling it a layoff when you’ve just changed the remote work policy, right?

    I agree to this. One thing is wrong with your analysis: Yahoo is a dying company and does not belong into the group where Facebook, Google and Airbnb are in.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s true that Yahoo is dying. But Marissa wants to turn that around. And, in the meantime, she wants to be measured against the companies she admires – like Google and Facebook. So she is functioning like she’s in that league. Seems smart to me. We should all do that — no matter what league we aspire to play in.


  13. Malingerer
    Malingerer says:

    And honestly, what the hell does yahoo do well and ‘life changing’ enough that it’s an important company? It’s a f#cking news and search site with some email, picture and other marignal functionality.. Google, yahoo, apple, etc.. just companies producing more sh*t that fills up your life with unnecessary crap and kills time.. Is society happier due to their contributions? Probably not.

  14. Holly E
    Holly E says:

    Ouch. You hit home with this one lady….you are – unfortunately – bang on with this article….and I admit: I don’t like having to swallow such an ugly truth.

    I’m a mom of two young boys, now aged 5 & 8….we had a nanny (both my spouse and I work full time) up until the youngest got into full-time Kindergarten…and I worked 5 days/week from home (tech company) until just recently….it’s only now that I’m able to make strategic moves on the corporate ladder again…but they are not – and can’t be – the same moves I was making pre-children….being the female spouse, I’m still the primary caregiver/decision-maker when it comes to the household and kids (though I’m also the primary breadwinner…WTF was I thinking when I said “I do”?)…and I will not able to do all I want to do with my career, because I am not willing to give up my parenting position, so to speak…which you have to do if you want to be a top performer…

    It’s hard to swallow. I need either my husband to quit and stay at home doing the child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, etc (good luck with that one), or I need a wife. Preferably two….

    Regardless, great post. Thanks.

    • Malingerer
      Malingerer says:

      Glad I’m not married to you. Downsize your life and maybe enjoy the time with your kids and value your relationships. I’m the opposite, earning 4x what my wife earns, we’ve made a conscious choice to live life at a different level, and respect each other completely for the contributions we can or are able to make.

      • Rachel
        Rachel says:

        Uh, ‘Malingerer’, are you telling her to quit her job because she’s the woman? Because you and she share one thing in commen: you are both the primary earner. So why aren’t you telling her husband to quit, just like your wife did?

        I’m glad I’m not married to you.

        • Malingerer
          Malingerer says:

          I communicated effectively in my posting that we need to right size our POV relative to the contributions that our partners make. She’s in a partnership yet definitely conveys that she sees minimal value in her partner. I value my partner incredibly and don’t judge her based on the financial or household contribution. We are in this for the long haul and over time what we do evens out, maybe not this year or last year, but throughout the journey of our life :)

  15. d muise
    d muise says:

    I totally get that a Big Job means having someone at home taking care of the kids (so you can work that 60-80 hr. work week). And if you want to work at a company where people are doing big and important things, you have to give up everything (sad, but true). But when was the last time Yahoo! contributed something big and important to the world? If I’m an A-Lister, I’m going to Google, Facebook, or Apple. But Yahoo? Seriously? Marissa Mayer may be trying to shape Yahoo! into an A-List organization by dropping some of the “dead weight” with this back-to-the-stone-age policy, but it could seriously backfire. Of course, most of the mom’s working at Yahoo! don’t have an army of nannies at home or the luxury of a nursery in their offices like Marissa does. If that’s not an unfair accommodation, I don’t know what it.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          yes, I do. The 80 hour work load is a rather typical work week for me. BUT one should be careful to realize that the number of hours is not a one-to-one correlation with the quality of work or the importance of your work.

          • Brian
            Brian says:

            I spent two years working 60-90 hour work weeks. No matter how much you love it, it can produce negative health aspects eventually and it did for me.

  16. Jessica Smock
    Jessica Smock says:

    You and I came up with similar conclusions, although starting with different concerns. Working from home with a baby has not worked for me, and from what I have read in the brain research, I am probably not alone. Our brains are simply not designed to be worried about thinking about two big things at the same time. For me, I was not doing a good job at either thing: being a mom of a baby or a writer.

  17. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:

    Hi Penelope –

    1. Just people can abuse a thing (food, shopping, etc.) does not mean you should abolish it altogether. This is lazy leadership at work. A more nuanced approach would show some maturity.

    2. It is completely hypocritical, not to mention demoralizing, to ban telecommuting and then build a nursery for your own kid at work.

    3. I can tell you from my own personal experience that telecommuting is essential to my productivity because it enables me to think outside the box (sorry for the cliche). Innovation is stifled when you are in the group all the time. The individual needs some space and freedom to think.

    4. You are a huge proponent of homeschooling – which takes kids outside the formal school walls and into a world where they engage in creative discovery of the subject matter – and yet take the opposite stance about work. School and work are both occupations that people engage in at different stages of their lives. Help me understand why homeschooling is good but telecommuting is bad.

    5. I agree with you that we should face the truth about things, or try to anyway. But what I get from Mayer is a penchant for drama rather than measured and mature corrective action. She also seems to use people for her own ends. Not inspiring and inspiration is key to knowledge’ and innovation workers’ productivity.

    6. I agree that standards should be applied equally to women and men and that telecommuting should not be an excuse to soak the company while you raise your kids. But at the same time, Mayer is a public figure and her actions have symbolic meaning. It is morally wrong that she does not explain them in any real way other than a ridiculously silly sugarcoated memo.

    7. It seems to me that women fight each other rather than helping each other as well as men. What is the best workstyle? Answer: None! It depends on the person and the company. We have the tools to be flexible nowadays. We ought to use them.

    8. When you ban telecommuting you immediately eliminate many potentially valuable workers from consideration. The fact of the matter is that virtual workers are often MORE motivated than the ones on-site, because there is something to prove there.

    9. Sometimes I get the feeling that you post things in a sort of self-hating way. Like – you are accomplishing a lot on a farm, working and homeschooling your sons. Why do you say that women have to give “everything” up to have an important career?

    10. I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that all this focus on the genius at the top of the company, who works night and day, is a negative thing. The better approach is to engage everyone in being a leader and everyone in having work-life balance. When you are a workaholic your decisions are not as good.

    • Juliana
      Juliana says:

      What a lucide comment. Great points made.

      The thing I dislike the most about not telecommuting is how unproductive I am sometimes at the office. People interrupt so frequently, that I take 3 x longer to get something done because of all the distractions aroung.

      Also, as a Gen Y, I value balance in my life. The all or nothing approach isn’t healthy to any of the parts involved.


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Danielle, what you’re really saying is that Marissa’s bet will fail, right?

      Marissa is betting that if she gets rid of telecommuters, she’ll get better people applying to Yahool.

      And Marissa is betting that if she tells people she doesn’t care that her nursery is unfair – because she is the CEO – that other people won’t care, either.

      You think she’s wrong. That’s what your list is. A list of reasons you think she will kill her applicant pool. I think the jury is still out. I, for one, don’t think she needs to treat her employees the same as she treats herself. They are not responsible for Yahoo’s stock price. She is. And I think banning telecommuters is going to be really really appealing to people in Silicon Valley – it tells them they will have a very specific type of co-worker.

      I don’t think there is a way to say Marissa is right or wrong about what will happen to her talent pool. We have to wait and see. But I am rooting for her. I love her honesty, and I’m tired of peopel whining about how work is unfair. Whatever. Don’t work for a company you don’t like. You’re adult. You have choices.


      • Dannielle
        Dannielle says:

        I am betting that she will fail and fail utterly because she is fundamentally brand-blind. She does not understand the Yahoo brand, she does not understand how to get one going, and she does not understand the role of people in building and maintaining it. What this means is that even potentially good business decisions turn bad.

        * Steve Jobs could get away with fits of rage – actually he was worshiped precisely for those fits of rage, they were legendary – because that was his brand. It was never about him. It was about his vision.

        * Mark Zuckerberg can get away with his total disregard for privacy because the brand promise of Facebook is to eliminate the hypocritical distinction between the public self and the private self.

        * Microsoft gets away with being not as cool as Apple because their stuff seems reliable and that appeals to conservative business types. But instead of taking advantage of that fact they keep trying to be Apple. I have written about how they should use Sheldon (“Big Bang Theory”) as their spokesperson. They seem to not get it either.

        When Yahoo! started out it had a brand, a message. That TV commercial with the cow – “Ya-hoo!” It was quirky. I loved it. I had a Yahoo! mail account. And then the brand identity just totally dissolved. Now I know it as a place to get simple news online.

        I don’t know Marissa Mayer. But the telecommuting attitude is infuriating – because she herself has the kid at work! So now she has negative brand equity as a leader – at least to me as a member of the general public. I think that does matter because Yahoo! is a mass brand. I am a possible consumer.

        Separate from that, her business acumen is extremely unclear. Is she doing some great work? Maybe. I don’t see any headlines about how her decisions are so awesome. From a distance looks like smoke and mirrors.

        At the end of the day Marissa’s problem (again, from a distance, I don’t know her) is lack of a unique, relevant vision. Coupled with a serious blindness to how to lead and manage people.

        If she wants to bring Yahoo back she can. Freaking fire the deadwood, hire the talent, get behind them and get out of the way. And stop talking down to the workforce like they are dolts – the internal memo should have been straight up honest.

        Frankly if people have been getting away with slacking on her dime they are not going to change their ways. She would be better off firing them.

      • The 73rd Virgin
        The 73rd Virgin says:

        Do any of the commenters give any thought to the difference between telecommuting, flexible hours, adequate sick time, vacation, and family leave? All of these things do not have to be antithetical to the 60-80 hour work week. Telecommuting is a very specific practice that has little to do with who is working 40-hour-weeks and who is working 80-hour-weeks. I tend to think “Marisa” is right about telecommuting, although I can’t think of a sillier affectation than calling her by her first name.

        I don’t think what she’s doing is particularly brave. She’s just codifying an obvious truth in a way that would get instant hand-wringing blowback if a male CEO did the same.

        I’ve known lots of people who claim to work 120-hour-weeks. Overwhelmingly, they are liars. Except some attorneys.

    • Cheryl Morris
      Cheryl Morris says:

      A workaholic is an addict, and addicts are not known for their good judgement.

      Another concern that I have is that not getting enough sleep is dangerous.
      I’ve read that (at least some, if not all) airline pilots and medical interns are required to get a certain number of hours of sleep before working.

      From time to time in the news media, I learn of bad business decisions, and I wonder: how much sleep did the decision-makers get?

  18. Claire
    Claire says:

    I don’t always agree with you, but I couldn’t agree with you more than here. Great post. You communicated exactly how I feel about this whole firestorm. Thank you.

  19. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    Penelope, I’ve been waiting to your response to the Yahoo! thing and was totally surprised by your response…you always surprise me so I don’t know why I was surprised. I thought you would lambaste Yahoo’s decision but you didn’t. You’re so right! I did not have this perspective at all. We do have choices and we don’t have to work for Yahoo if we want flexibility. Thanks for giving your unique perspective again. Love it!

    • Stephen
      Stephen says:

      Same here. I was expecting Penelope to say how banning telecommuting was a stupid idea, and was initially surprised she took the opposite tack. Overall its better to be brutally honest about flexibility and the fact you can’t have it all and have to decide what is best or realistically possible for your own circumstances.

  20. Erin
    Erin says:

    Penelope – I’m a huge fan of your blogs, and all of the thought provoking arguments that come with them! I have a question for you on this piece, as I don’t necessarily agree that you have to be in the same, physical office and kill telecommuting to foster innovation.

    I work for IBM, which this year topped the U.S. patent list for the 20th year in a row – beating out Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and all of the other Silicon Valley giants for the most technology innovations patented in one year. Yet, our company has a highly flexible telecommuting policy – and I believe up to 50% of our workforce works remotely (either from home, from a client site, or as a “road warrior”).

    If telecommuting stifles innovation – what is your response to this? How could so many patents and innovations come out of a company that encourages telecommuting and remote work, if your theory is true?

    A lot of people inside and outside of IBM attribute it to IBM’s use of social collaboration tools and highly connected networks – which are accessible from anywhere, as long as you need a computer. This was written about in a recent Forbes piece, stating how other tech companies like Apple are falling behind by not embracing these tools:

    Anyway, would love to get your thoughts. Is there a way around this? My personal opinion is that it boils down to the amount of sweat and time you put in (aka as you were saying – 80+ hours a week), not necessarily WHERE you do it.

    • Ben Brooks
      Ben Brooks says:


      Not sure if patents is best proxy for innovation. It is often a strategic move by lawyers rather than a marker of true new thinking.
      Regarding IBM, it is a very different beast. I agree that social tools hold great promise internally.

      I think what’s missing from this entire string is that the CEO is trying to save the company. Drastic changes must be made. Employees need to wakeup. This is as much about expectation setting for future changes, accountability and weeding out B and C players (including the abusers) as anything else.

  21. Rick Smith
    Rick Smith says:

    Wow, totally not the tone I thought you would take. And I must say, with all the buzz about this topic, the anticipation of what you were going to say was just delicious!

    From my executive sources, the real reason this happened was that the culture there had turned to crap, and there were many people abusing the system. For a real turn around, you need people going to battle together. Its unique to Yahoo’s current situation.

    But I also work with executives at 100 other companies who are desperately trying to find ways to keep women in the workforce. And this is not just altruistic – there are tangible diversity, monetary and cultural benefits to doing so. Perhaps telecommuting is the wrong idea in certain environments. But the quest to find ways for women to remain in the workforce longer is just kicking into high gear. rs.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      “From my executive sources, the real reason this happened was that the culture there had turned to crap, and there were many people abusing the system. For a real turn around, you need people going to battle together. Its unique to Yahoo’s current situation.”

      I also think it’s unique to where Yahoo finds itself now. I don’t think their situation should be used as a model to create or maintain an “A-list” company. Marissa Mayer is doing her job to correct problems at Yahoo. And every business and business sector needs to find their own path and some corrections are more extreme than others. There’s an article at Business Insider (–or-quit-2013-2 ) where they “spoke with a source familiar with Mayer’s thought process on the matter.”
      This is my guess. Employees were abusing the telecommuting privilege so Marissa has to buckle down on everybody. People will leave complaining about the new policy – some people will complain more than others. The new telecommuting policy will be modified as necessary and certain people will get exemptions as time goes on. It’s a wake-up call for Yahoo employees. I really did like this post by Penelope though.

  22. Jocelyn Stone
    Jocelyn Stone says:


    I just wanted to say I love what you’ve said. I can’t speak as a mother on whether you can have it all or not (and as someone who doesn’t want kids, I don’t really care), but I totally agree that it’s not fair to people like me that the rules be different for some just because they’re parents.

    But, is it true that Mayer is have a personal daycare area next to her office? If so, I get it that she’s the CEO and has privileges that others never will. But at the same time, it feels a little hypocritical too.

    Thanks, and continue the great discussions!

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      I think the daycare room next to her office when there apparently is no daycare available at Yahoo for employees is not going to make her particularly popular with her employees. One might say being CEO is not a popularity contest – but it still is true that a positive attitude among employees will benefit their work.

      • Sara
        Sara says:

        Yahoo is larded with losers. Anyone with pride would have left.

        Mayer’s got a roster of 99% B-players. This is a solid first move to get them to upgrade to B+.

        Others who were feather-bedding to run their own companies on the side from home will be forced off Yahoo welfare.

        It’s a great move. Yahoo’s a dying company; Mayer is doing what she can.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I am not saying it is a bad move, it probably is a good one for at least part of the employees. But you need people willing to work for you – if they don’t want to pull their weight when they are at home, they are likely not to pull their weight when in the office. And they wont sacrifice their life for a company they perceive as being hypocrytical.

  23. d muise
    d muise says:

    Dear Marissa,
    Inspired by the new nursery you had installed in your office, I am taking over the empty cubical next to mine to build a daycare center for my daughter so I can be more innovative and have more facetime with other anything-for-Yahoo! A-listers during my 80-hour workweek.


  24. D
    D says:

    While I largely agree, I have to point out that Sandberg and Mayer both have tens, possibly hundreds, of millions of dollars in the bank already. They can afford to hire nannies, personal chefs, live in giant homes a few miles from work, take private jets for vacations, the list goes on. Their semi-monthly paychecks are more of an allowance than anything else.

    Valley people on average make more money than elsewhere, but a family is still a struggle on less than $250k per year.

  25. joe
    joe says:

    “Both Mayer and Sandberg really want women to succeed in business. They don’t want affirmative action for women.”

    So Affirmative Action is a bad thing? … implying weakness in the people who receive it?

  26. Dave
    Dave says:

    I would just provide another perspective to your statement:

    But it’s not fair to go home to your kids at 5pm and start working again at 9 pm when your co-worker has been at the office those five hours. Your co-worker deserves more than that.


    But it’s not fair to have to hang around the office until 9pm because the rest of the team wants to play foosball and brainstorm over beers at the Sports Page, then roll back into the office at 8pm and do the job that was supposed to be done by 5.

    • Evelyn Stice
      Evelyn Stice says:

      This is reality as far as I have seen it. Most people simply cannot be “on” for 16 hours a day; if it seems that they are, they have just gotten good at fooling the management.

      • Lynn Frazier
        Lynn Frazier says:

        Years ago, I was a first-line supervisor and I got a new boss who was very determined to do a great job. He worked longer and longer hours–10, 12, 14 hours a day. One day, one of my reports came to me and told me that he had a discussion with my boss one day; and the next day, my boss didn’t remember the discussion. One day, my boss called me when I was in a control room with his boss. My boss expected me to have x-ray vision and instantly know what I could only find out if I called and asked someone. Finally, that frustrating phone call ended, and my boss’ boss asked me who had called me. When I told him, he was silent. My boss later had a mild heart attack. After he recovered, he was moved to a less demanding position, and I heard from others that he thought that his career was over.

  27. Jayne
    Jayne says:

    I think you are right on, and I don’t like it one bit, because in my unrealistic heart of hearts, I want my cake and eat it too.

    My family’s lifestyle choices, in which I am a full-throated participant, mean that I need to earn money – mostly because we have a mortgage that is way too big for one income. Our family values mean that I also need to be home. My kids are home schooled instead of being industrially processed, and our food is home-grown also instead of being industrially processed. But holding all of these values and choices at the same time is physically impossible, as I just discovered when I took an under-paying job because it allowed me to telecommute. It did not work out. There aren’t enough hours in the week to add a full-time job to all my other responsibilities. Telecommuting doesn’t change that. I dreamed that telecommuting would make it possible, but I was foolish.

    So you are right when you say that there are choices to be made. I cannot have it all. The faster we as a culture wake up to this reality, the better.

  28. Mankhool
    Mankhool says:

    Please do not refer to Yahoo! and Facebook as “big, important companies”. They might be big, but if they disappeared tomorrow nobody would care (except those foolish enough to invest in them).

    • channa
      channa says:

      Ha! Excellent point. What would we lose that couldn’t be rebuilt in under a year? It’s not like losing Boeing, or GE.

  29. redrock
    redrock says:

    Choice is good, for men and women. Some jobs are better done with face-time, some can be done perfectly fine in a telecommuting setting. The casual interactions certainly can promote very fruitful and great ideas – jobs where creativity and exchange of ideas is important will benefit from the be-at-the-office policy.

    However, the question is whether companies with peer pressure requirements of 100 hour work weeks promote quality. Apart from giving up any semblance of life outside work – it is near impossible to be very focused for that amount of time, which is 20 hours a day for 5 day week, and 14.3 hours per day for a 7 day week. If you work these hours a slow creep starts happening – you work quality degrades, the amount of mindless work you do goes up (times spent copying stuff, sorting stuff, whatever….. even in high end jobs). And I doubt anybody (well, maybe a select few out of a million) can physically sustain a 120 hour-week with intense focused work for any extended period of time. A 120 hour week leaves 6.8 hours a day for other things like …. sleep, commute, eating, personal hygiene. Very few people are fully function on 5 hours of sleep per night. So, if you want to have these hours you will sacrifice on quality. And you better have great health care – this intense work for more than a few weeks causes huge health problems. Sure, you can power through the intense fatigue for some time, just not for a sustainable work life of decades.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      Yeah, I’m deeply sceptical about claims like 120-hour weeks.
      And I say that having spent six years climbing the ranks of a professional services firm that is practically a byword for long hours.

      No-one gets to that sort of number – or anywhere close to it – without counting a hell of a lot of sitting around and waiting, thinking while commuting, conference calls etc. as ‘work’.

    • GingerR
      GingerR says:

      I went back and read the link about the Facebook lockdowns. It wasn’t forever, it was over the summer.

      You can get people in for killer hours for periods of time, but indefinitely you do have a fatigue problem.

      It’s a bit like Washington DC and the budget. One crisis is news, two crisis is more news, three crisis is “what else is on TV besides this.” People don’t care any more. Probably explains why Kim Kardisician gets so many hits, she’s not financial crisis.

  30. elyse
    elyse says:

    Penelope, I’m surprised you don’t write more about a choice that more and more of us (women and men) are making these days … which is to not have children at all. Being childless frees us to devote endless time and energy to work, love, or whatever else we choose to pursue.

    • Courtney
      Courtney says:

      Ehh, She has a hard time with perspective taking (which is typical of people with aspergers). If it is not within her personal realm of experience, she doesn’t seem to really notice it as being worth talking about. At least from what I have seen.

  31. Jeff Putz
    Jeff Putz says:

    What you completely fail to understand is that there’s a supply and demand problem with technology workers, and it favors the workers by a lot. This is especially true with regard to software engineers. The harsh reality is that these people don’t have to give up anything to have a satisfying job and sane hours.

  32. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Thank you for putting this into context, I’d read about this yesterday and was suprised, until I read that apparently at Yahoo telecommuting had been abused by the employees and was a joke. If that’s the case then I think Marissa is making the right decision. However, I honestly don’t know how to feel about this post. I kept finding myself getting angry at you for making it sound like someone that doesn’t want to work 120 hours a week is not good enough to work at a company like Google or Yahoo, but then again you’re right, there’s a reason people are willing to work those hours, and I guess I’m not one of them. I like my husband and dogs too much, but that doesn’t mean I can’t carve out a good life for myself telecommuting 40 hours a week. Thanks for the post and as usual for making me face reality and confirm my decision to have a personal life.

  33. Norwegian Blue
    Norwegian Blue says:

    “People who want to be top in their field want to work with other top players. That seems fair.”

    How so? That seems like what they’d like to have. It doesn’t mean they ought to get it, or deserve it just because they’re ambitious. Maybe they’re simply striving egomaniacs.

    Marissa, I am sure, will allow any Yahoo employee who wants to to pay for his or her own nursery next to his or her own primary residence (the office). As long as the construction doesn’t interfere with the 120-hour struggle to help Yahoo! escape its reputation.

    Also: is everyone at Yahoo going to be in the same building?

    If not, is there a master configuration so you’re always in the same building as everyone you need to work with? Or at least those you work with 60% of the time?

    Otherwise, it looks like they’ll still be allowed to work via telephone, Skype, instant message, and the other things that help us get past co-location.

  34. Sam
    Sam says:

    So there will be no telecommuting at Yahoo. Does this really effect most people? I don’t understand this polarization of life paths into two main options- have a big career and work 60+ hours a week or stay home with kids/meddle in part time work. What about all the people who have solid jobs, working 35-50 hours a week, who have kids and make it work? Why do you need to drop out of the workforce or stop advancing your career just because you don’t want to climb the highest ladder?

  35. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Ok Marissa – with all those hours you’ve put in please make Yahoo relevant again! :) Oh and my condolences to your children.

  36. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Shard, not chard.
    >> The declaration that Yahoo no longer allows telecommuting is monumental because Marissa Mayer smashed the last chard of the glass ceiling.

  37. Heather
    Heather says:

    So sad and pathetic that anyone would wear their “number of hours worked per week” as a badge of honor. I always come back to the deathbed statement (as someone else mentioned earlier)–am I really going to look back on my life and say, “Wow, I sure wish I had put more time in at the office.” No. And anyone who really feels like they’ll die feeling satisfied with being away from their families is either a liar or incapable of having or maintaining personal relationships, so for them it doesn’t matter anyway.

    Working 100 hours a week is not something to be proud of. And I did work for a big consulting firm where I put in that kind of time, on top of 90% travel, and I was so ecstatic to turn in my letter of resignation to go work for a company that believes we are all more productive, useful individuals when we have something fun to look forward to every day. And work does not count!

  38. Dana
    Dana says:

    Just over 6 years ago, after completing my bachelor’s degree (at 42) and wanting to pursue a high-demand professional position, I had to take a step back. With my (then) husband working a demanding job with an equally demanding commute, one of us had to make concessions to be available to my son (then 10). My salary potential was about 1/2 of my husband’s, so I took a low-level, low-expectation, non-career job just 5 minutes from home. There was just no way we could both be in rewarding, demanding positions and give my son the time, attention, and direction he needed.

    We (women, generally) tend to get so hung up on fair that we don’t acknowledge what is real – we cannot have it all – at least not until the kids are grown and out of the house.

    • FizzyBlonde
      FizzyBlonde says:

      Any chance there is a correlation between your changing/reducing your work responsibilities and the fact that he is now your ex-husband? One may have nothing to do with the other, but that is what first struck me when I read your comment. You dropped out of a meaningful job to devote more attention and time to your kid and your marriage ended. What’s the connection? Or is there one?

  39. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    I heard on NPR that Marissa Mayer was doing this. After reading this post, I went from disagreeing with Mayer to fully understanding her decision. The NPR host mentioned something about how other companies have gotten telecommuting to work, but Yahoo! just hasn’t tried hard enough to make it work.

    Now I see the real reasons.

    I can confidently say that I am not a fast-track career person. It feels good to acknowledge that. That doesn’t mean I’m not smart or worthy or whatever. While I don’t understand how the 120-hour workweek lifestyle can work for anyone–I guess people who really love power, which is just about my opposite ambition (mine is knowledge and freedom of knowledge, typical of INTPs)–I support the idea that fast-track companies should be able to expect that employees that want a lot from their careers should be expected to give a lot.

    Great post. It’s as true as a branding iron on a steer.

    • J.E.
      J.E. says:

      “I can confidently say that I am not a fast-track career person. It feels good to acknowledge that. That doesn’t mean I’m not smart or worthy or whatever. While I don’t understand how the 120-hour workweek lifestyle can work for anyone–I guess people who really love power, which is just about my opposite ambition (mine is knowledge and freedom of knowledge, typical of INTPs)–I support the idea that fast-track companies should be able to expect that employees that want a lot from their careers should be expected to give a lot.”

      Just wanted to say I totally agree. I’m definitely not a fast track career kind of person. That’s probably why I’ll never be rich. I’d rather have a life than work myself ragged for a huge paycheck, but never get to enjoy it. If work causes me too much stress, it carries over into all the other areas of my life. Also I’m an INFJ for what it’s worth.

  40. redrock
    redrock says:

    .. I am still puzzled by the Marissa Meyer photo – why in all the world is she shown in a LAB. I am certain that in her whole career she has never ever set foot in one, or has used a microscope.

  41. Paris
    Paris says:

    “innovation happens faster if people work at the same office, and company culture is easier to control and more energizing if people share physical space.”

    As an ISTP I strongly disagree. I realized I’m much more innovative and creative when I’m home and away from distractions. I hate distractions, the 9-5 constraint, having to sit on a chair for 8 hours, office politics and I don’t chat for the sake of chatting. Slackers will slack even when they’re at the office, they’ll browse the internet, check out their Facebook/Twitter. If they want to slack they will slack besides you don’t have to meet a person face to face to exchange ideas and be inspired. For me Skype, email and other digital tools are just fine. It is impossible to get into the flow state when there is so much noise around and some people visit your space “just to say hi”.

    Marissa Mayer is looking at this issue from a black and white perspective. Instead of totally banning telecommuting she could have told employees to come to the office a couple of days a week instead of everyday. With this decision she will drive away many talented employees. Yahoo has already been in trouble for a long time and this may be the last nail in the coffin.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Paris, Marissa doesn’t want one, single, ISTP at Yahoo. Here’s why: ISTPs are not idea innovators, and while ISTPs are incredibly efficient and competent they are impossible to manage.

      Which leads to a larger point, that Mayer doesn’t want anyone at Yahoo who doesn’t like what she’s doing. She gets a nursery because she is responsible for Yahoo’s earnings and you’re not. So if you don’t like it, leave. She doesn’t care. I think that’s fine. Until she has trouble hiring people, I think we have to assume that her policy is working well for her.


      • Paris
        Paris says:

        “while ISTPs are incredibly efficient and competent they are impossible to manage.”

        Well I can’t disagree with that. :) I’m a 37 Signals fan and I’d never work for a big corporation.
        Yes as a CEO she can put any rule she wants but the question is, will that kind of tight control lead to better results and save Yahoo? Given the situation of the economy and Yahoo’s reputation I’m sure she will have no problems finding people to hire but will she keep the right people? She will be left with fully compliant people and I’m not sure if that will lead to success. Time will tell.

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        “She gets a nursery because she is responsible for Yahoo’s earnings and you’re not.”

        That’s the most self centered, holier than thou ideology a CEO could have and one that will SINK any company. Everyone at Ya-who? is responsible for the earnings. Marissa is only there to lead and manage them to produce those results. If she expects people to give up their personal life and only work…then she should provide assistance in helping that become a reality. Why even have a residence outside of the office? Especially if you’re working a 100-120 hour work week. Total BS anyway, unless you only work 5 days a week (at 20-24hrs a day), are constantly on speed, and use the weekend to recover. Yep, total BS!

        You’re correct that everyone has a choice. I feel sad for the people who are only defined by their career. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

        Go luck to everyone at Ya-who? Work as hard as you can for Marissa and maybe she give you a nod in appreciation or she’ll have the nanny do it for her.

    • John
      John says:


      As an I*TP, I agree with you about the day to day activity. When comes to quickly changing, fixing or improving things; I found it be very effective to have a few people meet at a marker board on spur of moment and discuss ideas.

      Free flowing discussions do not seem to work as well when you need to table it for two days because no one is in the office or if you try to hold the same discussion over email.

  42. Tim Dellinger
    Tim Dellinger says:

    P –

    I’d like your opinion on what percentage of people at a large organization are on the fast track…

    “That’s what Marissa Mayer is saying: don’t think about coming to my company unless you’ll give everything for your job.”
    – – -This sounds like 100% of the company (all 14000+ employees) are on the fast track.

    “The workforce divides into two halves: people who try very hard to decrease the conflict in their life between work and home, and people who try very hard to get to the top of the work world.”
    – – -Now it’s sounding more like 50% rather than 100%

    “So let’s just admit that most of us are not on the fast-track.”
    – – -That says to me that it’s more like, ummm… 20%ish? And that’s being generous in my mind.

    Looks to me like she’s running the company assuming that she has 14,000 people on the fast track, which is a recipe for disaster. Because she doesn’t have 14,000 fast trackers.

    What works at startups doesn’t scale. Is she paying all 14,000 like they’re fast trackers? It’s a classic trade-off: the more salary (or potential money in options, etc) a person gets, the more that the company has a right to the person’s time.

    To tell you the truth, I don’t think she actually wants 14,000 fast trackers… that would be a nightmare. Luckily, she’ll never get them. And she should set the telecommuting policy to get the most out of the workforce she has.

    • CdrJameson
      CdrJameson says:

      I suspect Yahoo! neither wants nor needs 14,000 employees and this is a good way to get rid of some of them.

    • Jillian
      Jillian says:

      Gotta agree with Tim, it’s rather confusing. And we’re talking about one person’s actions, for the most part. I haven’t been paying that close attention, but telecommuting has been on the rise for a while and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Of course that seriously depends on whether you’re talking about strictly telecommuting or if you lump work-from-home (okay, work-from-starbucks) type freelancers who are indeed also ‘telecommuting’ in that they aren’t in the office where their work is being sent. That may be the difference. If we’re talking strictly people who have an office and just aren’t going to it, that’s different. I have no idea what’s going on with those suckers.

  43. v
    v says:

    except yahoo mail, what else is yahoo?

    and why not yahoo employees are not going to another company where telecommuting is allowed?

    • bmrtoyo
      bmrtoyo says:

      pretty much its not like yahoo is a ” leading innovator” in tech sector , what are they really doing that takes 80 hours per week per employee ?

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