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
« Older CommentsNewer Comments »
    • Carbsane
      Carbsane says:

      Exactly. Mayer isn’t interested in being yet another CEO who failed at a tough job. She sees herself as a rock star.

      The rock star move is turning Yahoo around.

      Doing so would wipe the sneer off the faces of everyone in the Bay Area.

  1. Nathalie
    Nathalie says:

    I don’t understand the logic of glorifying 80+ hours/week of work. How productive can you be past 45-50 hours? I work long hours and I know that past 40 hours/week my productive starts decreasing, my mind is not as sharp and I’m not as efficient. I love my work but life is not just about work; it’s about work, life after work, family, friends, hobbies, traveling… When my life is fully balanced, then I’m able to bring more energy, ideas and sharpness into my work as well, which benefits me and my employer. You should not need to work 80+hours/week to demonstrate you are good at what you do. That should be done via the results you provide.
    As for telecommuting. I do that every now and then and appreciate the flexibility of it, especially when I need to focus on finishing up a project away from the chaos and constant interruptions at the office. Although I also think it’s important to show up and be present at work to interact with colleagues. Telecommuting is not for everyone, but some are able to handle it well and the flexibility should be offered to those who wish to have it.
    Not everyone wants to be a Marissa Mayer. I tend to think that the reason why there are less women on top, is that most women are not as fool as men to give up what matters most in life (family, friends, enjoying life) for 80h+ working week.

  2. B
    B says:

    1.) What does Mayer’s husband do?

    2.) Does sending our top performers off to work 100 hour weeks mean that the less efficient and productive have more time/opportunity to procreate, and that we as a people group are trending dumber?

  3. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Marissa’s not saying she only wants to work with top performers. She’s saying she only wants to work with top performers that are located near one of the Yahoo office buildings and are willing to spend 100+ hours per week working for whatever a dying company can afford to pay them.

    Perhaps it makes sense for the top level of the company, but, a blanket policy for a company that employs thousands of people seems short sighted.

    The entire Yahoo workforce already does not fit in a single building so they will never be one Yahoo united under one roof. Even people working on the same projects are in different areas (I’ve got a main Yahoo contact in the L.A. area that has his three team members in the Chicago area).

    A policy like this also ignores people that can work hard and contribute greatly but do better when not in an office surrounded by people (high functioning autistic people come to mind – and, for many of them, the office may function better if they’re not there as well).

    It also means that you’re only going to be able to hire people that are willing to live near one of your physical office spaces. Not every top performer wants to move to San Jose, CA (shocking, but true).

    I’ve never run so illustrious a company as Yahoo, but, it seems like a bad move to make policies that can tie your hands and limit the pool of people you can pull from.

    On a separate (but related) note, I have an issue with “time spent at office” being equated with “top performance”. I’m sure there’s a high correlation, but, there are also plenty of mediocre people putting in 100+ hours per week doing mediocre work. I’ll take the genius that that wants to put in 40 hours working from home doing amazing work any day over the work horse that puts in 100+ per week of average work until the day he dies of a heart attack.

  4. Linda
    Linda says:

    So how does not telecommuting and working in the office only = working lots of hours? I don’t see them as exactly the same.Also, how would being in the office help me be more productive than the days I telecommute when most of the people I work with ARE NOT IN MY OFFICE?!

    I understand that culture change is easier with everyone being in the same location at the same time. Unfortunately (?), the organization I work for is global and there is no way we could pull that off. We have to work across time zones. In this type of environment, what does it matter if the person you’re talking on the phone with is sitting at a desk in a corporate office or sitting at a desk in their home or sitting in a cafe or sitting in a car or…well, you get the idea.

    But what really confuses about this article is the switch into ranting that people need to give up family time to be successful in business. Um…I relish the fact that I am able to telecommute two days a week not because I have kids (I don’t! And I happily never will!), but because it allows me to take care of myself better. Days that I telecommute are usually days that I can fit in a session at the gym, and fix myself a healthy meal for dinner. Starting work at 6 or 7 AM instead of spending that time commuting means that I have more hours available in the day to fit in stuff I need to do to maintain my health and my body while still getting work done. What use am I to an employer if I am sick a lot because I don’t get enough rest, or develop chronic health problems because I’m sitting on my ass all day in front of a computer instead of moving?

    And what about the studies that show people are LESS productive when working lots of hours?

    Not everyone wants to be a CEO or an entrepreneur. Perhaps your advice here is only applicable to those that do want it??

  5. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    You lost me on this one. My husband works for a top tech company in Cambridge. He has a longish commute. We make decent money, enough to live in a nice exurb on the train and have an at home parent. He does not work a 60 hour week. He works a 40 hour week, plus some evenings at home, as needed, and telecommutes once a week or so to make it possible for me to go to medical appointments or for him to work west coast hours. You are right that he is not on a fast, track, nor does he hope to be a c-level executive. But he brings top quality technical knowledge, excellent organizational skills and enough social awareness that he can work well with a variety of people and make sure the right people are talking to each other (something I have noticed is seriously lacking in a lot of the tech world). He is an employee worth having, and I don’t think a corporate culture that requires *everyone* be working at burn out levels all the time is a healthy one. There will always be people like that, and more power to them, but you lose something if you are only willing to have those sort of people at your company.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Look, running Yahoo is a difficult job. No one has been able to do it. So for us to sit here and say that Marissa Mayer is making a bad gamble seems absurd. I mean, maybe this will not work out. But how could you possibly think that you know better how to run a Fortune 500 company?

      Marissa doesn’t care that your husband might be good. She doesn’t want to risk having to work with a guy who wants to be home for dinner at night. She’s not going to be home for dinner so why should she wait around for someone like your husband to spend time with his kids?

      It seems so logical to me. You pick who you want to work with. We pick to work with people who are like us. Mayer wants people who are not distracted by non-work activities. So what? If you don’t like it, don’t work for her. I think the jury is out as to whether or not she will have a hard time hiring people.


      • Jessica
        Jessica says:

        I wonder if there’s an inherent conflict in simultaneously arguing that this is a good thing and will ensure that only people like Marissa are working at Yahoo and also claiming that “propinquity” is in play (since the supposed value there is in spending time around people with different ideas and values from yourself).

      • Courtney
        Courtney says:

        I worry that when we only choose to work with people who are like us, we lose a lot of valuable perspectives, and that in and of itself stifles innovation. I am certain there is nothing on earth that could have gotten my husband to go to yahoo, given the mess that they are in, and it’s a good market to be a skilled tech worker in. His most recent job hunt was confirmation of that. I can agree with you that yahoo in particular may have a telecommuting problem, and this could be a step toward fixing it. I just can’t get on board the idea that this is a good idea for the industry at large.

        • morgan jones
          morgan jones says:

          Another interesting point is that a lot of the companies renouncing their support of telecommuting make products that support telecommuting for business executives. So, this does seem bad for the industry all around.
          How are these companies going to deal with the small one person satellite offices they have around the world or even the big teams in offices around the world? If face-time is the only time, this could potentially be a problem for global teams, which is really how all this telecommuting started anyway.

      • Sara
        Sara says:

        RIM is famous for employees going home at 5pm. It’ll be interesting to see if they make it.

        At Apple, 5pm is when they order lunch.

      • NB
        NB says:

        “It seems so logical to me. You pick who you want to work with.” Isn’t this one of the main problems with modern corporations, and arguably a main contributor to the financial collapse of 2008? Gillian Tett, the anthropologist and journalist of The Financial Times, observed the extremely homogenous, “tribal” bank culture and made a convincing case that all of those Harvard MBAs working with one another was globally disastrous. There were not enough checks and balances of viewpoints or cross-pollination of thoughts when they were cooked up schemes of securitization.

        • NB
          NB says:

          “It seems so logical to me. You pick who you want to work with. We pick to work with people who are like us.” Oops, I left out the important line in the quote for my comment above. I take issue that it is beneficial to “work with people who are like us” to an extreme degree, like MM is trying to do, or like the Harvard MBA bankers did. That causes inbreeding and degeneracy.

  6. Philihp Busby
    Philihp Busby says:


    I’ve been a long time reader, fan, and lurker. I feel on the following issue, I have to finally speak up.

    You are right that the types of people who get ahead in this industry give it everything; however these people generally don’t give their company everything. They give their profession everything. They become totally absorbed in their career, but their allegiance is always for sale to the highest bidder.

    I do not believe Marissa’s message is that to work for a company like Google or Airbnb you have to give it everything, but if you do this you might find yourself the CEO of one of them.


  7. redrock
    redrock says:

    One of the misunderstandings of the 100+ workweek is the assumption that you have to sell your soul and life, hook and sinker to the company to do good work. You don’t have to – and can still do really great work.

  8. Thorsten Kraemer
    Thorsten Kraemer says:

    Mayer’s definitely heading in the right direction. And yet, her ideas seem a bit half-baked to me. If you get rid of telecommuting, why not get rid of the general principle of commuting? Do employees really need individual homes? With 80+ working hours per week that don’t see much of their homes anyway. Why not just put up some bulkbeds in the office’s basement? This way you could even reduce traffic and pollution! Where’s the brave CEO to come up with this idea?

  9. Scott Curtis
    Scott Curtis says:

    Silicon Valley is not a city on a hill. It is a meat grinder and it is not typical of larger corporate America either. It is entirely possible to have a very successful career, make a solid six-figure income and have work-life balance. Sorry, but corporate slavery does not ensure financial success. Just because your employer is giving you the work of three people does not mean you are paid accordingly. Working 100 hours a week does not make you a high performer.

    There is plenty of research demonstrating that productivity falls off sharply after 50 hours. I would much rather have an office full of people who are super focused for 40-50 hours and then go home to their families than an office full of sociopaths trying to out-do each other with their workaholism.

  10. Richmond
    Richmond says:

    1. What are they doing at Yahoo that requires so many hours? Each employee must be required to click on their own links to create traffic.

    2. It would be great to see an experiment where half the company was able to telecommute and get paid a salary while the other have must show up each day but is paid by the hour. I would love to see which group is more efficient and profitable.

    3. Is Mayer’s strategy to be the Walmart of the internet through low wages and third-rate content?

  11. A
    A says:

    “Stop saying its bad for family. It’s great for family” how the hell do you work that out? Of course it affects your family and children. Why on earth did she have a child??!! Just something else on her “To Do” list. Typical corporate world that I don’t want to be part of because I want to enjoy LIFE.

  12. Megan M.
    Megan M. says:

    Umm…can families even afford to survive on one salary? Not sure most can make the “choice” to have one parent stay at home with kids. Hence the declining birth rate, hence our aging population, hence our unsustainable social security system. Workaholic culture=bad.

  13. qatheworld
    qatheworld says:

    Having a spouse at home when you have kids is great, I fully support it. I would love to be a stay at home mom, and always wanted to. But what never seems to get addressed is… what if you *already* have kids and are a single parent? Usually, it’s the woman that ends up with kids, no spouse, and by necessity a full time job to be able to support the family. Very few people who are single parents set out with that goal in mind. You can’t control what the other parent does, whether it’s disappear, be a total loser, abusive, fail to provide any support, divorce, or just die. Then as a single parent you pretty much have to work full time. You can’t just *decide* not to parent and not to work full time, someone has to.

  14. Beth
    Beth says:

    I’ve been a working mom, and a stay at home mom and was much happier as a working mom. Altho I saw my kids less, I spent better quality time with them. Also, because kids are ego-centric (the little dears) they tend to command all your attention and they were a great way to be totally (and healthily) distracted from the stresses of the work day – i.e. very therapeutic to come home to BUT – I also had an excellent nanny at the time, and that made all the difference.
    I would recommend to Marissa Meyer that if she hasn’t already discovered it, a 20 minute visit to the nursery might be a great de-stresser. Yes, even if the baby does nothing but cry, it will make her value her career all the more (think how easily she can just fire an adult crying baby) but only if Marissa trusts her nanny! The question isn’t “Can she (or he) have it all?” but “How do we establish excellent, affordable universal daycare?” Everyone should work at something – it’s satisfying and provides money which in turn provides a certain amount of freedom to say, choose food you like to eat, or leave a cheating spouse. Not everyone needs to work a 60-80 hr per wk. job but even if you’re doing the regular 37.5 hours. if you don’t have good daycare for your kids your life will be hell.
    If you do work 60-80 hrs. per week you can probably afford the best daycare and your kids will actually benefit from knowing they can trust a person and rely on someone else besides their mom and dad. ie – It takes a village to raise a child.
    It makes sense to work, productivity is vital to economies, so universal excellent daycare makes sense too and shouldn’t be just for the super elite.
    “Having it all” should be redefined as being when the stigma is lifted from working moms (dads don’t suffer that) and there’s universal daycare.
    Also – a stay at home caregiver can work 120 hours a week (or every hour!) and gets no pay and often no appreciation and certainly has no status in society.
    I know you think kids should be home-schooled, Penelope, one reason being that the educational system sucks, but it sucks because teaching is ideally a vocation, not a job, but many people become teachers for the wrong reasons (like 2 months off in the summer etc). And just because you’re a loving parent doesn’t mean you’re a good teacher (or a good example and kids learn a lot by example). Pedagogy is a thing, a theory, or many theories, not necessarily an innate ability.

  15. Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging
    Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging says:

    I like this line best: anyone can rise to the top if they give up their life to do it.

    And it makes sense that if you’re doing something extreme you want to be surrounded by other extremists and don’t want people around who might wonder or ask how and why you can be so extreme.

    Does she also want only people who are beautiful, have a fabulous fashion sense and perfect body too? Just wondering…

    • Joe
      Joe says:

      Does she also want only people who are beautiful, have a fabulous fashion sense and perfect body too? Just wondering…

      Unlikely. She’s in Sunnyvale, not Manhattan.

  16. Tony
    Tony says:

    I don’t disagree but there are other productivity issues that go along with showing up to the office every day. I cannot count the times that co-workers or bosses leave the office to get a project done, or how some programmers report that they are the most productive after 5pm after everyone has left the office. There are major issues with working from home, but pulling hours in the office can also lead to productivity sink holes.

  17. Darnell Jackson
    Darnell Jackson says:

    Yeah so now when a company hires you they get your FAMILY too.

    eeww don’t say something sweat heart you could get daddy fired.
    I know you want to ask him a question but he’s in a conference call about the like button.

    That sounds like a nightmare.

    As long as the value comes from the talent the talent will ultimately set the terms.

    Yahoo and Facebook are losing for a reason.

  18. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I have “telecommunicated” for my work for almost 2 years and it does not work. I am not well connected with my co workers or my superiours. My work is suffering and I’m not even working a 40 hour week due to the distractions from home and frustration of trying to accomplish my tasks thru phone and e-mail.

    At the very least, 2 days a week must be spent in the office with your co workers to bond, communicate, and get work done correctly and in a timely matter.

    • Brian G
      Brian G says:

      On the other side, I have telecommuted for almost 2 years and have never worked harder before in my life. I work more hours and get more done. I actually have better connections with my coworkers, because I am not exposed to any of the annoying things that they might do while working. I talk to them when I need to, but don’t have to hear their music, smell their food, deal with their penchant for putting conference calls on their speakerphone, etc. I don’t have to deal with getting stuck on the top of the parking deck in the middle of a fluke afternoon thunderstorm either. Not to mention that I don’t have 2+ hour commutes, where I can do nothing besides listen to the radio/podcasts/books.

      It is a win for me and a win for my employer.

    • Dave
      Dave says:

      See, it would be so much more “honest and transparent and forward thinking” if both Mayer and Trunk were to say, “the real reason that telecommuting is being axed is because way too many workers are either unproductive or incapable of managing their time effectively, and thus we need to get them back into the factory to make sure they’re earning their keep rather than disappearing and collecting a check doing who knows what with their day on our time.” That would be cutting edge to hear . . .

      • Brian G
        Brian G says:

        One thing is certainly true about this. It has made more people think, talk, and write about Yahoo! than probably would have otherwise.

    • imadime
      imadime says:

      then why are you doing it??? and better yet, why is your manager ALLOWING you to keep your job and continue telecommuting if you’re unproductive and disconnected from what’s happening with the rest of the company.
      what many fail to mention in all of these pieces is that, if you have a bunch of telecommuters abusing the option or who are just ineffective at it, you need to be looking at the management decisions (hiring, agreeing to the arrangements, team structures, etc.) that got them to that point.

  19. Dave
    Dave says:

    I feel this post is off the mark. (And 99% of the time, that’s not how I feel.)

    “She’s giving up everything for work, she has a right to demand that her co-workers do that same.”

    The notion that MM has “co-workers” is absurd, as is the implication that those who give up what she does stand to gain the 5yr/$117M contract she does. Not to mention that the majority of telecommuters recalled are probably programming mules or similar, rather than they are rising-to-the-top stars.

    So the unspoken premise of all this is flawed. Hard-chargers will show up wherever they need to, and will find there way. But some workers are cogs, and aren’t necessarily interested in exerting more than 40+ hr weeks, and it’s a disservice to those types as well as to the Superstar As to group them all together. That’s the exact same type of mechanized approach you rail against public school systems being factories for babysitting, bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator, and that homeschooling will much more quickly identify, magnify and support unique traits of individual kids.

  20. Brian G
    Brian G says:

    It has to be tremendously easier to work 50, 60, 70, etc, hours in an office each week when your compensation is $1 million. She isn’t “giving up” nearly as much as people who are compensated much lower down that scale and suddenly have to make different arrangements (with increased expenses) for the same job they had 6 months ago.

    I would probably work at least 100 hours a week if I was paid a million dollars for it. I could afford to have my children cared for in a top quality way, driven anywhere, etc. On my current salary, I would never be able to afford it.

  21. Robert Buccigrossi
    Robert Buccigrossi says:

    I am an executive for an small IT business with more than 70 employees and subcontractors, most of whom need to telecommute part or full time due the arrangement with our customers. My personal experience completely differs from this post. Meanwhile, our work has been independently praised with a significant number of awards (and 25% year over year growth over the past 5 years).

    However, telecommuting is not for everyone. We work hard to hire A players who have the fortitude for telecommuting. I’m just saddened that Marissa Mayer (and this post’s author) has such a poor view of (or experience with) her employees.

  22. Mark
    Mark says:

    Right…Mayer is “giving up” a lot of things by having a family on CEO salary and having an ARMY of helpers to do the hard work for her. Kinda easy to give up what you pay to replace. Just SAY IT. This is a woman over her head who has no idea how to manage

  23. Brian G
    Brian G says:

    She built a nursery next to her office. I know she paid for it herself, but with that large compensation package she can obviously afford it. Shame on those leeches who don’t get paid enough by her, to work for her, and cannot afford to build a nursery next to their office/cubicle.

    When/if she decides to hire a nanny/babysitter/caregiver, you can bet there will be competition for that job. How many are lining up to compete for raising the child of someone being paid less than $50k? Not much. You take what you can get.

  24. Scott Curtis
    Scott Curtis says:

    I telecommuted for five years as the data architect for all clinical and operational data warehousing and business intelligence for a Fortune 500 healthcare company. The only reason it worked was because I was extremely proactive. I spent over 20 hours per week on the phone and made extensive use of web conferencing, instant messaging and e-mail to stay in constant contact with my project teams, business stake-holders and managers. It was not always easy and I was definitely at a disadvantage vs. working in the office, but I managed it. Believe it or not, one of the bigger issues was working too many hours. It is very easy to do when you’re on the east coast, the headquarters is on mountain time and there are a couple major business offices on the west coast. I probably averaged 55 hours a week, but it wasn’t that bad considering I had no commute and a somewhat flexible schedule. I liked it for the most part.

  25. Scott Curtis
    Scott Curtis says:

    Most of the IT shops I’ve worked in encourage telecommuting when sick and allow telecommuting to accommodate people with sick kids, school snow days, a visit from the repairman or a doctor visit. I will be honest with you. I refuse to work for an organization that does not extend this basic flexibility. There is simply no excuse for that kind of treatment, given the vast array of technology available. What kind of idiot manager wants people dragging themselves to the office with a raging case of the flu so they can get everyone sick too? Given the stingy sick leave and vacation time offered by many employers, people don’t look very kindly on having to burn through a third to half of their vacation time if they should happen to get the flu. Sorry, but flat-out bans on telecommuting are just bad business and I honestly hope it explodes in her face.

  26. imadime
    imadime says:

    wow … if this is actually the conversation we’re having, then we’re in way worse shape than any of us appear to realize.
    if you’re working 120 hours a week and “giving up everything” we should probably be feeling really sorry for your children. in fact, why in the world would you choose to have children, if you’ve made the decision that this job that you’re giving everything up for is more important to you than they are??? seems pretty irresponsible to me.
    you can hold up marissa mayer as some sort of model CEO and female executive for her decisions, but geez, what kind of parent is she?

  27. D'Ella Peters
    D'Ella Peters says:

    Overall-the only choice is clear. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (you know what I’m saying). If the culture of a company demands 120 hours, you give 120. Or find another company. Or become an entrepreneur. Then you’ll give 140. Choices are out there.

  28. Emma
    Emma says:

    What a dreary false dichotomy! This makes it sound like there are two career choices: have a huge one that gives you no room for anything else in life, or have someone else with one to support you. Are you really saying that those who can work, must sacrifice all else, and those who are responsible for caring for others (whether children or elderly or disabled family members) shouldn’t expect to be able to earn a living wage? That all jobs should = huge careers, and all caregivers should = unemployed or working for “pin money”?

    I don’t think that’s what you really mean to say, but if it is, just think about the logical consequences of that view. It helps to erode away the idea that a 40 hour work week should be a standard. It doesn’t need to be for CEOs and entrepreneurs, who trade off time for power, paychecks, and excitement, but janitors, factory workers, construction workers, and customer service workers don’t necessarily have the energy to give away all of their waking hours or the resources to have others care for their children and parents. Also, if you’re making $20-30K a year at a job you had to take, it’s just not FAIR to hold you to the same standard as someone making ten, a hundred, a thousand times more with the option of walking away. Sometimes, people have to work to live. That doesn’t mean they are signing on to live to work.

  29. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    It seems so many commenting assume that someone working a 60+ work week (because I’m banking that 70 to 80 is really the norm on average, not this ridiculous 120 hrs being thrown around) has no personal life or is drawn to power/money or is a prestige whore. Have we forgotten those who are passionate about their work and motivated by interest/a love for the work. Those are, IMO, the people who end up becoming Mayer and Sandberg. The money can’t keep you at the office for all those hours. ESP since we know there’s a diminishing utility of money past like 60k re: happiness.

    People like Mayer, if driven by money, would make their millions and bounce. You can’t find an easier way to satisfy a craving for a power trip (for example, you could be a politician).

    Penelope is right – it’s frustrating as hell to work wih someone who lacks the level of passion requires to take something to the next level. And it’s not about blind loyalty to a corporation. It’s about the work, the gratification from solving puzzles

    I see it every day, the person still at the office at 11pm not because of a deadline but because they’re frustrated they can’t solve a problem or figure something out. That’s he A lister you want. She won’t care about the telecommuting policy because its just semantics for her where you want her to work. It’s like the weekly admin meeting that the really passionate are pissed about because they want to get back to their puzzles and not waste time. If you want to whine about the telecommuting policy, you necessarily aren’t going to make the cut. Because people who are passionate just want the telecommuting policy meetings to be over so they can get back to doing what they love rather than fighting about the company’s policy. Because they love he company, not like a blind schmuck, for helping hem be able to do what they love for 14.5 hours a day. I’m not saying that there aren’t those who get off on the prestige but i just don’t think they’re as common as people want to think they are.

    I hate to say it – but less passionate/less focused people love to validate their choices by stigmatizing and criticizing the a-listers. And no one is saying you’re not passionate or awesome, you’re just not as passionate about the work. Maybe you’re passionate about your dog or family. I respect that. So respect my passion being work. It’s funny too since so many of our innovations and breakthroughs can be attributed to some “geek” or workaholic who is working 75 hours or more a week, who falls asleep thinking about new ideas, and wakes up doing the same. He isn’t a loser (or she), shell probably cure cancer…because you don’t cure cancer working 40 hrs a week or whining about telecommuting policies. You cure cancer by building a nursery at the lab.

    Rant end.

  30. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    Sorry for the typos, iPhone fail. But what can you do when you’re only able to read your fav blogs at 1am on the train home from work? :)

  31. yvette maurice
    yvette maurice says:

    I love your blog but I can’t believe your attitude. On what planet is an 80 hour week acceptable? You must have rocks in your head if you think that that sort of work is sustainable and beneficial to a human being (who should have family, friends, community and spiritual pursuits as well). You say that it’s a reality – but I believe that people who say they work 80 hour weeks aren’t doing much at all for half that time.

  32. Nonnie
    Nonnie says:

    Yeah, it kind of sucks that there are so many people smarter than I am and harder working than I am, that are just as willing as I am to take a paycut to work at some cool startup. But, while I know many young guys that just love working all the time, for a lot of us, it seems to be more an arms race of workhours. In this case, having some enforced work-life balance is saving us from ourselves, like in any arms race.

    Also 120 hour workweek, gives you time for 6 hours of sleep and nothing else but working. I find that quite hard to believe. I’ve work 10 hour days and felt I was spending my whole life at work, and that’s just 60 hours/week (one day off). I wasn’t surprised at all to read that people typically overestimate their work

    • Emma
      Emma says:

      Agreed, I am quite skeptical about these reported work hours, given the correlation between longer hours and overestimation. How much of that is people saying “I’m never off the clock” when they’re actually taking a break, or just being present but not actually getting stuff done? When you actually do work hourly, or try to keep work-life balance in the 35-50 hour range (there are some full time jobs that expect you to keep your hours at 35), I think you’re more likely to only count the hours that you are actually, actively working.

  33. Sara Spook
    Sara Spook says:

    It’s funny reading Sara’s comments, after a few of them you can see that it’s actually Marissa posting in disguise…

  34. a-mused
    a-mused says:

    This is quite likely the most inane and moronic “opinion” I’ve heard supporting Mayer. There are far more studies supporting the opposite view. Not every person in every roll can telecommute. But to carte blanche ban it is stupid beyond all comprehension. Yes, Please. Let’s all move to Sunnyvale, CA where homes are $460/sq.ft. and average $665,000 for 1445sq.ft.

  35. Lis Brodie
    Lis Brodie says:

    You wrote this just to irritate people, didn’t you? As someone who works from home and homeschools her children I’m not sure that you believe a word of this.And if it’s true that Marissa Mayer build a nursery in her office then I don’t know what she is giving up.

    Working families struggle with childcare not just because of the separation but because of the cost. If she were to build an on-site daycare for employees to use at a reasonable cost then she may be on to something. If not, then she may get the dedicated employees in the office for 60+ hours per week, but they are going to eventually resent the hell out of her.

  36. jk
    jk says:

    Did anyone (including Penelope) actually read the article that was linked to the comment “women earn more money than men”? According to the article, that’s true… in Ireland. And Australia. But it clearly shows that in the United States women earn less than men before having kids and then even less after having kids. Don’t cherrypick the facts to suit your argument!

  37. Siegfried
    Siegfried says:

    thats totally true, I was working from home for some time and it is really hard to maintain good work pace when everything around you distracts you :P
    Best Regards

  38. redrock
    redrock says:

    Without knowing the numbers it is impossible to have an opinion, and one is left to say that telecommuting can be great, but office time has definite advantages.

    – how many employees telecommute?
    – how many of them don’t do their work well?
    – how many can even telecommute with respect to the nature of their work?
    – how many will have to quit because they can’t afford the 2 hour commute/leaving the elderly parent at home/ pay for the daycare for a 2 month old or have to stay put for another reason but still got their work done?
    – is it affordable to have these people quit and then refill their position with locals who might be more expensive?
    – what is the percentage of the A-players at Yahoo anyway?

  39. Brian
    Brian says:

    If you setup a home office, with a door that you can lock, you can work more effectively from home than any cubicle farm on the planet.

    In a cubicle farm, I was never able to lock away the distractions of what everybody else on the floor was doing. People would “borrow” items that I would have to find after every weekend. I was subjected to the music tastes of others, smelling the disgusting foods they ate for lunch, their entire perfume/cologne collection, meaningless time waster meetings because you couldn’t take your computer to them (but when working from home, nobody knows that you’re still working in the background as long as you stay functional on the call), etc. Working from home, you’re able to fall asleep while working late at night and then wake up and immediately start again.

    Telecommuting is actually ideal for the workaholic, not having to commute to an office. Add up the minutes you spend commuting, showering, dressing, etc, each day and that is all lost productivity compared to someone with a functional home office.

    • Violet
      Violet says:

      Exactly. Spending up to 3 hours going to and fro from office to work has been a waste of time IMO.
      The minute my family steps out of home for their work/school, I am free to work instead of spending next more than an hour stuck in traffic each way (even with the best transit system).

      Also, I totally get you about falling asleep and waking up to go back to work. I could pick up a bowl cereal in the middle of night and continue working at home.

  40. Phyllis Cohen
    Phyllis Cohen says:

    It’s one thing to implement new policies you feel strongly about for new employees–but is it in the best interest of your loyal employees to take away a privilege they have already had in place?

    This does not bode well with their existing workforce-honestly I think it’s bad form.

  41. Kater Cheek
    Kater Cheek says:

    Doing the math, working 120 hours a week doesn’t give you enough time for a full nights’ sleep, even assuming that you need 0 time for getting to and from home, eating, laundry, and the other things most humans need from time to time. I bet those people are only getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night, which means they are neurologically impaired, all the time. (Though they indulge in copious amounts of caffeine and denial.) Working 120 hours a week doesn’t mean you’re hard working, it means you’re inefficient.

    The same is true of demanding inhuman hours from employees. Burning employees out and throwing them away and getting new ones is inefficient. You will keep having to train new people to replace the ones that died of a heart attack. Even the most starry-eyed 20-something eventually figures out that it’s not worth it to waste your life in a one-sided relationship.

    And it’s true that it’s necessary for people to be together to collaborate, but it’s also true that not all of us have jobs that require creativity and collaboration. Many jobs require only contact with customers (by phone, for example). Other jobs require mostly interaction with tables of data. And all those people who don’t have super-creative/collaborative jobs can telecommute. And when they they all telecommute, that’s an awful lot of cars not on the road.

    I think that people are thinking “jobs” and they are thinking “Melissa Mayer’s Job” and forgetting what variety there is out there. It’s like when people say “all birds can fly” and they forget about penguins and emus. Even if it’s not right for her, there are an awful lot of people out there for whom it is just fine.

« Older CommentsNewer Comments »

Comments are closed.