Work-From-Home Ban at Yahoo! and Lean In at Facebook

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Marissa Mayer speaks during an announcement September 8, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Lisa Belkin, Huffington Post’s senior columnist on life/work/family, discusses the new policy at Yahoo! That you may no longer work from outside the office, and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In initiative.


Lisa Belkin

Comments [55]

Wendy WIlson from Central Jersey

I haven't heard much about the environmental aspect of adding that many more cars to the highways. Part of the reason that I work from home (besides being able to hear myself think) is to remove my car 2 days a week from the 50 mile round trip commute.

Mar. 05 2013 08:53 AM
cynthia gale from NYC

I am 66 yrs old and find I have a different work ethic than most 20 yrs old. When I left full time employment and "freelanced" graphic design/illustration out of a dedicated space in my home office-I was amazed at how productive and creative I was. No distractions, I was focused, finished projects in half the time. Having sunlight, an open window, my music playing resulted in happiness and innovative solutions. I have observed that social networking is an addictive behaviour with younger employees-checking their FB/Twitter etc-I think studies showing every 20 minutes-they do not realize that this is NOT working. It's so integrated into their daily lifestyle and self esteem that they don't understand they are socializing and not productively employed. I have to commend the Goggle CEO in trying to get a handle on re-defining a new work ethic for her staff. I think she would have been more successful in taking smaller steps-like first with dept. managers etc. Now, she'll be distracted defending her extreme draconian announcement. In the tech industry, it's still male dominated-so flex time is no longer a gender issue.

Feb. 28 2013 12:01 AM
paulb from Prospect Heights

She's trying to turn around a failing company. If she wasn't demanding daily F2F with staff, her board should ask why not. It's not business as usual there.

Feb. 27 2013 05:56 PM
Joan from NY (home) and New Haven (office)

As an academic, I cannot imagine why a manager in an IT firm would want all of his or her underlings in the office all day every day. Surely many key people at Yahoo! are now working on projects that require them to concentrate intensely on a discrete piece of work for, say, three hours at a time and get it done before a deadline. Certainly my job is full of such tasks. The best way to get such a task done quickly and accurately is to get up in the morning, get dressed, drink your coffee, and sit down at a desk that's as far away from phones, colleagues, and other distractions as possible. Interaction (creative or otherwise) with all of your "teammates" should wait until after you've completed your urgent task.

Feb. 27 2013 04:10 PM
Professional Worker from NYC

Lisa’s right about quite a few things. This is no longer a woman’s issue. Also, she’s right about how effective/productive/creative an employee is, is either helped or hindered by the quality of the manager. Just saying telecommuting is what hinders productivity and creativity sounds very inaccurate. Most good managers (managers actually trained to be managers--not just promoted into the position) understand that performance is linked to the flexibility to choose how you work.

So, there is the issue of managers with poor/average skills faced with this decision on working from home/remotely making a decision based on their skill level. They may only have one model of managing the productivity/creativity of an employee and that’s by making sure they can see how and what their employees are working on in a face-to-face setting.

“Good” management should figure out what performance is required; what's the output/measurable result required for an individual and stop thinking of this in terms of working from home being a privilege instead of a modified business model.

I’m guessing the Yahoo! CEO is in a situation where it’s “all hands on deck” and this struck her as a way to have everyone onboard for building and executing better strategies for Yahoo.

Feb. 27 2013 02:41 PM

Everyone is assuming here. We don't know enough about what's going on at Yahoo. We're just making assumptions based on the company ending telecommuting.

Feb. 27 2013 12:34 PM
Richard from Levittown

Would appearing at the work site lend itself to "creative brainstorming" or just sitting in a cubicle wishing you were at home? Will management offer credible evidence that the "creativity level" will be increased by doing the job at the business site? Will management create an effective "innovational" climate for workers who follow the regular work routine at the job?

Feb. 27 2013 11:14 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn


I think you answered your own question. Perhaps Google also found that employees were not as productive at home, so instead of applying the stick, they used the carrot to keep them at work. Same ultimate effect, however.

As I said, there are employees who can be trusted out of the office to get a considerable amount of work done. I, myself, have brought work home for various reasons - but I know that when I am working from home and have to complete a particular task, I can be trusted to do the work. There are other people out there who cannot, and Yahoo! may have been taken advantage of by too many of those, so everyone suffers the consequences. It is the same reason that when too many accidents occur at corners with only stop signs, eventually a municipality has to give in and put up traffic lights instead. Unfortunately, many times the innocent are punished along with the guilty, but the company gets its work done.

Feb. 27 2013 11:07 AM
Jayson from L.I.C.

"Why doesn't anyone consider the practices of the world's happiest countries where some of the wealthiest women live?"

Simple... because in the US the workplace is solely about generating profit; the well being of workers is not a priority. In other countries, a company's financial success is tied in with pride and community.

Its important to realize that the US has the largest percentage of publicly traded companies in the world. In most other nations, the largest companies are family owned.

Feb. 27 2013 11:05 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I bet the reason why she's CEO has more to do with her pretty face than any actual measurable achievements. But it is understandable that a CEO in particular has to be very "presentable," so looking good and getting your message across are very closely correlated, for sure.

Feb. 27 2013 11:04 AM

Know any 50 year old male career executives, at the peak of their powers, taking off time to care for their aging parents?

Know any women who left the workforce to raise children and now are trying to return to the trade as "older" workers?

Didn't think so.

CEO=Completely Evidently Out-of touch.

Feb. 27 2013 11:03 AM
David Heatley from Queens, NY

This seems related to the points Susan Cain raises in "Quiet - the Power of Introverts." I'm an introvert, highly creative, highly self-motivated and don't tolerate well office environments—the barrage of personalities and egos. I spent 15 years in advertising really hating the inefficient meetings and briefs and can say from experience that 50% of people's time at the office was wasted on personal projects or tasks or keeping up the appearance that they were actually working. Now that I have a studio of my own and do work directly for my own clients (while juggling my own personal projects), I can say that my productivity has probably increased ten-fold. It's also nice to be able to have my kid here if they're home sick or leave early for a band concert or to help my wife if she's going to be late from her job. I literally cannot imagine returning to an office and pity any introverts who have to try to survive in these kinds of work environments. All that said, I need frequent face-to-face time with collaborators to brainstorm and create efficiently, but it's usually a handful of hours per week rather than all day every day.

Feb. 27 2013 10:59 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

There is a lot of destructive politics that goes on "in the office." Workers are often NOT measured by the quality or quantity of work done, but by personal likes and dislikes of managers and their lackey brown noses. If anything, the worthiness or quality of work done remotely away from the office could be judged on its own merits, but that defeats the political objectives of those seeking nothing other than their own advancement regardless of the actual merit of their output.

Feb. 27 2013 10:59 AM
Carrie Smith from New York, NY

These women are not considering their counterparts' monumental challenges in a male dominated environment in a 21st century world of increasing gender equity, but who don't want to be held back by family responsibilities and so working at home is the best solution so long as productivity isn't compromised. Otherwise, Facebook and Yahoo need to cough up some day care centers at work. Why doesn't anyone consider the practices of the world's happiest countries where some of the wealthiest women live?

Feb. 27 2013 10:54 AM

do we need managers anyway?

Feb. 27 2013 10:53 AM
Nathan from Hoboken, NJ

I left a company where working in the office was prized for everyone but the leadership. It was very frustrating to be told to be in the office at a particular time when the "boss" would not come in. I think what people need to understand is that in particular being a tech worker means you need long stretch of uninterrupted time to sit, think, design, and code/develop/build. This is so much easier to do at home.

My current job has many remote people - this doesn't means we all sit at home all day - we often meet in coffee shops and diners to get things done - it is about culture and attitude over rules and regs.

As a "boss" I can not sympathize with those who want everyone in the same room all the time. What this means is that you are lazy, in my opinion, and do not want to do the work as a leader/manager to setup metrics, share them with your teams, and hold them accountable. Autonomy is incredibly important to knowledge workers, but autonomy without accountability is chaos.

I am glad I work for a forward thinking company that allows me the level of autonomy I have, especially as a night owl. My boss doesn't care if it is done at 8am or 8pm as long as it is done.

Plus it is astonishing how much time I get back by not sitting on a train for 2 hours a day - that is 10 hours a week - and if you think some of that is not spent working, you are crazy! I think they get more out of me then if I were in the office.

Feb. 27 2013 10:53 AM
Elizabeth in Brooklyn from West Midwwod Brooklyn

It's worth noting that both of Barack Obama's female Supreme Court nominees are single women without children. I believe Mary Jo White, just nominated for the SEC, is also single. It would be very interesting to look at the numbers of women in the top of their fields, the true top, to see how many are single, how many have no children. Condolezza Rice? Susan Rice? Others?

Feb. 27 2013 10:53 AM

@Nick from UWS - Managers have less work when they set goals and communicate with their subordinates.

@RL - So if she was calling from the office, she wouldn't be working either. What's the difference whether she's at home or not?

@Truth & Beauty - Maybe the reason why the innovation at Yahoo was slacking had nothing to do with telecommuting. Maybe it had to do with the work environment at Yahoo. The reason why Google has such high innovation is they create an amazing work environment - you can come to work in jeans, they provide all meals and snacks and they provide areas for rest and recreation during the work day. The only problem with Google is that all they provide is designed to keep you in the office (upwards of 10-12 hours each day).

Feb. 27 2013 10:53 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Working at home is great but as someone who has hired people who have worked from home and has done it myself - Human interaction is very important, for focus, leadership, and discipline, plus - measuring the work done is especially difficult.

Feb. 27 2013 10:50 AM
MichaelB from m

Hey, we could turn that last comment by Ms. Belkin around: "Women had men at work taking care of making money, so they could be doing domesticity at home."

An oft-repeated idea, but not an intellectually honest claim if we stop and think about it. That's not how life really was -- both genders cooperated and divided the jobs for the benefit of both -- and neither knew any better back then.

Feb. 27 2013 10:50 AM
John A

There should be cycles. Weeks at home, Weeks at the conference table. Not all one or the other. Good networking changes everything. If you can 'skype' in HD for 8 hours the difference in work-at-home almost vanishes.

Feb. 27 2013 10:49 AM
Bob from Huntington

The two hours I spend each day commuting to work is both draining for me and a burden on the environment. Whenever I have the opportunity to work from home, I am generally more productive. My ideal would be a week that combines both telecommuting a couple of days and working in the office. It would be better for me and better for the environment.

Feb. 27 2013 10:46 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

The solution is not to work at Yahoo because their CEO is a control freak and that attitude trickles down.

Feb. 27 2013 10:45 AM
steve from Manhattan

It's not primarily a woman's issue, or a gender issue -- it's a parent's issue, especially for those of us who are single parents.

Feb. 27 2013 10:44 AM
steve B

the issue is not where the work is done but how long the work day.

Feb. 27 2013 10:43 AM
John A

To caller,
No, 'Multinational Business Company' is not going to give it away at all.
Good anonymizing.

Feb. 27 2013 10:43 AM
sp from nyc

In all fairness, she's trying desperately to save a sinking ship. If Yahoo goes bankrupt, everyone can work from home.

Feb. 27 2013 10:42 AM

the caller is working from home now. ha. clearly, she is not currently working. she's a great example of the problem with working from home.

Feb. 27 2013 10:42 AM
TheMayoress from The Beach

I live in NYC and am currently working from Mexico, which I also did last winter. But I'm my own boss, and I learned that I'm more productive here because there are less distractions. I wouldn't be ok with an employee doing this unless they'd already proven themselves - but most of my team are freelancers that perform on a results basis. It's more cost effective for my company and my clients. Win-win-win. The new economy, at least for small business.

Feb. 27 2013 10:41 AM
Dennis from Queens

This reminds me of a story recently in which an IT guy worked from home for multiple companies, and ended up farming out all work to China. He made multiple salaries and spent most of his days surfing the web.

Feb. 27 2013 10:41 AM
Nick from UWS

Your guest has it exactly backwards. It makes MORE work for managers if they actually have to check whether is work is actually being done, rather than just quick daily headcounts of bodies in cubicles. Managers don't like it because work-at-home creates MORE work for them.

Feb. 27 2013 10:41 AM
Simone from Brooklyn

This woman should not be given the air time. Her philosophies are what is at the root of this country's pathology. Sick employees and sick employers placating each other instead of trusting and interacting with each other in a way that is healthy AND productive. I am ALWAYS more productive AND feel healthier when I have the time, space and right environment to focus on my tasks at hand. Sitting in an office is not conducive to creative and imaginative thinking EVER.

Feb. 27 2013 10:41 AM
Maria from Morningside Hts.

Maybe Ms. Mayer is having what psychologists call a "reaction formation," and is reacting to the fact that she's just had a new baby and ... perhaps wants to be spending more time with her baby?

Feb. 27 2013 10:40 AM
Jeff Lawson

Telecommuting is outsourcing. If the only bar is that "work gets done", then anyone, anywhere on the world wide web can do that work, for very little pay, and little or no benefits.

Feb. 27 2013 10:40 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

"If the work gets done" doesn't capture the nuance of when people do not have enough face time. You can't measure what you don't know you've missed -- the creative juices and collaboration you get from people spending time together.

But I TOTALLY agree that if a manager only sees the clock time, he or she should be fired, because he/she is being paid to be smart and insightful about MANAGING. Who needs to pay a manager $100K+ to manage by the clock? Just get a timeclock and you're done!

Feb. 27 2013 10:40 AM
beth from princeton

Telecommuting is a win for both employer and employee. For the employer, it widens the talent pool beyond the immediate geographic area in which the company physically resides. For the employee, it opens up job opportunites beyond their own home base without the expense and disruption of relocation.

The results of telecommuting employees should be managed through clear goal setting and regular review of progress.

Feb. 27 2013 10:39 AM
RBC from NYC

I'm actually agreeing with jgarbuz on this one. Unfortunately women leaders too often make decisions emotionally, unlike men who most often make decisions strategically.

Feb. 27 2013 10:39 AM

Mayer's objective isn't just increasing innovation. The ultimatum allows her to slim down the company without it being seen as layoffs -- many people will "choose" to quit rather than come into the office.

Feb. 27 2013 10:39 AM
Brock from Manhattan

Is the target of change really men's attitudes toward work? Men are almost always the most willing to be there for face time to the sacrifice of many other aspects of life. That is, men are being the most competitive and it would be much easier to compete with them and level the playing field if they voluntarily just cut their hours at the office.

Feb. 27 2013 10:38 AM
Nina from Jackson Heights

I'm a freelance graphic designer. I work from home so that I can be free when my five year old gets home from kindergarten. If I go into an office, I can only work from 9-2, if I work from home, I can work from 8-3:30. For me, it means more work hours as well as more time with my child. I would never consider trying to work while my child is with me, you cannot adequately care for a child while you're working, and you cannot adequately work while caring for a child.

Feb. 27 2013 10:38 AM
andy from manhattan

If the new CEO for Yahoo comes from an enterprise that succeeded largely by having employees behave as a community (Google), and attempts to bring that culture to one that is failing (Yahoo), why does that seem like a slam against women? Whatever.

This is a business culture issue, not a swipe at worker's rights.

Feb. 27 2013 10:37 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

There are studies and there are studies. I'm presuming Yahoo!'s experience is that telecommuters have not been as productive as they had hoped.

Typical telecommuters get up late, work in their pajamas, respond to every interruption at home and really don't get their eight hours in. I guess Yahoo! finally had enough of that and decided that they want eight hours of work done in eight hours, they want workers focused on WORKING, and they want to know that they're getting what they pay for. I can't fault that.

Only the most disciplined workers can really get work done in ANY environment, can put aside the home-based interruptions, and are to be trusted.

Feb. 27 2013 10:37 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I have been doing IT work for decades, and I have come to an unambiguous conclusion that balance is the best.

Face time is very important for team members and collaborators -- there is no substitute for that. There MUST be a minimum amount of that.

On the other hand, it's also very true that for certain jobs and at certain times, being able to work from home can be great for getting work done -- less interruptions, less time lost to commuting, etc. Not to mention that it often assists people balance their lives, allowing them to be more focused when they ARE working.

Either side that argues that their way is the only way or best way is fooling themselves.

Feb. 27 2013 10:35 AM
JT from LI

I've worked in tech and have a lot of friends that still do. From what I've seen managers generally hate work from home policies and would rather not allow anyone to do it so that no precedent is set for the team. Sure, some people do very well working from home, but others do not and those create a lot of problems for managers.

I'm sure that most Yahoo managers are quietly thrilled to have this off the table.

Feb. 27 2013 10:35 AM
zach from New York

I've been doing a combination of work from, in office, and field work in a freelance capacity for the past three years. Whenever I'm asked to be in the office for the duration of work day bemoan my productive drop.

Feb. 27 2013 10:34 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

employers are getting scared over their lost of control. everyone in power are making decisions out of fear now.

Feb. 27 2013 10:33 AM
mary ellen orchard from wantagh

when you cash your paycheck you are agreeing to the terms of your employer's terms of employment....... if you don't like the change, move on. stop being "it's all about me".....

and i've worked in an office and at home.....

Feb. 27 2013 10:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

This is retrograde and bad, forcing people to waste time and money commuting, not to mention the environmental costs. It only shows that as women gain power, they can be as stipid and ruthless as men, sometimes more so.

Feb. 27 2013 10:30 AM
Jeff from Old Greenwich, CT

I've worked at startups and I've worked in the corporate world. There are pluses and minuses to both. However, one thing has always been true - jobs are no longer 9-5. If the company expects the employees to essentially be on-call at any time, then the company should respond with the flexibility to allow the employees to live their lives around their job. In our overly-connected world, it's unbelievable to me that a major tech company would prefer to make people move rather than find a technical solution (of which they are many) to handle this. Many studies have shown that remote workers cost less than on-site workers in terms of office space and equipment. I suspect this is more of a move to force employees to leave and then I suspect once a number leave, the new policy will be rescinded.

Feb. 27 2013 10:30 AM
Steve from Rockville Centre, NY

I work for a major telecomm company which is gradually rolling back work at home. We were at the point where most non-unionized employees worked at home, Now, whenever there are any reorganizations they use that opportunity to bring people in to the office. If you refuse, you're laid off.
It's an employer's market. They set the rules now and this is all made worse by the decline of unions.

Feb. 27 2013 10:25 AM

The fastest way to evaluate the health of the company is to work face to face. The new CEO's ban will probably only last as long as it takes to confirm their work data. Since former workers have reported work discrepancies, it is only prudent management to evaluate in office.

At least so far, it's an in-house evaluation. She hasn't called in management consultants which is a plus.

Feb. 27 2013 10:12 AM
Valerie from weehawken

Today I could spit fire about "Marissa Mayer" - just because she can afford her private nursery and private "everything" - she is , like so many, hopelessly out of touch...with the women/mothers and families of America- your "ban" may have thrown us all back to the " stone age"- SHAME ON YOU for SO many reasons!!! especially since nearly 60 % of american companies offer some sort of telecommuting- I see my husband spending a huge percentage of his day on "conference calls" where NO ONE is in the traditional office setting- it comes down to deliverability - and belief in your employees- uggh !

Feb. 27 2013 10:08 AM
Brenda from New York City

Women don't need to be told how to succeed in business (we've been doing it for decades) anymore than businesses need to cater to our personal lives.

Feb. 27 2013 10:04 AM

the best code is not in the office is in our head.

Feb. 27 2013 10:01 AM
Rebecca Sroge from Brooklyn

For the past four years, my job has in Chicago, and I live in Brooklyn. Usually I fly there on a Monday morning and return Tuesday night, and then telecommute the rest of the week. It works very, very well. One day in the fall of 2008, I realized I could do this - - I went to a meeting in New Jersey, and people at that very building were calling in from their desks to the conference room. That happens all the time. So what difference does it make if I am calling in from NYC?

Feb. 27 2013 09:52 AM

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