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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

I Got Your Back, Marissa Mayer!

Filed under: Editorial, Fun, Personal

Well, hey there!

Hope you’ve all been doing well! For me, it’s been a particularly crazy time in Michele World, what with lots of travel in January (Orlando for the ASI Show, then directly to Dusseldorf for the PSI Show, then on to Paris for, well, nothing — j’adore Paris!) and caring for my Mom, who’s had some health challenges in the past six weeks.

Now that everything has settled down, I’ve watched with perplexed fascination how everyone has fire-hosed their rage and indignation at Marissa Mayer, the adroit CEO of the once-heralded, now beleaguered Yahoo! Mayer and the head of Yahoo!’s HR department, for those of you as out of the loop as I’ve been, dared to ask Yahoo!’s telecommuting employees to start coming into the office every day to, ya know, work (a move soon after adopted by Best Buy’s management, incidentally). The reaction to Mayer’s announcement? Like she took all telecommuters — not just those at Yahoo! — and demanded the marrow be syphoned from their bodies. And to say she’s been vilified in the media is putting it mildly.

At ASI, our telecommuting policy is at the discretion of each department head. Melinda Ligos, who oversees the Editorial and Education departments, takes an extremely tolerant stance towards telecommuting: “As long as people get their work done, it’s fine with me.” Yet even she saw the LOL value in this cartoon she sent my way, whose message is brilliant in its simplicity.

Of the five magazine editors here at ASI, I’m the only one who’s in the office every day. That’s not to say I’m working harder than my four colleagues who work from home a few days a week, as I certainly am not (a point with which CEO Tim Andrews would enthusiastically concur). In fact, the argument could be made that they’re better, more disciplined workers because they can function in a less restrictive environment. Libertines like me don’t fare well without parameters, rules (not that we adhere to them, but we need to bump up against them) and schedules. If I worked from home I’d be well-versed on the daily Law & Order line-up on TNT and rationalize my way towards mid-day naps and drinking (“but Spaniards do it, and they’re lovely people!”).

Here’s the thing, though, which was Mayer’s point: Her decision wasn’t a referendum on the productivity of people who work from home — for sure, they’re just as, if not more, productive than those who work in the office. (Though one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless — *cough* Joe Haley — uses air quotes every time he says someone is “working from home.”) But there’s no doubt that people who work from home are at a distinct disadvantage.Yeah, I said it. Being physically present in the office, able to look colleagues in the eye and engage with them in meetings, makes all the difference over the colleague who’s calling in via speaker phone, Skype or video conference. You can defend your position, advocate for policy changes and influence co-workers with greater effectiveness being in front of them. Working remotely robs you of the critical ability to metabolize colleagues’ reactions in real-time, read social cues and gauge group dynamics; seeing co-workers face-to-face encourages collaboration and adds to the energy level of the group. And in that regard, Mayer is spot-on.

Cheers, and hope to see you all soon!

— M