Home > Culture, Digital Life > Yahoo’s Merissa Mayer: I Can Have it All- You Can’t

Yahoo’s Merissa Mayer: I Can Have it All- You Can’t

She was six months pregnant when, at age 37, she took the job as the CEO of troubled internet giant, Yahoo. How’s she going to manage that, the world asked as it marveled at the brilliant young woman who had just become the youngest female top executive officer of a Fortune 500 company.

Well, it turns out she came to work a mere two weeks after the birth of her baby last autumn. That’s how she handled it. And now we learn, after announcing the end of telecommuting at her company last week, that you can go back to work just days after you give birth- if you build yourself a nursery in your office and bring the kid in with you.

Business Insider, which broke the story about Mayer’s nursery, interviewed the husband of one of the female telecommuting Yahooo employees who now has to trade her home for a cubicle every day beginning June 1st.

“I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set ‘em up in the cube next door?”

A lot of folks are critical of Mayer’s anti-telecommuting move arguing it’s a step backward in the evolution of humane, family-friendly working conditions but some former Yahoos think she was right to do it because many employees there have been abusing the privilege and had not been particularly productive. Some argue she’s clearing the deadwood and getting them to step down, which is a much cheaper move than paying severance for laying people off.

Then again, some predict it’s the weakest employees who will show up to their cubicles come June 1st and the smart ones who will get recruited by other internet companies who will let them keep working from home.

The real problem here is that Mayer has opted for a one-size-fits-all option. One of the arguments Yahoo’s HR director made for banning telecommuting is that a lot of good ideas get discussed in casual meetings and hallway conversations. Ok- then make the creative and business development types come in to work. But a pure tech-geek who writes code all day? I’m guessing they’ll be working for Mayer’s former employer, Google, by the end of May.

By the way, on its news page, Yahoo has reprinted a Christian Science Monitor article favorable toward the company’s anti-telecommuting move. There’s no mention whatsoever of Mayer’s office nursery. Which is their editorial right. It’s also their right to make employees come to the office if they want to continue to get a paycheck. Who knows, maybe it’s exactly the right thing for Yahoo to do.

But what may be right for Yahoo may not be right for every other business in America. There really is a lot of research that shows telecommuting employees have high productivity rates. And there are certainly a lot of children in America who could use more time, not less with a parent around- even if that parent is working out of a home office.

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