Yahoo! Just Became Obsolete

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if you’re a parent you’ve probably heard the newest decree from Marissa Mayer, the young CEO of Yahoo!, who was hired when she was five months pregnant and notably took only a two-week maternity leave after popping out her baby, undoubtedly while being fanned by her doula, a waiting nanny in tow.

Her decree, uttered with all the certainty that an empress can have from her ivory citadel, was that no longer could Yahoo! employees work remotely (aka from home, or anywhere else that’s not the office).

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” says the memo from the human resources department, and reprinted by Kara Swisher on “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

This proclamation assumes that Mayer is living in the real world today (which she is not); that Yahoo! is a relevant company (it is not), and confirms that Yahoo!, a technology company follows a construct of the working world straight out of the Mad Men era. Way to join the 21st century Yahoo. Not.

All of this is just plain wrong, not just for women, but for PARENTS.

The statistics are clear that working remotely boosts both morale and productivity. Google’s made changes to their family leave policy, increasing the time spent out of the office, and the results were a lower attrition rate of new parents.

According to the 2012 National Study of Employers, “between 2005 to 2012, employers have increased their provision of options that allow employees to better manage the times and places in which they work. These include flex time (from 66% to 77%); flex place (from 34% to 63%); choices in managing time (from 78% to 93%); and daily time off when important needs arise (from 77% to 87%).”

And a study recently published by Stanford says that if you work from home at least some of the time you are most likely a more productive worker. During the 9-month study of call center workers for a travel agency in China, they found:

▪ A 12 percent increase in productivity for the at-home workers. Of that increase, 8.5 percent came from working more hours (due to shorter breaks and fewer sick days) and 3.5 percent came from more performance per minute. The researchers speculate this was due to quieter working conditions.
▪ No negative spill-overs to the control group stuck in the office even though they had communicated that they wanted to work from home.
▪ A 50 percent decrease in attrition among the work-from-home group.
▪ Substantially higher work satisfaction as measured by a survey among the home group.

They also noticed, employees who were already more productive tended to choose working from home while less-productive employees chose to stay in the office.

Mayer needs to wake up smell the coffee. Hey, doesn’t she report to a board, made up of presumably, um, parents? Board members, your employee is running amok. Put a stop to it, or you will “Yahoo!” yourself off the face of any kind of business dealings now and in the future.

As for me, the only nasty spam I’ve gotten in my in-box has been from Yahoo!, and since I don’t work there, nor do I hope to, I’m going to treat this concept the way I do any form of spam — Trash it.

What are your thoughts about this situation?

Guest contributor Estelle Sobel Erasmus is an award-winning journalist and former magazine editor-in-chief who is on the Board of Directors of the national non-profit Mothers & More, a support, education and advocacy organization for mothers which emphasizes the value of a mother’s work whether paid or unpaid.

Her writing was recently featured in the anthology, What Do Mothers Need? Motherhood Activists and Scholars Speak Out on Maternal Empowerment for the 21st Century (Demeter Press, 2013) and in the The BlogHer Voices of the Year: 2012 book for her article, “We Changed the Conversation,” for which she was named a 2012 BlogHer Voice of the Year. Estelle was a 2012 cast member in the first ever Listen to Your Mother NYC production; and is a 2012 Circle of Moms Top 10 Winner for Best Family Blog by a Mom.

Estelle chronicles her often humorous, sometimes serious but always transformative journey through motherhood, marriage and midlife on her blog, Musings on Motherhood and Midlife. She also writes a column about women making a difference for and has been featured on, and Estelle can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but is holding off on Instagram for now.

Image via iStockphoto/Alexandru Nika

  • Marti Teitelbaum

    unbelievably backward. Amazingly out-of-touch. I’d expect this from a man, but from a woman? I wonder — is this baby her first child? If so — she might start thinking differently as time goes on.

    • Estelle

      I think this affects so much more than Yahoo-it could be used as a yardstick by other companies. Yes, it’s not a good solution.

  • linda

    More reason to dislike yahoo!

  • Amber

    Personally, I am not sure why this is being called out as an issue for parents. If you are working from home, particularly for a corporation, you should have other means of care arranged for your children. It’s not fair to the child or the company if you are dividing your time between work and parenting. I say this as someone with two children.

  • Estelle

    Yes, I see your point, but this is not about child care, it’s about allowing someone the flexibility to work remotely when needed. That effects general parenting and family tasks, and you can’t separate your work from your personal life these days, and to expect someone to just be chained to a desk is counter-productive; according to the studies and statistics.

    • Amber

      I think you can and should separate your work from your personal life. I think the line of thinking that you can’t is the exact reason some companies feel the need to do away with remote work. Some employees abuse the privilege.

      In the case of Mayer, everything I’ve read makes it pretty clear that she believes the best way to right the Yahoo ship is to have her team working side-by-side, collaborating, exchanging ideas. Something that is harder to do when they are scattered. I don’t believe it is an attack on working parents.

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