Yahoo Inc. chief executive Marissa Mayer's pending ban on telecommuting — which was leaked to the press on Monday — sets women back 25 years, in the opinion of at least one Oklahoma City businesswoman.
“We finally break through the glass ceiling and one of the U.S.' largest employers takes a step like this. It's sad to see,” said Cyndy Hoenig of Pure PR. Hoenig said she works from home and — because of fewer interruptions and being more comfortable — gets more done than she ever did in an office. “It just might be at 7 a.m., 7 p.m. or 3 a.m.,” Hoenig said.
Mayer announced the rule, effective this June, in a memorandum now circulating online.
“We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together,” she wrote. “… Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. …”
Most Oklahoma professionals we talked to disagreed with Mayer's decision, including managers at Teleflora and American Fidelity Assurance Co. Telecommuting works well for Teleflora, said human resources director Danielle Caldwell Ezell, who worries about the effect on Yahoo's retention and recruitment efforts.
Meanwhile, 670 of American Fidelity's home office and field sales colleagues here and nationwide telecommute at least part-time, human resources project coordinator Heather Henshall said.
“It's important for our colleagues to have that balance and it's allowed us to retain employees who've moved away from Oklahoma City,” Henshall said. Moreover, productivity has increased, so much so that one department decided they didn‘t need to fill an open position, she said.
American Fidelity, she said, is transitioning all employees to laptops so anyone can telecommute during inclement weather or a disaster.
According to a Reuters poll, nearly 10 percent of workers around the globe work from home every day, including some of the more than 50 million workers in the United States who telecommute at least part-time.
Still, at least some Oklahoma professionals could understand Mayer's decision, including execs in the same company with opposing views.
Said marketer Leslie Spears, “I think when your company goes from $400-plus a share to $20 a share it's time to get down to business. Employee perks are not working for their bottom line.”
Tulsa recruiter Tony Wolters and Oklahoma City business consultant Bill Bendure agree.
“My take is she's found a way to thin the ranks, as the company is not doing all so well,” Wolters said. “We'll see how this plays out and if other CEOs will follow. I would not be surprised.”
Bendure said Yahoo may have had abuse of the policy or problems with telecommunications.
“Most of my business clients have not succeeded at telecommuting for these reasons,” Bendure said. “There's often resentment by office workers leading to other conflicts and breakdown in relationships and team.”
Leaders at Principal Technologies, a staffing firm for information technology, accounting and engineering professions, share opposing views. Recruiter Rebecca Hartwig feels flex time should be earned, while sales Vice President Bobbi Bailey believes telecommuting is a positive perk for sales professionals.
“It works in positions with measurable definitive results,” Bailey said.
Oklahoma City human resources expert Gayla Sherry understands Mayer's points about collaboration, but worries about longer-term recruiting issues.
“Yahoo may have difficulty recruiting younger workers, and especially the creative ones that Yahoo needs,” Sherry said. “Creative workers don't always follow an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. routine, nor do they necessarily like the structure and confines of an office environment.”
This, er, older telecommuting business writer agrees. I heard Monday's news at work, while on an elliptical machine at the YMCA, and gathered feedback Tuesday from home, including when my 11-year-old daughter got off the bus, walked in and pronounced:
“I yelled bloody murder in Social Studies today.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Jasmine came up from behind me.”
Me: “Did you get in trouble with the teacher?”
It's the work/life balance, i.e., life's small pleasures, that I, at least, demand.