By Katja Schroeder
Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting at Yahoo created uproar. For a moment the world seemed to go backwards. Yahoo’s announcement is giving working parents a sign that they have to choose between career and family, especially if other companies will follow suit. This is hard to swallow especially for women with young children, who rely on telecommuting to stay in their jobs. As a working mother, I am biased. I have seen highly qualified women quit their jobs or start freelancing as an “agile” work environment was not offered by their employer at the time when their kids were born. I also was fortunate to work with many parents – men and women – who are perfectly able to focus on their job, be productive and creative – thanks to a flexible work schedule. Skyping when kids are in bed has become the new normal.
It is also an unusual announcement at a time where IT companies are looking to attract more female workers. Let’s think about how this message will help attract high potential women to work at Yahoo without offering them their own nursery next door.
To be fair, the announcement was not about working women, they are “just” impacted by it. It was more a public acknowledgement that mobile workers can be slackers. And, even a technology company, which is pursuing a mobile strategy, needs human interaction to foster creativity and productivity.
So, the discussion about telecommuting should be about getting the workforce ready to be productive and able to innovate with new technologies. Typically giving flexible work schedules aim to increase employee engagement, which results in increased productivity and a better bottom line.
This week’s discussion shows us that at least at one company publicly admitted that management methods are not robust enough to keep a mobile and agile workforce engaged. Shutting down telecommuting seems like a drastic solution. What companies should more focus on is training their managers to lead virtual teams more effectively. And shouldn’t a technology company be the first one to tackle the productivity issue with the use of technology?
I am a big fan of Google hangouts. We started using it for virtual team work. It is a great way to connect on projects with colleagues who are located in other cities, or countries. Marissa Mayer will most likely not be interested in joining any of our Google Hangout sessions soon, however, I am still hopeful that other companies continue to work in mobile teams and find ways to do it effectively.
And if you are looking for more inspiration, virtual networks are a great way to meet new people and explore ideas. Take a spin on Pinterest for inspiration or a walk in the park. Creativity happens mostly outside of the office.