Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer was right to ban working from home, right?

“Perhaps Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had a point about working from home (WFH) after all,” Jake Novak writes for CNBC. “Mayer drew enormous criticism last year when one of her first acts as CEO was to banning at-home working or telecommuting. People called Mayer every bad name in the book, and even accused her of selling out her fellow working mothers. More importantly, critics insisted Mayer had bought into a series of misconceptions and outright lies about telecommuters being unreliable and not hard working. And many employment experts warned that this ‘mistake,’ would leave Yahoo behind in the race for the tech world’s best talent.”

“Just a month after Mayer instituted the telecommuting ban at Yahoo, investigators at the U.S. Patent Office found that a large number of that department’s at-home workers routinely lied about the amount of hours they put in and that oversight of the ‘telework’ program was completely ineffective, the Washington Post reported,” Novak writes. “To make matters worse, the Patent Office now stands accused of burying and basically covering up the most damning parts of its own internal report. All this as the Patent Office’s infamous backlog has only grown larger, stifling a vital aspect of America’s entrepreneurial economy.”

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer(photo by Brigitte Lacombe)
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer
(photo by Brigitte Lacombe)
“It’s fair to say that this Patent Office farce should take at least some of the heat off of Mayer. Clearly, at-home work abuse does exist and the temptations are real for everyone who tries it. But before anyone decides that this budding scandal proves Mayer was completely in the right, one has to remember that there’s an enormous difference between the working culture for federal workers in Washington, DC and tech workers in Silicon Valley,” Novak writes. “Let’s face it, jobs with the federal government isn’t exactly famous for attracting the kind of workaholic, 80-hour-a-week types. A recent study by the Heritage Foundation showed that federal workers put in about three hours a week less than the average private sector worker. And when you add in all the vacation time, sick time and other perks, federal employees work a month less per year than non-public employees… In other words, allowing federal workers to work at home is like putting Bart Simpson in an independent study program. I predict we’ll learn of similar abuses in other federal teleworking arrangements in the months to come. I wouldn’t expect the same amount of abuse in Silicon Valley, or anywhere else in the private sector.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

44 Comments

  1. Working from home is not the rosy world you envision. And it is frightfully potent for destroying team work.

    However, carefully coordinating efforts and not allowing for more than an occasional use might have some merit.

    1. Team work? What team work are you referencing? I work in consulting, both my company and every company i do project work for use chat apps like Messenger far more than any face to face communications. Between email and chat, we effectively telecommute already. Most “meetings” are conference calls given that without telecommuting 50% of participants will still need to “dial in” for one reason or another. We literally will use a chat app across the same room.

      Here is my thing, you are either going to do your job on time and in budget or you are not, working from home with “over sight” or not, will not change that fact. Perhaps part of Yahoo’s issue is ineffective management and/or ineffective people! There are plenty of people working in offices that sit around and do nothing all day, hell its an art form to look some what busy all day while just surfing the web!

  2. Some people can work from home successfully. Government “workers,” aren’t among them – they can’t even work successfully from the office.

    The founding fathers envisioned a far, far smaller federal government than the wasteful, inefficient, soul-sapping bureaucracy we’re saddled with today.

    The U.S. federal government’s role should be to set expectations in policies, then get out of the way and let the states implement and operate those policies. Washington must respect that one size does not fit all states and it must not overburden states with red tape and financial burdens attached to its policies.

    1. Care to bring real statistics to back up your narrative, Firster? Didn’t think so. Your fantasy world simply does not exist, and from what we’ve heard of you, you seem not to have any realistic grasp of what the founding fathers actually wrote, nor the context and limitations that they described OUTSIDE the US Constitution.

      Democracy is messy. If you want a more efficient government, I recommend you consider relocating to China or any nice west Aftrican country.

      1. Private-sector employees work 41.4 hours during a typical work-week. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours.

        Private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees, and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers. Put another way, private employees work about one month more each year than public employees.Jason Richwine, Ph.D.

        The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to perform best. Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward [township] direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics, from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrates of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of a Venetian senate. Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the 3rd President of the United States

        The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plan duties to be performed by a few servants.Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the 3rd President of the United States

        1. The conclusions of this study are stated incorrectly. The real take-away line should be “Private workers spend more time at work than Public workers,” not that they spend more time working.
          I remember one place where the workers spent 15 hours a day at work, but only did 6 or 7 hours of work. Come to think of it, that was a government office. In Japan.

            1. As if you can make a worthwhile arguments. BTW, argumentum ad hominem is a fallacy, usually indicating that the person making it has no thoughtful arguments.

    2. This article and the propaganda from the Heritage Foundation paints with an overly broad brush. Government Worker applies to undercover HUMINT Agents risking their very lives in some extremely dangerous situations and the guy/gal who delivers the Mail.

      During my time in the Army I covered a lot of ground due to the nature of my job and saw far more Goldbricking and outright ripoff of the taxpayer at the hands of contractors than any of the GS or Wage Grade workers. The bulk of the misconduct in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan were at the hands of private security contractors- not GS employees or uniformed military.

      The Founding Fathers argument is also a non-starter, The Founding Fathers also thought Slavery was OK and that only white male landowners should vote.

      1. Discounting a person’s idea because another opinion attributed to them has fallen into disfavor is very much like saying that you don’t like ice cream because you tried it once and didn’t like how it tasted.

        To the person who is capable of rational thought, every idea stands or falls on its own merits. To the narrow-minded… not.

  3. Because, you know, working in a noisy cubical farm leads to incredibly effective work hours, as opposed to home where you can concentrate for longer periods of time.

    Reward discipline with flexibility.

    1. Because, you know, working in a noisy home leads to incredibly effective work hours, as opposed to cubical farm where you can concentrate for longer periods of time.

      Reward flexibility with discipline.

      1. What’s your point, if not to be argumentative? Employers give employees opportunities to work at home and allow the decision to be made by the employee based upon their own judgment. If you judge your home environment to be more detrimental to your work than your work environment, and yet you choose to go pursue your work commitments there regardless, I can only hope your boss would see the effect and have a discussion with you. From the business perspective, you know, it’s not about distractions or noise or location; it’s about meeting your commitments to the goals of your team and company. If four of your cubicle mates absolutely require silence to be productive and you need a noisier environment, then by all means head home and crank up the stereo. That’s an employer trusting your judgment and monitoring the product.

  4. Bullshit! I worked in a private company with work at home co-workers and it was severely abused. People are people regardless of sector and will take advantage.

    1. I work in a private company, and we’re all allowed flexibility to work from home when it suits us and the work, and it’s not abused at all. We’re effective, successful, and we all love the product and company, and the work we’re doing. More important, we’re loyal, invested in the cause, and the greater good.

      You are absolutely right that people are people, which is exactly the point. Telecommuting isn’t the problem; some people are the problem. Some are good, high-quality, responsible, ethical, enthusiastic workers, but most aren’t.

      1. re “but most aren’t”.
        I think you are, unfortunately, correct. Remember before all the working at home — various studies showing that huge numbers of people regarding taking office equipment home as not theft but a perk of the job. And I’m sure we’ve all been in workplaces where the “work ethic” of many is to see how little work they can get away with.

  5. Eh, I’m not sure if you can conclude that only government workers sometimes abuse telework. I suspect Mayer had similar reports finding abuse at Yahoo, which drove her decision. Those reports, of course, were never released to the public.

    The thing is, government is far more transparent, by law. Abuses are far, far more likely to end up in the news. But private companies have no such obligation. So you can’t really draw conclusions comparing the two.

    1. I think the main thing it proves is that, those guys sitting next to you at that private sector job… You know, the ones that are the reason why we have to take ethics training every year? There are folks like them in the Public Sector, too.

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