The virtualization of work brought about by the advent of the borderless economy during the 80’s and 90’s started the trend of telecommuting. We thought that the exponential advancement in technology would eventually lead us to the nirvana moment when everyone could just work remotely from home – until Marissa Mayer killed the dream for us.
I have to admit I was taken aback by this, knowing that Marissa Mayer was a former mover and shaker at Google – a company perceived to champion work-life integration in its people management. However, having read How Google Is Using People Analytics to Completely Reinvent HR, I get it. Being big on metrics myself, I see how Mayer could have decided this way. The question I have though is – how is slacking off not a function of failure in leadership?
There is an unbelievable backlash on Mayer’s decision to ban working from home at Yahoo. It is no surprise that even Richard Branson, my hero on work-life balance, weighed in on this issue saying how wrong it was. Amid the noise of all the reaction, one stood out for me – an article by Lakshmi Ramarajan. Here’s what she says: “My research suggests that people who feel conflicted about their identities (parent vs. employee) are probably going to be less open and less collaborative with their colleagues and less committed to the organization. To alleviate that tension, Mayer must refrain from stereotyping her remote workers as all bad and her on-site workers as all good. Rather, she has to figure out how to support the personal lives, aspirations, and identities of all her high-performing employees.”
I certainly thought that telecommuting trend is just in its infancy stage and that we’re going to be seeing more of this burgeoning movement that started decades ago. However, Mayer’s action got me thinking: Is America beginning to challenge the practice of flexible work arrangements? Having witnessed the rise of telecommuting in the advent of internet and amidst clamors for work-life balance, I can’t wait to see how the idea of “working from home” evolves in decades to come.