Marissa Mayer Was Right: What Bosses Really Think About Work-From-Home Arrangements

Marissa Mayer Yahoo work from homeSo far, I've heard three common reactions to Marissa Mayer's decision to eliminate working from home at Yahoo. They are:

1. She'll lose all her best employees.

2. She's setting back all the progress we've made in work-life balance.

3. She's making a desperate attempt to fix a failing business.

Having worked with both sides of the equation as a former HR-executive-turned-career-coach, I had a completely different reaction. She is fixing a classic HR benefit mistake some companies make: Letting an employee perk become viewed as right.

Perks = Incentives
Companies understand that they need to offer good compensation packages as a way to retain the best professional talent. So, they build incentive programs, a.k.a. benefit packages designed to attract top performers. Over the years, many of these perks become viewed as standard practice, causing employees to feel it is their right to have them. A lot of employees don't realize that companies are paying on average another 30 percent of their salaries in benefits and taxes associated with employing them. That number can be even higher if the company has a particularly big perk package. Furthermore, as a person advances in their career, their skill sets can get them even more perks. Unfortunately, many workers wrongly assume that once offered an incentive, they should be able to get that perk for the rest of their professional lives.

More: What Telecommuters Need To Learn From Yahoo's Ban On Work-From-Home Jobs

Law of Supply & Demand
Fast forward several years, and a worker with a great benefit package can suddenly find themselves working for a company in major financial trouble, like Yahoo. They can also get laid off, fired, or just plain realize that they hate the job they are in. In all of these cases, they might mistakenly assume that regardless of whether they stay or go to a new job, they always deserve the same perks. In their mind, they've earned them. What they aren't considering is whether or not their skill sets still warrant these perks? If you aren't in demand, the supply of jobs with equally good perks vanishes. It's a simple economic rule that many professionals fail to consider. Ask anyone who was assuming that they'd always make what they were making before the recession and they'll tell you the Law of Supply & Demand applies to employment.

Working From Home Isn't A Right
Going back to Mayer and her decision at Yahoo, she is changing policy as a way to fix the dysfunctional company she's responsible for turning around. She had some employees who were abusing the perk, and more importantly, given the company's financial situation, she could no longer afford to offer it. She had to eliminate the perk across the board and get people back to work. Will some talented people leave? Yes. Will some workers who are no longer valuable to the company stay and punch the clock while under-performing? Yes. However, Mayer and her management team will finally be able to see who's coming to work every day with the right attitude. They'll also be able to see who's bringing their A game and really wants to turn Yahoo around. The ones who don't will get sacked, opening up lots of new opportunities for the thousands of people out there who would love a job at Yahoo and won't mind going to the office every day to do their work. Mayer's decision to eliminate working from home is intended to help her do something that will be vital to turning around Yahoo -- create a new corporate culture with better employee engagement.

More: No. 1 Hidden Risk To Working From Home

Want To Work From Home? Stop Thinking Like An Employee
If you want to work from home, then you need to stop seeing yourself as an employee and start seeing yourself for what you really are: a business-of-one. As a business owner, you can determine what kind of benefits package you want, also known as compensation for your services. Then, you can go out and market your business-of-one's unique value and find a company that will agree to your terms. If working from home is one of the elements of your package, you'll need to make a strong case for why buying from your business-of-one will make it worth letting you do so. It's that simple. Is it easy? No, but trust me, it can be done.

And that leads back to a final thought ...

Being An Employee Is A Choice
When you choose to be an employee instead of a business-of-one, you are accepting a limited number of employment options. That is your choice. If you want something different and better than what you currently have, it is up to you to take full ownership of your business-of-one. I know that can be scary. Just as many businesses fail, many business-of-ones fail too. However, when we fail, we learn and grow. Ask any successful business owner if they failed along the way and they'll tell you it's what got them to where they are today. When you choose to be a business-of-one, you are choosing to create your own future. You are breaking free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Yes, you will make mistakes, but you will also learn and grow ... and maybe even work from home while doing it.

Is Yahoo's Work From Home Ban A Bad Move?

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George Smithson

I just may agree with you that she was right... but if you're a Yahoo email user, I can assure you there are dozens of things she's getting wrong.

November 13 2014 at 3:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tracy Gomez

Working at home has its pros and cons, but with this system you cant go wrong

August 07 2014 at 8:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have worked from home for 8 years and I happen to think it's the wave of the future and where we are headed worldwide. Technology is now so advanced there is no reason why it shouldn't be this way. If CEO's such as Ms. Mayer are concerned about productivity and efficiency while some of us home based workers work away in our office, surely there are other ways to address this issue. Off the top of my head, I can come up with a quick idea: webcams. It's not ideal (for us as home based workers) but I can almost guarantee you that a lot of people would welcome that to the alternative of losing their job. Just a thought.

January 27 2014 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bernadette Boas

Just read the below comments.... must be spammers, or worse yet, must be employees who do not give their company and employer +100% of their contribution and effort in their job - they simply show up and take a paycheck. And that is the point and reason why company leaders are choosing to change where and how their employees work - and based on the below comments, anyone pulling back on working from home, is doing the absolute right thing.

October 17 2013 at 8:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marilyn King

Thanks, J.T.! Here are some additional thoughts I thought I'd share:

October 17 2013 at 8:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bernadette Boas

Love it J.T...... throughout my twenty five years in corporate I always considered myself a business of one - or an intrapreneur ...and being that I worked from home for 15 of those years, that mentality was critical for me, my career and my company - as they got even more from me being a virtual associate, as the intrapreneur mindset had me focused on the business 24X7 as an entrepreneur would. Like the business of one concept. Thanks

October 17 2013 at 8:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is one of the worst written articles I have seen in my entire life. Besides that, none of the so called "arguments" in this article are making any sense what so ever. Just a huge waste of time.

October 10 2013 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Russell

Your column: blah, blah, blah.

March 03 2013 at 9:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gosh, she's awwwwfullly darn purty !!

March 03 2013 at 9:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The writer has been a "boss" too long. It's not about the CEO; it's about the workers who make any company what it is. I can say that as a "boss" who willingly gave up the unproductive environment of endless meetings called by people who thought they were important because of the number of people they could into a room at any given time to be a work-from-home "worker". I would leave my company in a heartbeat if they made me go back to corporate hell. But time will tell; taking away an important benefit from highly skilled workers in an improving economy will fail; and other CEOs once again still won't learn the lesson that they need to keep the "workers" happy. Circle of corporate life.

March 03 2013 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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