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Marissa Mayer, Flexibility Isn’t the Problem at Yahoo

How disappointing.

Working moms of all stripes were excited last summer when Yahoo! named Marissa Mayer CEO, even as her maternity leave loomed just a few months away. Yes, she soon concerned us fellow working parents when she immediately committed publicly to a two-week maternity leave. But I still had hope. We all knew she had a troubled company to turn around -- maybe her plan was to lead by example with a flexible work schedule?

Alas, no. Instead her plan as announced last week is to lead her workforce back to the last century by banning work-from-home policies across the company. 

"Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home," says the memo from HR director Jackie Reses, and reprinted by Kara Swisher on last night. "We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together." 

This is a tech company right? One in which everyone is connected 24/7? Just checking. Because Yahoo!, of all companies, should be one that is primed to take advantage of all the productivity, engagement and loyalty gains that every study finds is tied to flexibility. By taking away employees’ ability to decide how and when they work, Yahoo! has effectively shot itself in the foot as it limps into the future. (Working Mother created the simple infogrpahic shown here, which rounds up all Yahoo! needs to know about the impact of flex on your bottom line.) 

Plus: Working Mother 100 Best Companies

A few weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to a Mr. NoFlex boss, explaining how fear of flex hurts his business.  I’ll be honest: When I wrote that letter I imagined writing to someone who hadn’t changed his ways in 20 years or so and needed a little help to come into the new millennium — an era in which 98% of employers now offer some form of flex. 

Little did I know I’d have to forward that the same letter to the youngest woman ever to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company — and a fellow working mom to boot. Ms. Mayer, I write you the same thing I wrote “him”: You have nothing left to fear but fear itself. Give employees the power to control their workday and, I promise, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much more work will get done.

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