The new Yahoo CEO, Marissa Meyer, in a bold move, has decided to ban telecommuting at the company. This is either a great decision or the worst idea in history, depending on who you talk to.

A recent article in the Washington Post discussed barriers to moms returning to the workforce. The Atlantic wrote a famous article about why women don’t make it to the top. Are changes like this likely to attract more women into the workplace or send more women running for jobs that are more flexible, even if they involve less pay? Many companies are talking about the lost brainpower of women who have left the workforce. Do moves like this help encourage women to stay in jobs or seek them?

The concern with “no telecommuting” is that it immediately places a restriction on flexibility, the most important factor for many primary caretakers of a small child. The free food and massages and other Google-type amenities are attractive, but if you have little kids, they hardly outweigh the need for flexibility.

Telecommuting, at least part of the time, makes it much easier for many moms to stay in the workplace. The reality is that in many cases, the primary childcare responsibilities fall on the mother. Many women are a fan of telecommuting, even if it is only occasional, because it makes it easier for them to blend their work responsibilities and home responsibilities.

How, in real-life, is a parent of small kids supposed to stay on-site, every day, for each workday without answering some fundamental questions:

  • What if I have to leave to get my kid because he is sick? Even if I work at the rest of the day to catch up, will that really count as work to my boss?
  • What if I need a flexible schedule to drop kids off and pick them up? Is an office that’s cutting telecommuting going to allow this kind of flexibility?
  • There is a lot of talk about collaboration. Are meetings going to be scheduled at a time that makes it difficult for me due to daycare pickup or other child responsibilities?
  •  Does the lack of telecommuting mean that I am going to have to pay for more daycare to account for my commuting time? Often, daycares enact strict fees for parents that are late. Commuting time is a reality. What happens if your boss steps into your office at the last minute and you can’t leave for another 15 minutes? This could easily result in a $20 or higher late fee from a daycare.

The change from flexible to less flexible doesn’t bode well in my opinion. What do you think?


Photo via Flickr.

Christa T. Palmer (265 Posts)

Christa T. Palmer is a mother of 2 small children who lives in Colorado. She worked in the corporate world for more than a decade, but she was laid off the day after returning from maternity leave. Since then, she has worked as a freelance writer.