Marisa Mayer – More Work Life Off Balance!

Work Life Off Balance?

First thing I want say is that I am a big fan of Marissa Mayer.  She is smart, driven, works in an industry that is male dominated and tech heavy.  I should know – I work there too.  Google and Yahoo are my vendors.  As a female executive at Google and now the CEO at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer has played a large part in setting the stage for females in the internet marketing and paid search industry.   As a working mom with two young children, and a paid search director responsible for a team of 20 in geographically dispersed areas – her decision to rescind the right of employees to work from home hit me in two ways.

Longing to Work from Home

First – as a woman who faces the work life balance each day, I have pined for a position that would allow me to work from home for some portion of the day. I dream of saving the hour commute each way to the office and spend those hours productively working on projects that never seem to get done.  I could also take my children to after-school activities on certain days while making up the time after they go to bed.  Right now, they don’t have the option of afterschool activities because both of their parents work full-time and are not home until 6pm.  If I had a flexible work schedule I know how that would translate into my increased productivity and loyalty towards my employer.

Gen X Influence

Second, I am also of Generation X who grew up under two defining influences – the “Microsoft” and the Big 8 consulting cultures.  Both were very similar “work hard, play hard, never leave the office”.  “Microserfs” is a book by Douglas Coupland that illuminates the Bill Gates dominated culture of office slaves in Silicon Valley where foosball tables and video games at the office take the place of all other activities outside of work.  And for the seven years I worked at Accenture – the 80-hour workweek and heroic feats of sleep deprivation were badges of honor. Leaving your “work family” to go home to your actual family was seen as an act of betrayal, or CLM (career-limiting move).

Can a Flexible Schedule Work?

Throughout my second career in internet marketing (specifically search marketing where Marissa Mayer reigns) I have been responsible for delivering results for clients by relying on my team of search professionals.  Over the 12 years that I have been working in this industry my thoughts on work-from-home situations has evolved.  I too was worried that having a team that was on different schedules and not cohesively sitting together for 8-9 hours each day would diminish what could be accomplished.  But, as technology has evolved and due to limited resources in this industry I have been put in the position of giving some of my team members the ability to work from home or losing them.  I decided to see how bad it would get.  To my surprise it has actually worked.  We have VPN technology, dial-ins and even without video (although we are now trying out Google Hang Outs) we have made it work on a small scale.  I’ll say that again – on a small scale.

Issue with the Policy or the Execution?

It seems to me Marissa Mayer walked into a company where this situation isn’t working well in the large-scale world of Yahoo – approximately 11,500 employees with offerings in 45 languages in over 60 countries.  It doesn’t mean it can’t work – but when your company is in trouble, which Yahoo is, circling the wagons may not be a bad way to start saving the company as a whole. Will she ever allow working from home again – perhaps, but I would bet only if there is a test of the program that delivers enough data to prove to her that it can work.  I’ll speculate that it may be up to the employees at Yahoo to prove to her that allowing for a flexible work arrangement is in the company’s best interest.

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The Toddler Years

During Max’s toddler years he was in day care.  He spent his time with the same group of kids all the way into preschool and pre-K.  He had a best friend, he hit his development milestones, and he spoke… a lot… in complete adult sentences with an amazing vocabulary.  I started talking to him like an adult (no, were weren’t hanging out cursing and telling dirty jokes…) but I would use “big” words with a sentence structure I don’t think I would have normally used with a 3, 4 or 5-year-old now that I look back on it.  He didn’t have any real “classic” signs of autism, so I didn’t really worry.

However, there were the occasional behavior issues at daycare.  Big meltdowns!  But he had the same teacher for 2 years and she (like us) pretty much instinctively knew what would set him off and how to avoid it.  It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but he was our first and I didn’t know any better.  We knew Max didn’t like change, but we didn’t realize how much until an incident in pre-school.  He had the same teacher for 2 years and now a new set was teaching – and both of them were new to the daycare, so I didn’t know them yet.  One had knee surgery about 2 weeks into the year and her absence along with some minor change had set Max off into a full-fledged meltdown complete with throwing books off all the shelves.  The class was out a recess so no one was hurt, and Max while emotional was never violent in any way – so there must have been some amazing level of frustration that he felt from his teacher.  Eventually both teachers left about 2 months into the school year.  I don’t think it was because of Max, but at least we had 2 other teachers that related better to him.

Things settled down, but then there was another big incident in Pre-K a year later.  I am not even sure what set it off, but he ended up in the bathroom having removed all his clothes and threw them in the garbage.  His teacher kept him in the bathroom until he calmed down enough to put his clothes back on.  Needless to say we were called in for a parent/teacher conference.  It wasn’t very helpful though.  I asked questions regarding his behavior – “is it extreme for this age”, “have you seen this before” and all I got was – “we are not experts”.  Not even a – “yes, we feel Max has some behavior issues you need to have addressed”.  We needed to read between the lines.  Since the year was almost over, we decided to move him on to Kindergarten and see if a change in setting would help.  We also discussed these behaviors with his pediatrician who didn’t seem alarmed – there is a wide range of “normal” behavior and Max seemed to be hitting the extreme of normal, but wasn’t really reaching beyond it.  He had a friend so he could be social although his friend was the smallest, shyest and quietest boy in the class…He was learning to read, had an amazing vocabulary and yes, he was bothered by seams in his socks and tags in his shirts, and had some other quirks when it came to routine, but was this something to worry about – quirky is quirky… and everyone develops differently – right?  He wasn’t violent or mean – he was just a little different.

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Before Aspergers

So, I finally fell in love with a great guy, we got married and we had our first child…. a son.  Not too familiar with boys myself having been raised by a single mom with two sisters, so this was going to be a new experience.  Everything is on the outside and once must now worry about getting a shower when changing a diaper.  We did have some good ones where it hit the wall, but for the most part I became nimble enough with the diaper juggling to avoid most ‘accidents’.  I would like to say that Max’s birth was completely normal, but during labor his heart rate did fall and the nurses ran in to flip me over to my right side from my left.  And 22 hours after my water broke, my 8lb 14oz ‘little’ guy was finally out.  Yes, like any mother with a conscience we we decided to try to breast feed.  After 3 days of crying we found out I wasn’t making enough milk to actually sustain my son.  So, I did both – nursed, bottle fed, pumped – all the fun stuff you do for your children.  I did it for 3 months since my office didn’t have anywhere private for me to pump during work.  From 3 months on Max got what I could pump at night and the rest of the time he was bottle-fed.  He slept through the night at 8 months, but he never seemed comfortable in his own skin.  We chalked it up to colic – or that “all babies cry” and figured he would grow out of it before we imploded from lack of sleep…

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