What Does Marissa Mayer Think We Do All Day? Employees Do the Same IN the Office


Marissa Mayer, like many suspicious CEOs, doesn’t like remote work. To be specific, remote work done by work-at-home employees since I assume remote work done while maintaining an insane travel schedule on behalf of the corporate giant would be perfectly acceptable.

It doesn’t matter what you think of her decision to force remote employees to come back to the office or leave the company. There are many opinions on whether or not it was the right decision, ranging from a decision she had to make to clean up Yahoo to it’s just an old fashioned attitude that has no place in our brave new, social media connected world.

What matters is her opinion isn’t far from what many people think about working at home. After a decade of working from home, I have endured the knowing smiles, the playful jabs, and the jealous comments about how much fun it would be to work in your pajamas. In short, the perception is that people who work at home goof off.

The Work Habits of Contractors versus Captive Employees

Let’s take a look at the perceived goofing off habits of work-at-home professionals (or as the rest of the world likes to call us, pajama-wearers) and compare them to the habits of captive employees who are stuck in offices, forced into mandatory productivity (or so they think):

Personal Errands – The common misconception is that work-at-home professionals spend a lot of their time doing personal errands. While we do often handle family tasks during the day outside of billable time, we also make up a lot of time after hours. Captive employees, on the other hand, are perfectly happy fitting in a few personal chores on company time.

Napping – Yes, we know you think we nap during the day (and yes, sometimes we do). Usually it’s when we are overtired or sick and in desperate need of rest because in an office of one, there are no coworkers telling you to call in sick. Captive employees would just call in sick because they get paid anyway (and I have heard stories of employees sneaking off to the bathroom to catch a little shut-eye as part of their regular routine).

Frittering Time Away – The comment I get the most when I tell people that I work from home is “I wouldn’t get anything done if I worked from home” ergo they think the same applies to you. Chances are if you are working from home (and reading this blog), you are doing so on a compressed schedule where every second is precious. Captives have an endless supply of ways to fritter away the day.

Chit-Chatting – This belief is often what leads well-meaning friends or neighbors to call or drop-in mid-afternoon under the false assumption that you have time for social visits. We don’t and it’s one of the first rules of working at home: teach people to respect your work boundaries. Captives just love the social aspect of their work (I know because they tell me the isolation would drive them insane).

Surfing the Internet – People seem to believe that we just can’t resist the temptation to surf the Internet or watch daytime television. Yeah no. We do, however, take social media coffee breaks with our virtual colleagues. Oh, and all those measures you take to make sure your employees can’t surf during the day? They don’t work. An iPad tucked in a briefcase is all you need to get around that pesky firewall.

Extended Lunches – This is my favorite misconception: the glorious days of extended lunches. Rarely do we have time in our busy schedules to leave the office to go out and do something as frivolous as eating with other people. Your captives, however, know exactly how to justify an extended beer-swilling lunch: ‘working meeting’.

Unproductive Work – There is a myth that work-at-home professionals spend a lot of their time on unproductive work. The truth is that the lack of distractions in a home office is what frustrates many people with working at home. Captive employees are exceptional at manufacturing fake-work projects to justify the time they put in behind their desk.

The reality is that bad workers are going to be bad workers in the office or at home. All joking aside, whatever you think people are capable of doing at home, trust me, they will find a way to do in the office environment. For employees, it’s important to know thy self and know whether working at home is something you can handle. For employers, you need to build in systems and structures to properly manage remote workers.


About Author

Carla Young, momeomagazine.com Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched momeomagazine.com to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!


  1. AMEN!!! Shout it from the mountain tops Carla! You have nailed it; and I personally think she is an idiot for making the employees come back to the office; OR she is a marketing genius for garnering this much publicity. My fear is she is the first one. But, this post spells it out perfectly; bad workers will be bad workers no matter where they are. Personally, I think the line she put forth about collaboration is crap. We can collaborate from anywhere. Well said!

  2. I’ve also read the stories of Yahoo! employees that were allegedly abusing the privilege of working from home I don’t think that’s what this is about.

    First of all you’re absolutely right to assert that many, if not most, people who work from home are highly productive and often work considerable hours, however non-traditional they may be. I can relate to all of your examples above but I know they don’t apply to everyone who works remotely either. I’ve done it myself for years until recently, so I get it.

    But as someone deeply involved in a start-up, the techie kind that you would think would go straight for telecommuting, I can tell you it doesn’t always work.

    When you’re under pressure to deliver, and right now everyone at Yahoo! is, there is no amount of video conferencing or IM’ing that can replace standing next to the person you need to work with to simply get something done. Magnify that by the diverse array of companies under the Yahoo! brand and the need for them to turn that ship around soon (the market won’t give them too long) having “all hands on deck” is an asset. There is a lot to overcome culturally and that won’t happen with people they never see.

    This is much more about focus, saving the company and making it a formidable force to be reckoned with in the future; because if they don’t, a lot of those same people who now have to come into the office will find themselves at home permanently and with no paycheck.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy loosens up down the road but for now, face time matters and I’m sure she considered all of that when making such a sweeping decision.

  3. Overall, this looks like an attempted cultural reboot for Yahoo. Mayer is primarily correcting a management (not technology) failure: Managers who did not hold people accountable for results, which squandered telecommuting benefits and badly hurt the performance culture. Ultimately, I expect remote work will be allowed again once things turn-around.

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