Least compelling of all the arguments against Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's new tyrannical order — outlawing permanent work-from-home arrangements for her employees — come from people who feel like their particular work-life patterns are about to be upset.
In her response to the directive, The Guardian's Emma G. Keller—a journalist employed by The Guardian, not Yahoo—uses no fewer than 28 first-person references defending her own work habits ("I also pride myself on how I manage my time" is four of them) before she even mentions the Yahoo memo, which she deems "childish." And all of that serves to prove what? That Keller's productive and happy work set-up is "grown up"? If anything, it reads like Keller thinks she's been asked to work from Yahoo's offices herself.
These kinds of first-person experiental responses pop up all the time in work-life balance discussions like this one. Keller's not the only offender this time around. The Next Web's Managing Editor Mathew Panzarino talked up his company's telecommuting policy on Twitter: "Most TNW folks work outside an office. Most of us have never even met. This Yahoo policy feels decrepit." Quartz's Vickie Elmer, another journalist who doesn't work for Yahoo, had a personal reaction to Mayer's edict as well. "I’ve worked from home plenty during my 25-year career in journalism, including months devoted to breastfeeding and baby bonding, editing long-form storytelling and helping craft Sunday feature stories." Even Virgin Group founder Richard Branson chimed in, "Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will."
And, unless Branson is considering a job at Yahoo, no one is planning to crimp his style. Lost in the volumes of words spilled on this memo is the realities that Yahoo is facing. Business Insider spoke to a Yahoo source who made the workers that Mayer was targeting out to be more like no-shows rather than the productive at-her-desk-before-8.a.m. Keller. "A lot of people hid," the source told Nicholas Carlson, "There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo." Is this a fair assessment? We don't know. Yahoo isn't commenting on the press firestorm. But few have bothered to think of the question in Yahoo's context rather than their own.
It's the norm for these work-life discussions to ground all specificity into a one even layer of hotly-contested generalities. Mayer loss control of her work and life when she inherited the mantle of Woman Who Has It All. Anything she does is judged not on its merits but whether, if made law or corporate policy everywhere, it would create a better work-life balance for all Americans.
But when Mayer declares an end to working from home, it does not in fact put an end to working from home elsewhere. Which is a relief because, if we've learned anything, some people really don't want to work in an office all the time.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.