Are Yahoo Employees Happy or Just Shell Shocked?

After a year of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo workers report a better work life balance than people at tech companies known for their supposed perks, like, Google and Facebook. 

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After a year of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo workers report a better work-life balance than people at tech companies known for their supposed perks, like, Google and Facebook. For the first time ever, the turnaround tech company made Glassdoor's top 25 companies for work-life balance, coming in at a respectable number 16, with a 4 star-rating. Yet, notably absent from the list are any of its main competitors. Nokia comes in at number 10, but it's a Finnish company, so of course it values work-life-balance over selling phones. So, what gives, how did Yahoo end up on this list?

Happy employees report the following to the definitive job review site:

  • "Good salaries, good food, good benefits, onsite gym, good work life balance, good technologies to learn and work with."
  • "Great salary, tons of perks and benefits, massive business scale" 
  • "Marissa Mayer is a great reason to work at Yahoo!, also free food, stock price going up, employee friendly benefits."
  • "Work-life balance, challenging projects, collaborative co-workers."
  • "Great benefits: free food, smartphones, game rooms, maternity/paternity leaves..."

All of that sounds great, but not unlike the situation at any major start-up or tech company. Rather, this employee happiness seems relative. Take this note from one Yahoo senior software engineer on Glassdoor: "Things were kind of stagnant under [Carol] Bartz and [Scott] Thompson. Marissa Mayer has really stepped up to make life better for the employees and get rid of soul-crushing dysfunction. There's a lot more transparency and feedback mechanisms now." Because things were so bad at Yahoo before, the little perks Mayer put into place has more than placated employees. They are ecstatic—job satisfaction has jumped from 3.2 (OK) to 3.7 (satisfied).

People at Google and Facebook, however, are used to the perks, and maybe (maybe!) even see through them as a ploy. Looking deeper, Yahoos don't have it that much better than their peers. Mayer only has an 85 percent approval rating. Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page have approval ratings of 95 and 97 percent respectively. Life at Yahoo isn't the best; just the most improved.

Not to discount the achievement: 60 percent of business majors report work-life balance as their number one career priority. Yahoo's endgame is to attract the best talent to build the best products to better sell to advertisers. Selling perks and work-life balance is the first step in that process.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.