“I feel ya Helen”

The recent brouhaha (I’ve been waiting for the chance to use ‘brouhaha’) over Marissa Mayer and her decision to cease telecommuting privileges has increased the sunshine on more than a few ancillary issues. One of these is the assumption (based on the preponderance of the backlash) that women were/are the primary victim of the decision. Maybe….maybe not; there is a terrific article by Kathy Gurciek describing a situation being labeled the “Male Mystique.” I don’t want to steal too much of the author’s thunder, but did want to add my thoughts on the situation. I’ve been a man most of my life, so I feel qualified to comment.

Who is more impacted, men or women? I can’t argue the numbers (mainly because I don’t have any), but I can speak to a change in the mindset of the working man. For Baby Boomers and much of Generation X, “time with Dad” was a pretty small ration of evening appearances on a weekly basis for any number of reasons. For me and my peers, it was because Dad was working/traveling/happy-houring/Elk’s Lodging/Business Dinnering to the tune of 80+ hours a week. That’s just how it was; I’m not blaming Dad, he was doing what he thought was expected of him – have a job, pay the bills, pat the kids on the head when you get the chance.

Thankfully, the kids didn’t like it. Here’s a statistic from the Family & Work Institute (FWI) that speaks to that fact: In 2008, fathers reported spending an average of three (3) hours per work day with their children; that’s up from 1.8 hours per workday in 1977 (I really need to see those numbers, that still seems high.) Additionally, 3/4 of current working Dads surveyed state they would like more time with their kids. And still, men (and women) are actually working more hours than did our parents – technology and flexible work arrangements have made it a possibility, and for many of us, a requirement. For the modern workforce, the work day never really ends unless we turn it off. Anyone still working for a company that employs a “clock-watching” culture can attest to the frustration involved with staying in an office for the sake of “appearing” to be productive. I actually worked at a company that took note of the arrival & departure time for employees – people who stayed late were obviously more dedicated. Stupid? Yes. Reality? Also yes.

I still maintain the opinion that Mayer was completely righteous in her decision to ban the policy if she felt productivity had suffered. I certainly wouldn’t like it if I was one the Yahoo employees who had the privilege yanked, but I always have the option to find a different employer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to Harry Chapin and have a good cry.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ movement and refuses to listen to “In The Living Years.”

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