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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