From the Editors - Written by Susan Kane on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:00 - 3 Comments
A Parenting Editor’s Surprising Take on Marissa Mayer’s Latest Move
I spent over 12 years as the Editor-in-Chief of one of the country’s biggest parenting magazines, 9 at Babytalk and 3 at Parenting, both with over 2 million in circulation. When I started out, my son was 3; my daughter wouldn’t arrive for years. I was a little nervous about moving to the top spot, but I knew one thing–I’d be a dream manager for parents like myself. Need a day where you could replace the time you spent commuting with snuggling with the baby? No problem! I hired some of the best editors in New York in part because I allowed, or sometimes guaranteed in the job negotiation, that they could work one or two days a week from home.
At first, all was hunky-dory. And then the following things started to happen:
* Some people took advantage. They’d be unreachable for hours when they were supposed to be on the clock. Wouldn’t these be the same kinds of people who wasted time in the office, you may ask? Maybe. But it’s a lot easier to get away with stuff when you are 30 miles away and not 30 seconds down the hall.
* Most people were conscientious, but not there for those in-the-hall solutions to problems that mark so much of what makes for good collaboration. You can’t predict what’s going to explode in your face on any given day, so no matter how well you schedule conference calls and Skype conferences, you can’t schedule the on-the-fly stuff that gets done twice as quickly as when I can just shout out “Mary? Josh?”.
* Even with those conscientious folks, a lot of time got wasted. For example, I would be going over a story layout with an editor who’s at home on her laptop, and both of us have the exact same thing on our computer screens. But instead of my saying “See this doo-hickey? It looks too big, too honking, to me.” I had to say “See the little doo-hickey above the picture on the second page where so and so is doing such and such? No, not THAT thing. The thing that’s shaped like a little starburst. No, I said on the SECOND page…” Take that and multiply it times a zillion and you’ve got a problem. Or a zillion of them.
* Calling into meetings doesn’t translate well for the conscientious employee-at-home. There are 10 or 12 people at the meeting, who sometimes talk over one another or start up mini-conversations until shushed. Employee at home keeps saying “What? Was that you talking, Jim? Can you repeat that?” She misses something again in two minutes, and suddenly everyone’s laughing. She misses the point, mostly because she’s not in the room. It’s a pain in the butt. It’s a time-waster. It’s…..telecommuting.
* When a big problem crops up, things change as you get more information. The lawyer weighs in…now the top dog reacts…now the author is digging in her heels….the lawyer has relented a bit. But now the CEO has sent a memo saying this…etc etc etc. Teams are dynamic. Work is not static. And to keep having to update the at-home person is such a time suck. So, say you leave her out or just tell her the solution you and others reached. But then the person feels upset and now, you’ve got to deal with THAT.
As the years went by, I grew less and less tolerant of the work-at-home arrangements. Eventually—and to this day—they were saved for truly special occasions. Kid got a recital at school? I’ll kick you in the pants if you don’t go. Got a bear of a story you just can’t wrestle around office interruptions? Go on home.
Marissa, you’ve got a bear of a company you’ve got to wrestle. Political correctness for flexible work schedules should go out the window when the stakes are that high. Brava!
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