Okay, in terms of what has been in the news the past week or so, here's what I come away with. Marisa Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, wants to do away with telecommuting and advises companies to mandate that their employees work in the office, not in their homes during workday hours. And, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook wants women to "lean in," not lean back. In other words, women should be self-confident and ambitious and not shy away from opportunity.
Both high-powered executives drew much attention to their positions dealing with the workplace; the former, as it pertains to productivity and innovation and the latter in terms of the way a female engages in the workplace, which can positively impact her status and future in the company, as well as her pocketbook.
Mayer, who reportedly returned to work two weeks after giving birth and had a nursery set up near her office, believes that employees are more productive and innovative when they come into the office and not work from home telecommuting. Critics of Mayer cite the irony in her philosophy given the fact she is an executive in an Internet company. However, she believes the interaction among employees increases innovation and stimulates inspiration. While she acknowledges that employees can be quite productive working at home, the interaction is vital for innovation.
In my career as a journalist, I have had a variety of jobs ranging from freelance reporter to full-time reporter coupled with positions as editor of weeklies and a monthly. In between full-time jobs, I freelanced. Therefore, I have had considerable experience both as a reporter who worked from home and as one who reported to an office. Of course, as editor, I reported to the office every day to manage staff and to perform the editor's responsibilities. Now, I am back home doing independent work from a home office.
To be honest, I agree with Mayer that working in an office every day is better in terms of innovation. I miss the stimulation that comes with sharing the work environment. I miss the exchange of ideas. I especially miss the camaraderie and the humor that seems to arise from work experiences and the exchange within the office.
Yet, working from home also has its advantages. After all you're close to the refrigerator and the fresh air. You can even take a lot of breaks to put in a wash, move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, call a friend or watch "The View" at 11 a.m. You can also concentrate better when the house is quiet. You can even work with the cat on your lap or look out the window to the children walking by or watch the birds fluttering around the birdbath. You can start dinner early.
I admit it's tough to work at home when the kids are young. I remember working at home in my attic office on the third floor away from the kids. I tried to make a business call only to be interrupted by a youngster climbing up the stairs yelling about a fight with a sibling. I also remember working at the office and talking on the telephone to a lawyer when I put the person on hold to answer a call that turned out to be from my daughter yelling about her brother "the jerk."
Now, along comes Sheryl Sandberg, the mother of a 7- and 5-year-old. She and her husband are worth millions of dollars. She admits to affording childcare and any other help the family needs to keep a household running. Yet, in her new book, "Lean In," which is sure to hit number one on the bestsellers list any day now, she offers advice to women to be engaged in the workplace. Don't lean back. Show that you are interested; you are ambitious; you can make a contribution; you have the skills, the knowledge and the experience to move up and break that darn glass ceiling.
I haven't read her book yet, but I wish it were published years ago when I was leaning back too far. I still don't know how to negotiate a salary or a raise. Sandberg even admits when Facebook offered her the job she was ready to accept the first salary offer until her husband advised her, "No." You don't take the first salary offering. You negotiate. Personally, I never knew that. I was too busy being grateful for having the job offer.
In 2011 Forbes magazine voted Sandberg the fifth most powerful woman in the world. For her, her position in the corporate world is not just her ability to function at a high level, but also to influence other women to strive for what they are capable of doing in the workplace. They should be more confident in their abilities to succeed and not hold back because of stereotypical thinking. Women should embrace their success and break the stagnant statistics that for the past 10 years indicate that women hold only 14 percent of the top corporate jobs and only 17 percent of the seats on company boards of directors. While there are more women than men earning college degrees and more women than men earning medical degrees, there is "no progress at the top," Sandberg says.
In addition to her book to get her word out, Sandberg has launched Leanin.org, a non-profit Web platform to help women lean in, share their experiences and to network.
I think I'll change my posture.
Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively.