working at homeSince news broke that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has banned telecommuting for its employees, the uproar has been dominated almost entirely by one voice: the moms. How dare Mayer, a mother of a small baby, cut working moms off at the knees like this, we've asked. Over. And over. And over again.

It's a valid argument, but Moms, as much as you're going to hate hearing this, it's not the one that we need to be making against the shortsightedness of companies like Yahoo that would think to cut work at home options. Marissa Mayer's new plan isn't just bad for the parents on staff. It's bad for the American economy.

That's the message we need to be screaming at the tops of our lungs.

I say this both as a mother and as a woman who has worked entirely from home for the past three years. I'm lucky that my employer puts value on my contribution to the workplace, but I have come to realize that America, by and large, does not.

If we cared about helping mothers find work/life balance, we would have the sort of maternity leaves of other first world countries. We would not have mothers fighting for their federally-protected rights to pump their breast milk at the office. Women would not make 77 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts.

The argument for women, for mothers, is not enough to combat Yahoo's ridiculous new policy, not enough to convince other companies from going the same route.

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Thank goodness it's not the only one.

Telecommuting is good for businesses. According to some estimates, companies stand to save as much as $11,000 per work-at-home person per year. Think about it. They're not supplying a desk for that person. Not heating an office space. Not supplying coffee.

Telecommuting is likewise good for employees. Cutting out commuting alone can save a worker anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 a year. That's money that can be spent in other ways to fuel the economy.

And since we brought up fuel, it might as well be noted that telecommuting has a major impact on the environment. When technology company Cisco ran the numbers on its employees who work at home in 2007, they found that in one year their telecommuters stopped 47,320 metric tons of greenhouse gases from being released and saved $10.3 million in fuel costs. That's one company in one year!

What's more, technology has opened up a world of opportunity for people who live in rural communities. Telecommuting allows companies access to the brilliant minds living in the small towns of America. It provides jobs for people in depressed rural economies where the options for work are slim at best, more often completely non-existent. This isn't just supposition. I know it's true -- I am one of those Americans telecommuting from a small town. A physical commute would be impossible, but the wonders of the Internet allow me to make a living wage to support my family.

Am I fortunate to have found a company that can see the value in giving moms the flexibility they need to be good parents and good workers both? Absolutely. My workplace is one that could easily be used as a model for other companies as they embrace the technology we are so lucky to have.

But let's be honest, it's going to take a lot more than "it's good for moms" to convince most American businesses that telecommuting is worth fighting for.

So how about we stop kvetching about the mom who wouldn't show her pregnant belly on the cover of Fortune and start hitting the Marissa Mayers of the world where it really hurts?

As President Bill Clinton once said, it's "the economy, stupid."

What do you think of Marissa Mayer's new rule for Yahoo employees?

 

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