Why Work from Home Works….Sometimes

2 Mar

All this week I’ve been reading the commentary on Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s leaked memo to her staff ordering everyone back to an office. There’s been a rather large uproar, mostly from us digital types, who know that working from home can be just as productive if not moreso than being in an office. But, I got to thinking about it on a broader scale and as sometimes happens on a Saturday morning while I sip my coffee, I thought “Hey, maybe I’ll write about it”.

My biggest concern about the brouhaha is that it’s basically a modern day witch hunt. Let’s remember, it was a leaked memo – we have no real context around it, no honest insight into the situation within the company (some may of course) and we have no idea what the home/office ratio actually looks like. There a big problems with this – most of the mockery going around is based on assumptions that she’s forcing all of these awesomely talented, highly productive, incredibly creative and collaborative people back into a box where some say the best ideas and insight are born.

*Devil’s advocate hat on*

But what if that’s not the case? What if many of the people who are working from home are not highly talented and productive? What if some actually ARE channel surfing, flannel wearing, coffee sipping slackers who aren’t meeting company needs or pulling their weight? Isn’t this is a good way to sift through and find out?

In my mind, work from home is a great privilege and should really only be used sparingly by companies and employees. It should be a ‘reward’ of sorts, that an employee is able to take advantage of when needed and not feel as though they are being scrutinized. And I agree that it’s valuable to have a team, in person, on site – I do think that insights and collaboration is born of impromptu meetings and hallway conversations. People feed off other people – if you never physically see your colleagues, it’s very tough to feel connected. On the other hand, sometimes the office becomes a place where work turns unproductive – the water cooler effect, overuse of meetings, horrible commutes and uninspiring spaces can all have effects on worker productivity levels. Sometimes, rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee and setting up shop on the couch actually IS more productive.

These are all points I think a lot of us would agree with one way or another, but the bottom line for me with all of this, is that the woman seems to see a problem and it making an effort to resolve it. I highly doubt she is purposing requesting everyone into an office as some form of punishment and who’s to say that it won’t be reinstated to a lucky few in the future? Sure, to the outside it seems extreme – but could you imagine if 75% of your workforce worked from home? Or if your company Receptionist decided to work from home? Maybe Marissa herself would like to sit home with a cup of coffee too! My point with the extreme examples is just that we don’t know the situation – but my guess is that she didn’t do this on a whim, and she sees a problem in her organization that needs some fixing.

Just my 2 cents.



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