Working from home

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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A firestorm erupted this over the controversial decision by Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer to require everyone at Yahoo to work daily in the office and not at home.

 It's easy to look at the bullet point of any story and form an opinion (revokes telecommuting while building nursery next to her own office). But obviously there is likely so much more to the story than her taking away the right to telecommute. As I understand Yahoo has a lot of "fat" to trim and this is just her way of attacking that problem. 

I do want to weigh in on the issue of telecommunting, though. As a both a mother and a manager, I have mixed opinions on working from home.

First, many people say they are more productive when they work from home. While I don't discount that, I know that I personally am not as effective. I enjoy it and take advantage of it quite often, but if I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I'm not working as hard when I'm at home.  

I do, however, enjoy the ability to not sit in traffic for an hour, pay to park, etc. And if you take away the 1.5-2 hours of commuting I do each day I may end up getting as much work done at home as I do at work.

But, I also do laundry.And talk to the plumber for an estimate. And clean the kitchen. And do my taxes. And get the kids off the bus early.  And once my kids are home I probably get half as much work done as I would if I were  at work.  Even though they're old enough to recognize I'm working and respect that, there are still conversations about their day, getting a glass of milk, feeling the guilt to take a Lego break sharing my time.

And that's exactly why I like the flexibility of working from home. As an employee.

But am I really working to the same level that I do when I'm at the office? Am I really contributing as much to the team when I'm working home alone, in a vacuum?  No.

I do fully believe there are people who are extremely productive working from home, possibly even more productive than when they are bothered by distractions in the office.   And I feel like there is a loss when we take away the easy collaboration that comes from seeing people face-to-face everyday. I have the same feelings about online learning. I believe that students can learn class online but I think there's such a benefit to being in a classroom with other students. 

So as a manager, I understand people's desire to work from home, and I don't mind when they do. I trust all of my employees and know that they're getting their work done. But frankly I miss them or not in the office together having time to talk and collaborate.   But if there were people that did it every single day and most of my team worked remotely I think a great deal of work would be lost. So many of our great conversations, collaborations, inspiration comes from those chats in the hallway on Monday mornings.  An email exchange is just not as easy or as effective as sitting down face to face to hammer out things.

So if my employees all asked to work from home every day I'd say no too.

I do think there needs to be flexibility. I agree that people should have the ability to work from home a day or two a week. (or even more, but having a dedicated day or two when everyone is in the office would be ideal).

I do think there can be a compromise at Yahoo, as most other companies. Find the happy balance between a work in the office and work at home schedule. Or if she feels that people really need to be on-site every dya then at least provide free, wonderful daycare on site.  While I see her point, I think it's overkill and is going to upset a lot of people who will probably leave for jobs that will allow them to work from home (and maybe that's exactly her plan)



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