I have seen a lot of press over the past few weeks about Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, and her decision to recall ALL remote employees and have them working from the office again because, in her words, “Communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side”. I have been digesting this for some time now and with all due respect to Ms. Mayer, who I am a fan of, I must disagree with her assessment that working from home somehow equates to less collaboration and communication, and more importantly, that working from home makes us less productive, as some so-called “experts” would tell you. I do this at 6:40 AM from my work computer…in my home office.Now I want to be clear here that I am a fan of Marissa Mayer. She has done a brilliant job of making Google the powerhouse that it is, and she’s become insanely wealthy at a very young age doing it. I think she was the right pick for Yahoo, and if offered a full relocation package, a livable salary that would let me work within thirty minutes drive of the Yahoo offices, I’d probably take it. However, that isn’t likely to happen, so I’ll keep going with my thought. If I worked at Yahoo right now, I’d be looking at getting up early and getting into the office (early, so I could write this, or work on whatever project they think I need to work on) which would require battling traffic for what could be hours (in the case of many who live outside of Silicon Valley or any other major city) before I could start to work. Well, technically, that’s not quite true. I *could*, if so inclined, start my day off early in my home office, then make the dreaded trip into the office for the start of my real work day. However, that is not likely to happen, because there is no incentive to work from home only to be told you have to be in the office that day anyway. Home time is home time…and if I don’t have the freedom to work there, what is the value to me to put in extra hours away from my family? Right now I am writing this from home with my family all still snug in their beds, and I kind of like that.
There have been a lot of saying that Mayer’s decision to move everyone back into the office wasn’t the brightest idea…especially for a company that builds tools that allow us to be connected anywhere and everywhere. Sir Richard Branson, Chairman and Founder of the Virgin Group recently wrote in his blog about Mayer’s decision saying that offices would someday be a thing of the past. “Many employees who work from home are extremely diligent, get their job done, and get to spend more time with their families. They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance. To force everybody to work in offices is old school thinking.” He went on to say later in the article; “The key for me is that in today’s world I do not think it is effective or productive to force your employees one way or another. Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce.”
Sir Richard also addressed New York City Major Michael Bloomberg and his stance siding with Mayer on the issue calling telecommuting “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard of.” To that comment Branson responded in the way that only someone who has been a telecommuter can do.
“I have enormous respect for Michael Bloomberg and have rarely disagreed with anything he has done or said. However, on this occasion I disagree completely. Many employees who work from home are extremely diligent, get their job done, and get to spend more time with their families. They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance. To force everybody to work in offices is old school thinking.
He has always worked out of an office and it has worked extremely well for him. I have always worked from home so I CAN spend more time with my family. Both approaches have been effective for us and the organisations we lead. While we can disagree on this issue, I have nothing but admiration for both Marissa Mayer and Michael Bloomberg, they are both extremely talented people who are very good at what they do and have proved successful.”
Brandon is right. When we work from home we CAN spend more time with our families. We can work when we need to, and we can take care of other business that needs attending to when we need to (Doctors, helping the kids with homework or staying home with the kids when they are sick, rather than taking a vacation day, and if I want to, mowing the grass). Branson talks about giving workers the FREEDOM to work where they want to…because it makes them more productive. Having been a telecommuter most of my professional career, the idea of being REQUIRED to work from an office makes my skin crawl. I have been far more productive when working from home because I work the house I want to work…early morning or late at night, and guess what…it all gets done, and the work gets results. With technologies such as WebEx, AT&T Connect and GoToMeeting, (just to name a few) there is no reason you need to have everyone drive in (clogging the highways and wasting gas) when you can collaborate online. Human relationships…OK…make coming to work in the office one day a week the rule, or have a team get-together (at the expense of the employee) someplace outside of work required. Why at the expense of the employee? You tell me I don’t have to waste gas driving to work every day, I’m more than happy to pay for my own food drinks at a social event. If you are going to make people work in the office, for goodness sake, make it where people WANT to be there. Make sure the furnishings are decent. Make it fun. Give people the ability to be creative and decorate their space the way they want to. That is what Google, Catalina Marketing and others have done. They give people the freedom to have fun at work and they provide them the perks that make them WANT to be there.
So, as I finish this article from the comfort of my home office because it is time to wake up my kids, I would encourage anyone who believes the office experience is better for a company than allowing your people to work from home, I would encourage you to rethink your position. Not only does it save the company money in real estate, it also makes your employees happy to work when they would otherwise be wasting time sitting in traffic.