So last week (or this week? maybe?) Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, made major ripples in the professional world when she released a company-wide memo to all Yahoo employees that reversed their previous position on working from home. (For the sake of words, I’ll probably only refer to it as “working virtually” through the remainder of this. It just means you’re working ANYWHERE – home, coffee shop, internet cafe – outside of an office which is paid for by your company.)
This was a shock to many, for a couple of reasons that I could surmise: 1) Yahoo had been very progressive on their virtual office policy, which lent credibility to the process that the rest of industry could follow, and 2) Marissa Mayer is a mom to a young baby. (She was named CEO while pregnant with said baby.)
I’ve read plenty of discussion on both sides of the fence, but I have to say: I feel like this is a huge step backward. Here’s why.
There’s already such a stigma on “working from home”. I am INCREDIBLY fortunate to have an employer (and a manager) who supports working virtually when necessary. Sick kids, having work done on the house, doctor’s appointments.. you just give notice in advance and you can work from home (or cafe or wherever there’s a secure network). But for some reason, and I know this because I’ve heard it with my own two angry ears, it’s considered “slacking”.
Now, look. “Insiders” at Yahoo claim that the virtual office policy has been abused by many employees over the years, and they say that it’s time for a revamp. I’m not saying EVERYONE is productive outside of the office. I personally know folks who catch up on the DVR, run personal errands all day, get their hair done, all under the guise of “working virtually”. But there are some of us – myself included – who are almost MORE productive outside of the office. I have uninterrupted time to work, and I can accomplish worlds more tasks in one day a week of working virtually than I’ll struggle to do in the other four days.
Reversing this policy is basically confirming that everyone who works virtually is non-productive, and that’s just simply not true.
This places an unnecessary divide on working parents and workers with no kids. Before I had kids, I had the coworkers who would leave every day at 2:00 p.m. to pick up kids, while throwing the rest of their work at me to finish. Hell, I have kids NOW and I still see this happen. And I’ll be honest – there are a lot of times that these people do this and it feels like a cop-out.
At the same time, your responsibility doubles (or triples or quadruples) when you have children. You not only have to schedule time for YOUR doctor’s appointments, but your kids need that time too. Working ten to twelve hour days five days a week.. just doesn’t work. (Trust me. I know this.) So you need a little flexibility. You just do.
So now there is the divide: how do you not breed bitterness?
You cannot assume that all workers fit any one model.
Some workers, sadly, are going to be inefficient no matter where you place them. I have spent many years – and not just professionally, but in other arenas as well – trying to fight the idea that working longer doesn’t necessarily mean working harder or smarter. Putting in a 12 hour day, for example, doesn’t mean you got ANYTHING done. Oh, you rehearsed until 2 in the morning? Then it’s perfect, right? (The only reasonable answer is YES.)
I know folks who religiously show up, five days a week, in the office and put in eight or nine hour days. They spend those hours at the coffee pot, flitting from office to office, and visiting everyone within ear shot. So everyone sees them, and you know that they’re there every single day.
But if you were to look at the products coming out, and where the actual sausage is being made, and you realize that they do little to nothing. (Except gather a paycheck.)
Now, that worker? Is not going to be efficient working virtually. But they’re not going to be efficient in an office, either. And to say that NO ONE can work virtually puts a lot of strain on people who 1) can utilize their time efficiently working virtually AND 2) need the flexibility from time to time. Also, your ability/need to work in a flexible situation will change as your life/needs change. Why box anyone in?
So there’s my thoughts. (Don’t even get me started on Ms. Mayer then having a nursery built into her office, because that BOTHERS ME MOST OF ALL.) What was your take?