Bucking national trend, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced this past week that the company would no longer allow staff to work from home or from remote locations. Approximately 10% of the US workforce has cut the commute out of their life and now work from home. This is certainly unusual for the industry where internet firms, and the companies that support them (think design, ad agencies etc.) have often pushed the limits of what the word “workspace” means. From massages to free lunch to creativity pods. Just watch this sketch from Portlandia for the epitome of this.
There are numerous reasons why working from home is a good thing. With those additional cars off the road, it is kinder on the environment. Families get to spend more time together since mom and dad are no longer tied up in the car or train. And less time in endless meetings can mean more productivity.
Of course, working from home doesn’t work for everyone, or every employer (though I haven’t heard of too many going back on their decision, especially not company-wide). To work from home requires immense discipline and a quiet space away from the family to work and hold conference calls. Just because you work from home does not mean clients or colleagues should be subjected to cartoons on the TV in the background when you are trying to conduct business.
Some people thrive better around others, while some need the quiet and solitude to think and produce. Having worked both in offices and at home at various points in my career, I am a bit of both. I love the interaction and sharing ideas you get being around other people, but when it comes time to sit and write articles, proposals, or churn out reports, I need to head into isolation.
Since my son was born, working from home has been the best situation for me. He gets to play with his babysitter from the comfort of our home while I get to retreat to my office to work. And the best part is that I am also a part of his day. I can pop in to see how he is doing, what the babysitter is feeding him for lunch, and making sure he is taking a nap early enough during the day. When I need to be around other people, which is often, honestly, I head to a Starbucks or local coffee shop and work from there. The ambient conversation, chitchat with the baristas, and the caffeine are important parts to making me feel like I am not a one-woman man island some days. The balance isn’t always easy, but working from home absolutely, without a doubt in my mind, helps.
As the CEO of a company in need of a significant retooling, I understand Marissa Mayer wanting to take control of the situation, so I hope that the virtual working ban is a temporary measure until they get back on their feet, for the sake of all those parents trying to make both ends of their life work as smoothly as possible.