Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Work From Home Issue

Marissa Mayer.  Associated Press Photo.

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer caused a rather large uproar when she announced, via a leaked memo, that telecommuting would not be allowed at the company.

Depending on whom you believe, Mayer is doing this as a temporary measure to slow down the decline of the company.  I was quite annoyed by the announcement (and, no, I have no interest in Yahoo! whatsoever) and found that, at least in my social media circles, many men thought it was the right call, while a lot of women were outraged.

That is symbolic of nothing, of course.  Just something I noted.

My take comes from my own empirical data.  I've worked from home - a lot - in my career, especially after Sean was born.  In my last stretch of doing the morning sports on WGCH, I got up each day, recorded my sportscasts, then remotely logged into my PC in Stamford to do the bulk of my day-to-day duties.  Even now, I log in remotely to Stamford from places like McDonald's, Starbucks, Lisa's house, Mahopac, Ridgefield...anywhere but the actual office.

Heck, I even once used my cell phone to allow me to connect to my PC to remotely connect to my Stamford computer...from Lisa's car while she was driving!

I'm always better when there's a door that can be closed; where there's some sort of serenity to be found.  As a student, I could have the TV on, or the radio.  In my professional life, there's almost always been  music in the background.  It's just best for me.

At home, Sean is largely self-sufficient.  Even if he is in the room with me, he does his thing, and I do mine.  If he talks to me, it's not a distraction.

But I get it.  I might me the exception.

As for that whole thing of "collaboration" by being in the office, please spare me.  For one thing, I find "the office" to often be a toxic environment not fueled by collaboration, but by gossip, cakes, and agendas.  You want a true waste of time?  Have a meeting!  You know, that lost wasteland of two hours in which one person sets the agenda and another person spends the entire time droning on with questions that could be answered privately?  Many people have either zoned out or have fallen asleep altogether (I recently witnessed that).

I once worked in an office with people I truly loved and miss.  A lot of good times were had with food, laughs, and other pitfalls of office life.  We were mostly all great friends who worked our tails off.

The company also, sadly, either laid everyone off (that's me) or moved them to another office.  Essentially, the company diversified, although the name still exists.

Funny thing is, the statement about that office could have been made about any of at least THREE that I worked in between 1989 and 2006.

Climbing back on-topic, if you're so hell bent on the face-to-face, then go to Skype, or some other technology.  Phones still work (as far as I know) as do instant messaging, a constant for many of us.  Heck, we're more connected than ever, remember?  Texts, G-chat, email, cell phone, etc.

But I get it.  The other side of the coin at Yahoo! and elsewhere is that people take advantage of the work-from-home advantage.  To me, I feel I always gave more when I telecommuted.  Using my old WGCH example, I was up at 5:30 to do the sports, and just stayed there to work.  I could take breaks as needed, but I could also work - on and off - until 5:00 in the afternoon (sometimes later).  So, overall, I could crank out a nearly 12-hour day if necessary.

Again, that's just me.

I suppose it ultimately comes down to the individual.  For someone like me, telecommuting works.  I enjoy my workspace.  It helps me save on my car (now with 218,000 miles).  No wear and tear.  No gas.  It helps - drastically - with the obscene cost of daycare.  Sean can stay with me and have a perfectly good day.

For many, and in many industries, it doesn't work.

To each their own, I guess.

Many people need that flexibility for multiple reasons. 

But for Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, the problem is that she, with her own money, had a nursery built adjacent to her office.  That's probably the wrong message to send when you're banning your staff from doing the home-work thing.  A bit hypocritical, no?

Even now, as I sit here, I think about how much I could do from home.  Again, it works for me.

It doesn't for others.

So it goes.

PS, I saw one writer opine that the outrage over Ms. Mayer would have been minimal if a man had made the same demands.  And there's your truly most-idiotic statement of all.  Stop.  Now.

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