The Remote Workplace & Yahoo!

I work from home. I have done so as an employee, as a freelancer and consultant.

So I know first-hand, the benefits of working from home – and working in an office.

Marissa Mayer, a new mom/CEO/and-everything-else-awesome, sent out the word that Yahoo! employees must now work in the office.

Now all this talk about open-concept offices and so-called ‘collaboration’ has me railing from time-to-time. You just can’t force collaboration, and I believe that employees need quiet space/time to concentrate.

However, collaboration isn’t as easy if your colleagues are working in different geographical areas. And all that crap about GoToMeeting being THE collaboration tool. I used it for years. It’s okay, but nothing beats being in the same room with your co-worker and being able to call him out on texting his friends about this lame meeting.

For Yahoo!, and Ms. Mayer, the ‘backlash’ has started. They’re talking about how it ruins families reduces productive time by 5 – 7 hours a week!, Ms. Mayer is trying to be more ‘male’, blah, blah blah.

Get this: I love working from home. I wear sweats, and no makeup. My days start early and end late.

Working from home gives me the option to work 12 – 16, or more hours per day without a problem. And did I mention that I hate to drive? I think the daily commute is the biggest waste of time we have in our daily workday. More on that later…

But, having worked remotely for an employer, I can say that when you have daily contact with your colleagues, you have a much better sense of how to work with them. Management has a better sense of you as a person. Those things keep you employed. You'll have a much better sense of expectations because frankly, you can’t hide.  An added bonus – you will develop enhanced radar and be able to detect when ‘changes are a comin’. Such as a corporate edict on working in the office. 

Yahoo! evidently has a big problem with flabby employees. Or so the articles elude. People call in, turn in work-product, whatever – and get a paycheck. Easy. Others pour themselves into their 16-hour day. Both are equal in the eyes of management. This change will shake-out the slackers, and I’ll bet, flexibility will still be on the table.

The article from Time states:

“Eliminating the ability to telecommute eats away at the core of what Yahoo, an Internet pioneer, and Mayer, a new mother, would seem to be all about.

Sure, working from home is what Yahoo! is all about.

…and closes with:

Technology has revolutionized the workplace, allowing people to do their jobs while still caring for a child home from school with the flu or on weekends and vacations when urgent matters surface. Yahoo has a respected place in history as one of the enablers. Turning back the clock can’t be the answer.”

Sorry, but there are two different points here. The ability to take care of a sick child and working exclusively from home are completely different. Just about every workplace recognizes the former as a part of having employees – with lives and families. Working remotely is not, in any way, the only way to achieve that basic flexibility.

I have watched this stupid debate for years. We work, we have families, and we continue to work. I have first-hand experience in this area and don’t see this change in Yahoo! as insurmountable.

I was a single-mom with two very young kids and worked as a freelance designer/illustrator. I tended to their needs and tried my best to do my work. From home.  It was either spend time with them during the day and work at night – or start and stop continually while trying to get just a half-hour of undisturbed work in.

I had to come to terms with reality. I had to work to make money so my family could survive. That meant I had to focus on work. I put my kids in – GASP! – daycare. I could no more afford an au pair than I could afford to jet off to Paris. So my two little ones got up early every morning and were delivered to a wonderful Grandma-type lady – who raised nine kids of her own. She was wonderful. I was lucky.

So in that environment, they lived, and so did I. They learned to socialize with other kids, had organized activities, were loved by their caregiver, and brought home the flu and pink-eye.

The downside during those years was the drive. I put – literally – at least 1000 miles a week on my car. I spent a lot of time in my car. Therefore I hate to drive now.

So as an experienced work-at-home person and work-at-work person all I have to say is: Go to work. Quit whining. Your kids will survive – your family will not die. Hone your radar. And if you don't like it, prepare your resume.