My day job often requires me to tackle complex problem-solving. As an introvert, I do that best if left alone. With uninterrupted time and peaceful surroundings , I can usually wrap my head around issues and come up with solutions.
My last several bosses have understood that. I don’t telecommute regularly. But if I go to my boss and request a work-at-home day now and then, I usually get it. I know these work-at-home days are a privelege, not a right. I also know I get them because I’ve proven that they help me yield results.
My situation is common these days. Almost everyone I know in jobs that primarily require using a computer have semi-flexible work arrangements. Yet the buzz all over the newsfeeds recently is about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer taking telecommuting off the company perk list.
I’m struggling to wrap my head around how a forward-thinking, technology-oriented operation can do this in the name of progress. To me, it is a giant step backwards.
According to various news articles, the CEO claims being onsite is necessary to promote teamwork and brainstorming.
The need for “face time” in creative and collaborative work relationships is a valid argument. But from what I’ve read, Yahoo’s CEO isn’t just taking away full-time telework options. All telecommuting arrangements are off the table, including hybrids where employees work one or two days a week at home and come to the office the rest of the time.
As much as I love work-at-home days, I wouldn’t want to be completely physically removed from my colleagues. Some of our best innovations come out of being together. But we certainly don’t need to be side-by-side 40 hours a week for that to happen.
I believe the “hybrid telecommute” model is the best of both worlds. These arrangements provide both face-to-face interaction and the flexibility and focus-time that telecommuting offers. Employees get gas savings, less time spent sitting in traffic, and better work-life balance. Managers get employees who are less stressed and therefore more innovative and productive.
When I know I have a work-at-home day scheduled, I’m much more present and interactive when I am in the office. I’m open and involved in meetings and brainstorming sessions and welcome drop-by co-worker conversations, because I know I’ve got solitary focus time scheduled later. It isn’t just my life that it better balanced. It is my work, too.
Some speculate that what Yahoo’s CEO is really doing is cleaning house. She’s hoping those who use telecommuting as a pathway to slackerdom will hit the road.
Isn’t that managing to the lowest common denominator? For every slacker who thinks “telecommute” means watching Jerry Springer and taking naps, there are five more who go above and beyond because they CAN telecommute. On my telecommute days, the time I normally spend prettifying myself and traveling gets tacked on to the hours I actually work. I often lose track of time and work over, because I’m comfortable and not anticipating a crappy commute.
Any employee worth having thinks along similar lines. And a slacker will find ways to slack whether they’re in their living room or their cubicle. I expect managers to recognize and reward independent, productive employees, not yank perks out from under us because someone else sucks.
I feel for Yahoo employees who are impacted by this. I imagine many of them will soon be facing hellish commutes. Proximity to the office wasn’t something they considered when they were offered a job with a telecommuting option. That just isn’t fair.
I’m obviously a staunch supporter of telecommuting. But to my surprise, I found an article by one executive vice president who agrees with Mayer’s decision that made a lot of sense to me.
In my current position, my telecommute days are gold to me because they are my primary key to work-life-balance and the time I need to reflect, think, and learn for my job as well as for myself. If I worked for an organization that honored those needs in other ways like the ones outlined in this article (flexible schedules, 40 hours of professional development leave per quarter that does not come out of your vacation) I’d be much less of a rabid dog if my telecommuting days were threatened.
What do you think? Is Yahoo’s CEO making the right move? Do you think telecommuting helps or hurts productivity and office culture?
A few articles for those interested in more on this: