Home working isn’t working (ps, am I writing this from home?)

Posted on February 27, 2013

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Goodness me people love jumping to polar extremes! Either it’s the journalists that have written this article exposing Yahoo’s rejection of homeworking or it’s the Yahoo HR department themselves.

In a memo they state, “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” Er, yes, and you could also say that some of the best decisions and insights come in the hallway at home, or whilst making a coffee in your own kitchen or in quiet contemplation. The answer is that both statements are right.

I myself work at home once a week. It’s one of the ways that I can get stuff done. Much of my time in the office is spent in meetings and conversations. Every now and then I need to take myself away and produce some outputs from those conversations. Or maybe I could just hang around the water-cooler doing it!

Similarly, I know for a fact that colleagues responsible for developing new business love nothing more than peace and quiet. You know what? They find plenty of this at home where they have access to a telephone and can dial away in peace. It also means that when they finish their working day then they avoid the nightmare of a commute – and good luck to them I say. After all, they can measure their success and work rate quite easily through the results they achieve.

Perhaps Yahoo don’t trust their employees in the same way. That’s a pretty damning indictment if it were true. Perhaps they don’t want them working at home because they think they are skiving! Shock, horror! Well, one way to ensure skiving is to remove trust. I don’t trust you! Fine, I’ll just do what’s required then – and nothing more.

Home working can offer employees the chance to avoid the commute. the trust is engenders also can lead to employees being more open to extra discretionary effort. It’s part of a give and take; a progressive employee contract. When I work from home I regularly find myself still at the PC at way past office closing times (I also occasionally go for a run or a ride in the middle of the day – a sort of lunchtime perk of not being in the city. That’s part of the trade.) 

So, a message to the new CEO Marissa Mayer – you’re a tech company. Come on! Trust people to manage their workloads their own way and measure them by their results. If you are not getting results, then it’s not because they aren’t in the office – it could be because you’re not motivating, directing and equipping them properly.

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