Monday’s Musing: Working from Home Not Working?

I was surprised to read an article on CNN today regarding the move by Yahoo!’s new CEO to end work at home opportunities for the company’s employees.  Marissa Mayer, herself a known work-a-holic, is pulling the plug on this privilege in the interest of fostering greater collaboration among Yahoo! employees.  This in the interest of better serving the company’s customers.  So far, employee reaction has been mixed.  No doubt, Yahoo!’s remote employees are going to feel the pinch most.  If you are not near the company’s offices, do you move or move on?

As a manager, I often hear from my staff that work from home opportunities would not only be desirable but the ultimate step towards helping them develop a better work-life balance.  There is merit to this, of course.  Some days, the chance to stay in your pajamas and work from the plush comforts of your sofa seems like a real mental relief.  But I also know that there are numerous drawbacks.  Working from home opens us to more distractions, the potential of actually working harder than we need to or than is healthy (It is easier to work through lunch and well into the evening if we can do so with a cup of tea and the TV on in the background) and it does indeed have a definite effect on collaboration.

Today’s technology is great in that it can connect us to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  But what is the quality of that connection versus being physically and mentally present?  Just how much of a meeting of the minds is there when we become simply voices and/or images on a network?  I think this especially become problematic when you are working with others to deliver a vital service to customers or users.  In the library and information industry, visibility is key.  My gut feeling and my experience is that this visibility is a tangible, real physical presence.  It is as much about people skills and literally pressing the flesh as it is about tech skills and pressing the right buttons.

Am I being shortsighted?  There are certainly days when I wish I had simply stayed at home.  But I know how important my presence really is.  Maybe I am overvaluing it or simply being (gasp) “old fashioned” in my not so old age.

What do you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

John AKA The iBraryGuy

3 responses to “Monday’s Musing: Working from Home Not Working?

  1. There is certainly value to all being together in the same office and place.
    On the other hand (and this depends on industry and role I’m sure): the working hours of 9-6 are really rather arbitrary. Who is to say those are our most productive hours?

    For remote working to, well, work, you have to have committed colleagues and employees, trust and very good systems. Sure it requires adaptation but there also many advantages. I really wouldn’t put one practice above the other, each comes with its own pros and cons. And each individual probably produces the best work in different circumstances.

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  2. I have a brother who is a tech person and he works from home. He loves it because he can stay and not move. However, I know he puts in way too many hours on the computer and is on call a lot more than if he clocked in. I also, know that he has had to become more deliberate about social interaction with others and with his associates. He does have web conferences and sometimes they meet.

    I think for some in libraries maybe staying at home to accomplish work on certain days and being available in the office on others is a possible solutin if you live near your work.

    At the least maybe some of us need what the author of “7 habits of highly effective persons,” (Steven Covey) suggested. Take some quad 4 time and do something that enhances our energy, creativity and thought processes.

    No easy answers really.

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  3. You first need to become visible in your organzation, before you become invisible.

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