Some have called it “the worst decision,” an “epic fail” and a “morale killer.” Others have called it “right,” “smart” and the sign of a “great leader.” There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of opinions since a memo from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer leaked out late last week.
According to that memo, Yahoo employees will not be allowed to work from home starting in June, because as Mayer wrote, “Being at Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it’s about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.”
The decision sparked controversy, especially considering the source. You’d expect something like that to come from an old-guard, 60-something CEO, not a 37-year-old new mother. But perhaps this is a perfect example of why Mayer’s in that role to begin with. She’s obviously not afraid to make a tough decision.
Whether that decision’s right or wrong, well, we could go on and on with good points from both sides of the argument. That’s not why I’m writing this post. Instead, as someone who hasn’t worked out of a traditional office setting for a year and a half, I want to toss out some pros and cons from working at home from my point of view.
These are obviously far from the most important issues. Workflow, productivity, etc. are much more relevant to this topic for an employeer and overall productivity. These three pros and three cons are just some personal observations I’ve had since becoming my own boss.
When I was a kid I wanted to be Bert Convy. He was the host of a show called “Win, Lose or Draw” and I thought it was awesome that he didn’t have to wear suits. Nope, he wore sweaters. They were ugly sweaters, but they sure did look comfortable. I thought to myself, “How great would it be to go to work dressed like that instead of in the suits my dad has to wear?”
Perhaps that’s why I dressed the way I did when I was a sports anchor. Yup, I was one of those stereotypical sports anchors that wore a suit and tie on top, and shorts below – as long as the bosses weren’t around.
Once I started working from home, I could really dress however the heck I wanted, which to me, is much better than having to wear a suit and tie for at least 40 hours a week.
With that said, I’m usually out of the house for meetings, lunches and other work-related things for a few hours at least three days a week, so I do clean up a good bit. But having an option to wear sweatpants when I’m at home is glorious.
Peace and Quiet
When I worked in newsrooms for ten years, I was always amazed by the people who chatted and gossiped so much during the day. Obviously, it’s a safe bet that doesn’t happen just in newsrooms. How the heck do people get anything done in the office when they’re talking about what the new girl is wearing and what they did this past weekend? When you work from home, you’re a lot less likely to get caught in gossip or small talk. There’s little danger of getting involved in what Larry David called a “stop and chat” during an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Also, I’ve always been able to focus a lot better in quiet settings. I did my homework surrounded by silence when I was in school, and when I anchored, I would essentially lock myself in a small edit bay while I wrote my shows.
Working from home gives you control of the noise around you. Unless of course, the leaf-blower guys come around, or if the neighbor’s getting work done on the outside of the house.
You can typically set the distraction level at home. Usually I don’t like putting on music or the TV, but if there’s a good soccer match in the day, well, that sort of noise is acceptable.
When my dog Chester was a puppy, I took him into the newsroom a few times after the bosses had left. One night, Chester apparently wasn’t feeling all that well, and while he was saying hi to the station’s main news anchor, Chester threw up. This was just minutes before the start of the news, and miraculously, the anchor dodged the flying mess and walked on set unscathed.
Obviously, I don’t have to worry about Chester throwing up on someone before they go on-air when I’m working from home. That has to be a positive, right?
Plus, my wife’s usually gone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so if I was working in an office, our dogs would be home by themselves most of the week. This way, they have company, and they’re not bad company either.
One of Mayer’s main reasons for making her employees work from Yahoo is she believes the best work gets done when people collaborate in the same room. While many disagree, I like the back-and-forth a setting like that provides. Sure, there’s email, direct messages or phones, but I’ve found that working together, well…together…is more beneficial.
I miss bouncing ideas off colleagues in the office and the energy discussions like that can bring. I do it now with my Spiracle Media partners at our office a handful of times every few weeks, but since we all like the option of working from home as well, it’s not as consistent as an office environment.
People who work in offices hate meetings, but I’d rather be stuck in a meeting for an hour than on a conference call.
The small talk at the start, the running into each other’s sentences, the loud noises coming from someone’s line – it’s brutal.
I never had to be on conference calls when I worked in a newsroom and I now get excited about having face-to-face meetings where people don’t have to guess if it’s their turn to talk.
Perhaps the greatest part of being your own boss and working from home is setting your own schedule. But if you’re someone that craves organization like I do, that freedom can be a bit uncomfortable.
Working out of an office with the same schedule every week can get monotonous, but structure provides a certain sense of mind that you’re truly following a proper schedule.
Best Option? A Mix
I get the reasons behind Mayer’s rule and I understand reactions against it. I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in, where I get to mix what I want when I want. Spiracle Media currently has office space in uptown Charlotte, and I can go there for meetings or just to get out of the house for the day.
For those that don’t have such flexibility, I think what truly matters is how each individual person handles their environment. Is Mayer taking Yahoo back to the Stone Age or is she doing whatever she can to rescue a fledgling company? I’m not sure there’s a right answer just yet, but kudos to her for making the tough call.
I feel bad for those Yahoo employees that won’t enjoy the flexibilities they’ve had, but when you’re not your own boss, you have to answer to the boss.
So what do you think? If you were a Yahoo employee, would you be furious at Mayer’s new rule, or do you think it’s smart? Also, what are some of your pros and cons of either working from home or from an office? Let me know in the comments below!