The first time I worked from home I couldn’t believe it. It was too good to be true. I logged into my computer earlier than usual because there was no traffic to deal with and proceeded to type away to prove I was really working. It was 1998.
Working from home has been a blessing for me. I began telecommuting years before I became a mother, when I was a time-starved graduate student.
Thanks to my bosses’ flexibility at Fleishman Hillard, I saved a considerable amount of time each week, time that I used to work on presentations, client materials and other tasks that did not require me to be in person at the office. I went a few days to the office and the rest I tackled from my laptop at home. It required a great amount of discipline and focus, but it made me more productive. It is not for everybody, but it can be life changing.
When I had to write, I concentrated fully on my computer instead of being tempted to take a break with my coworkers. My lunchtime was brief since I didn’t want to break the creative flow. I felt I had to prove that I was really working from home since my employers had trusted me so much. And this was way before Blackberrys, iPhones, Skype and 4G tablets allowed you to have a portable office almost anywhere.
Years later I became a mom while serving as editor in chief of Todobebé and when I realized working remotely was great but that I still needed help to take care of my children, I hired a babysitter. That way I could fully concentrate on my deliverables, but I was close enough to know that I was here for my babies. Today, the ability to work from home allowed me to be an entrepreneur and launch my own small business with minimal investment. It helps me be a better mother and achieve a better work-life balance.
Now, Yahoo says employees can no longer work from home. When I first read Lisa Belkin’s take on Yahoo’s new policy (sent via a memo from HR head Jackie Reses), I could not believe it. Honestly. In this day and age, when telecommuting is easier than ever, when technology gives you the flexibility to make your office wherever you can be productive, it seems a gigantic step backwards. I know that many jobs cannot be done remotely and for some people, it’s a necessity to interact face to face with coworkers, but to close the door to telecommuting seems like bad business all around.
Yahoo is showing it does not trust its employees to do their job. Yes, it is hard to concentrate and be disciplined when you have to take care of your children. But if I managed to keep a website running, finished a book and reviewed TV scripts while tending to an infant that had reflux, I know other parents can work from home. The memo (posted on allthingsd.com) says: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” I completely disagree.
New research is on my side. Stanford University conducted a study in 2011 and used a Chinese travel agency with over 12,000 employees to find out whether working from home affected productivity. Ironically, the full study was published the same day Yahoo’s memo was posted online. Stanford researchers revealed that people who worked from home were 13 percent more productive than people working in an office.
Working from home is not glamorous or easy, as 10 percent of the United States population can tell you, according to the 2010 Census figures. The people I know who work remotely tend to squeeze every productive second out of the day and continue working at night, just to make sure they deliver what they promised.
For me, it just happens to be that I am more productive when I can work on my own, anywhere, anytime. The problem is not whether employees can stay productive and meet goals away from the office, the issue is why doesn’t an employer trust its employees? Either it hired the wrong employees in the first place, or the management’s vision is stuck in the 70′s. If it was striving to be cutting edge and take over its competitors, it should have figured out ways to move forward and not backwards. Especially since its competitors have such progressive and flexible options for parents and people who work from home.
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