Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Working" from home

There's a collective hissy-fit going on here at the moment. The new CEO of Yahoo (a working mother) has decreed that as of June, everyone has to come into the office. No more tele-commuting.

I'm a bit torn about the whole issue. In Silicone Valley (California) lots of people tele-commute because  otherwise they'd spend hours in the car each day. (The hellacious lanes of traffic you often see on TV? - not wrong.) If you took a job a few years ago on the basis that you could tele-commute, it's a bit of a blow to suddenly be told that you have to get your little tooshie into the office every day.

The biggest backlash however, has come from those in favor of parents (a.k.a mothers) who work from home so that they can fit their work around the kids. And here, I'm torn. I've worked in an office and I've worked from home, and I can tell you right now, I'm a lot more productive when I'm not parked  next to the kitchen and down the stairs from the laundry basket.  Yes, mothers in office situations are still probably booking dental appointments on work time, but there's a definite limit to the domestic distractions there. Even if you have someone else in the house watching your children while you work (which somehow I don't think many people do), it's often difficult to be 100% focused.

Take my days, for example. The boys leave for school at about 8am. Often, I do an hour's bloggy stuff then either jump on the treadmill or have a shower and make myself presentable. Between my desk and the shower however, there's usually a dishwasher to load/unload, a dog to be fed, a small pile of stuff-to-be-taken-upstairs at the bottom of said stairs, a pile of laundry to be put in or transferred to the dryer, three million lights to be switched off, and wet towels to be picked off the floor. And that's just on the way upstairs.

Even when I schedule my work tasks by the hour (as I try to do), I'm sitting right next to the phone, so when the carper cleaner's number comes up, I take it. Ditto the car repair man, the plumber and my dentist's receptionist. Granted, it only takes a minute to deal with the calls, but it usually means I have to then stand up, walk somewhere else to do something, forget what I was doing before the phone call, then get myself back in "work mode". That's if I don't suddenly remember that I haven't taken anything out of the freezer for dinner. Time wasted. I'm self employed so the only one who loses out is me, but I'd be pretty annoyed if I was the employer and the people "working from home" were similarly unfocused.

I don't know. Like I said, I'm torn on the issue. What do you think?


  1. I've worked from home and hated it. Like you I found it too easy to be distracted, and I NEED people contact, colleagues to bounce ideas off, to keep me motivated and focused. However I know plenty of people who do work from home without any problem, so I think it very much depends on the individual. What we need is for companies to be more flexible.

  2. My job is home based, I only leave to actually deliver the training. I have got better at closing the door and just solely concentrating on work but it's taken me a while to get there.

  3. Do I have thoughts on this? Ha! So many I can't keep them straight. Plus I was writing a motherhood realities and feminists-never-read-The-Feminine-Mystique articles when this all broke. Trying to tie it in is fun. And today is my first Friday to write in a month.
    Friday is my only full day with no preschool or regular activities and a babysitter. I need to go to the grocery store but otherwise should have maybe 5 hours of solid work time, for which I will of course leave the house. Five hours will net maybe the office equilivlant of 2 if I say around here.

  4. I think it should be an option. I HATE commute time, the main reason I quit an office job way back when. Why waste hours in a car?

    Also, I just read the book quiet (see my latest post). Introverts need some thinking time, away from the office.

    So I diagree with mrs. Yahoo.

    PS - I am from Silicon Valley (not silicone!)

  5. Ha ha ha - thanks for catching my typo. Will leave it up there!

  6. I work from home four hours a day, and find it much easier to concentrate on my own than in an office, surrounded by people. I do take breaks to do stuff like laundry, but generally I do my four hours pretty rigorously. It's the only way I can do my job - I couldn't commute into the city, as my job wouldn't pay enough for it to be worth my while hiring a nanny or paying for after school childcare. I think it's very shortsighted of her.

  7. I can see the arguments for both sides, like you I'm torn. I tend to be more productive from home though. Not because I'm so amazing at multitasking (I'm definitely NOT!) but because I can't stand to be told when I have to be somewhere and I work much better when I can say 'today I will work four hours on a project, but tomorrow I will sort that car issue' and so on.

    I definitely agree that having a job that is flexi being changed to office based would be a really unfair thing!

  8. I love the flexibility of working from home. It suits perfectly with my way of life (I am a mom and multi-expat relocating often). It is true that some day it is hard not having feedback from a colleague or real social cintact but it is possible to find solution to that. And I love not having public transportation.
    I think the decision of the new Yahoo CEO is very hard.

  9. I think it must be very difficult for a mother to work from home. It would be so easy to get sidetracked.I really admire those who manage it though.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  10. No mention of work-based childcare. Does it work to have nurseries provided by the company?

    Sheryl Sandberg has been making similar comments lately (do women CEOs get together and put out the same message?) And here is the response from a friend of mine.

  11. If I'm not on deadline and working on something boring, I can get easily distracted in any environment. At the office I make a lot of tea and eat biscuits.

    However, on deadline and working on something interesting I can be focused sitting in the middle of a busy street.

    Yes - you need creative input from others, but my previous work colleagues were so boring that I'm finding the postman more creatively stimulating now I'm working from home.

    Surely - its more about the right people and dedicated people for the job? Any way the woman has built her own nursery next to her office - the double standards are unbelievable.

  12. Definitely agree that if she can have a nursery she should provide the same for the other employees.


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