When I said I was taking a little break, I didn’t really mean to be gone for a month. I had a lovely little weekend away (lovely little weekends away are what makes life worth it sometimes) but then came back and have been head’s down working non-stop since. I’ve been one of those people saying “How is it March already!?” and the year is just flying by.
One of the things I’ve missed is the big Yahoo! “work at home, no actually, don’t do that” blow up. Though I guess it’s still happening to a large extent, with news in the NYTimes today that the policy was an attempt to boost morale. And of course, being that my main extracurricular fascination is the way that we work today know that I have been following each twist and turn with complete interest.
The problem there, as with most of the problems the new Yahoo! policy seems designed to solve, is enforcement and the expectations set around results. What really matters, or should matter, at every place of employment is the engagement of employees around setting expectations, measuring results and enforcing standards and the meeting of those expectations. HOW and WHERE the work gets done seems unimportant to me. And allowing employees flexibility in that should be part of a healthy workplace where leadership provides the vision and goals, management provides the expectations and clears barriers to achievement for their employees and the employees work productively and honestly to produce the results that meet those expectations and feed into the overall goals. Now of course, in some places and in some roles that means a close-in, collaborative team environment. And in some cases it doesn’t. And AND, it varies so much person-by-person.
I don’t agree that everyone needs an office or that everyone could work at home. Whether those environments are productive places depends on a combination of the environment itself, the roles involved and, most importantly, the individual people. I think that everyone thinks working at home is super great and it’s the future of work. But that’s not always true – some people get around a pair of sweatpants and a sofa twenty feet away and they are truly called only to their deepest, slacker-ist selves. Other people sit in an open-plan cube farm and feed on that energy and make great things happen. It’s so individual and when we have companies that want flexible workforces (contractors instead of employees, freelancers on demand but not staffers, outsourcing to whatever region currently offers the cheapest price for their PHP skills) I think it’s also not too much for employees to ask for their working environment to also be flexible around their needs as well.
And then this, from the Times article, which is a whole other can of worms/ball of wax/metaphor of choice:
Although they collected Yahoo paychecks, some did little work for the company and a few had even begun their own start-ups on the side.
AND HAD EVEN BEGUN …! Oh no! Look, lord knows we probably don’t need another start-up in the SillyBubble Valley right now but this seems to imply that having a side start-up is not compatible with having a full-time job. Sure, it isn’t always and working on the side gig in lieu of actually producing work for the company that employs and pays you for a full-time job is absolutely out of the question, but it is possible to produce good work for your W-2 employer while still having a side gig. In fact, I think side gigs can help you produce good work elsewhere but allowing you to expand on little-used skills, provide an outlet for autonomous decision-making and creativity, and boost your self-confidence. So let’s not conflate people who clearly took advantage of a work-at-home policy and were never called on it, which is just plain bad management full stop, with people who are working on side projects. These are not overlapping circles on the Venn here.