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In Defense of Workshifting and the Yahoo Debacle

By John McTigueMar 8, 2013

telecommuting and enterprise inbound marketingI've been working from my home office for 15 years now, and I've never looked back. It's not like I could actually jump in the car and commute to work anyway. My home is in Texas and my office is in Ohio! Sometimes I miss the camaraderie and the impromptu creativity you get from an office environment, but on the other hand, I know how noisy and distracting offices can be. I don't have any data to support this, but I know that my remote working situation has enabled me to be far more productive over the years and has probably saved me a few precious years from the low-stress lifestyle. Now, let's talk about that in light of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's across-the-board denial of work-at-home privileges.

When Working at Home Makes Sense

While I agree with Marissa that remote working can lead to abuse and reduced productivity, I don't think that's universally true. It depends on the individual and circumstances. In general, the best arguments for telecommuting stem from:

  • Crowded, poorly organized workspaces where phone calls and collaboration are severely impaired by noise and other distractions
  • Self-starter employees that require little supervision and need some privacy to think
  • High value workers that have a long commute to work and are probably looking for relief
  • High value workers that are located in other cities and states
  • Employees that are virtually independent, work outside the office a lot and make a lot of phone calls, like sales people or support technicians
  • Employees that work almost exclusively in an online environment anyway and can be monitored remotely or are task-oriented, like programmers and bloggers
  • Employees that don't need or don't do a lot of group collaboration in person - again, think developers and writers
  • Startups with just a few core employees and no funding for an office

In addition to making work and life easier for employees that don't fit the everyday office setting, it's often regarded as a perk, a reward for performing well and earning the trust of management. After all, most managers won't allow their teams to work remotely if they don't accomplish their tasks and meet team goals.

When Working at Home Doesn't Work

There are plenty of situations when you want people together, working together as well, for example:

  • Project team meetings that are more than just status updates, for example, continuous improvement kaizens
  • Interaction between project managers, art direction people and designers
  • Client kick-off meetings where relationships are being built and plans made
  • Human resources meetings, for example employee reviews
  • Company updates and morale-building get-togethers
  • Executive meetings for strategy, budget, planning and decision-making
  • Sales and marketing alignment meetings

My point is, there's no one-size-fits-all policy that will (or should) work for all companies, and why couldn't we shoot for a mix of remote and onsite working to optimize results? I certainly respect Marissa Mayer's decision to shut down remote working across the board, but it does seem too extreme for the entire company, in light of the many different scenarios and people that are undoubtedly in play.

Marissa, if you're reading this, feel free to Skype me. I'll be happy to discuss this with you while I'm gazing out the window at my horses and generally feeling relaxed.

Photo credit: pinguino


john mctigue blog photoWith over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.


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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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