“Working” from Home

Telecommuting has been all the buzz this past week, with Yahoo eliminating work from home options for their fulltime telecommuters (but you can still wait for the cable guy!) and Best Buy following their lead soon after.  The articles covering these changes are quite interesting in their slant.

From Mashable, Best Buy’s announcement was spun this way:

Best Buy announced Monday that it has eliminated a flexible work program introduced in 2005 that gave corporate employees the freedom to work when and where they chose. Through the program, known as Results Only Work Environment, employees were assessed based solely on the quality of work they got done rather than whether or not they showed up to the office. Now, these employees will be expected to work a standard 40-hour workweek and come into the office “as much as possible.”

So let me get this straight.  The quality of work you do is less important to Best Buy than where you do it.  Seriously.

And in the New York Times article on Yahoo’s shift:

Parking lots and entire floors of cubicles were nearly empty because some employees were working as little as possible and leaving early.

Then there were the 200 or so people who had work-at-home arrangements. 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.

Does this strike anyone else as odd?  When you have employees who are not getting work done, you fire them.  Managers are supposed to be held responsible for the productivity of their groups.  If your managers can’t manage people except by counting the hours they’re in the office, then they should be fired as well.

I’ve been working for more than 20 years in an industry where I have to focus closely on my work sometimes, brainstorm sometimes, invent sometimes, and always be creative and alert.  Cube farms are soul sucking zombie cages where I just don’t produce nearly as much.  I am far more productive when working on my own schedule from where I want and I far exceed the output and effectiveness of most people I know.  I have a ransom note on top of my LinkedIn profile which somewhat arrogantly announces that I only want to work for people who want me to work for them.

I have fantastic skills, insight, and motivation.  I will do my best work and encourage and assist others to do the same.  I have experience in varied areas which allow me to complement those around me well.  Sitting in a seat in the office is not something I’m particularly good at, nor is it something I want to be measured on.

Best Buy and Yahoo are saying they need to rely on the same metrics used by retail establishments.  If you clock in and out on time and don’t annoy the customers, you’re doing well.  Your actual contributions to the company are not as important as your presence in the office.  How motivating is that? I can clock in, play scrabble, clock out and I should be fine.  Fortunately for my employer, that sounds horrendous to me.  I love contributing, fixing problems, helping people and getting things done.  Fortunately for me, that’s what they keep me around for.

A friend of mine pointed out how ironic it was that Marissa Meyer instituted this policy while spending the money and resources to have a nursery installed in her office at Yahoo.  Perhaps, he suggests, these struggling companies are simply trying to increase attrition to help fend off a future layoff.  If someone’s built their life structure around a particular work arrangement and has to move or find child care, they may just… leave.  And if they quit, you don’t have to fire them.  Win-win, I guess.

Dialogue & Discussion