Solving the Work at Home ControversyBoy, you just never know what’s going to set some people off. On Monday I read that Marissa Mayer, the (relatively) new CEO at Yahoo issued an edict that said that the company would no longer allow folks to work from home, and now everyone seems to be talking about it. Naturally the Yahoo employees who’ve been working at home are in a snit. Maybe it’s just me, but based on Yahoo’s performance of late shouldn’t they be happy to be working anywhere? Ms. Mayer says that her decision is based on her own experiences at Google, where many important ideas came about during casual discussions in the hallway, standing in line in the cafeteria and the odd encounter in the ladies’ room —none of which are possible if you are working from the comfortable confines of your own rumpus room. While I certainly see her point, I must admit that there are many advantages to working from home. To help illustrate my point, I’m going to give you a look “behind the curtain” with a full account of the last time I worked from casa de Crosby.

8:00-8:15: At my desk and ready for another highly productive day. Check my email. Nothing big there. Dog wanders into office. Realize too late that I forgot to let him out this morning. Clean rug.
8:15-9:00: Conference call. Read news on-line during boring parts. Pet dog.
9:00-10:30: Go to kitchen to get a cup of coffee. We’re out. Tell the Mrs. I’m going to quickly run to the store. Hands me a list and tells me to pick up the dry cleaning while I’m out. Return home. Too late for coffee. Head back to desk.
10:30-10:45: Check email. Pet dog.
10:45-11:30: Return calls. Exterminator beeps in. Tell wife they are spraying on Tuesday. Buy book on Amazon.
11:30-12:00 Work on upcoming presentation. Phone rings. Wife asks me to get it. Take message. Tell wife to call her mother. Pet dog.
12:00-1:00: Time for lunch. Down to kitchen to make a sandwich. Caught slipping dog piece of ham. Back to desk and check up on news.
1:00-3:00: Creative block. Flip on TV to quickly clear head. Ooooh, Andy Griffith. Who knew they ran episodes back to back to back to back in the afternoons? Return to desk.
3:00-3:30: Check email. Pet dog. Continue work on presentation. Still blocked.
3:30-3:45: Time for quick break. Down to kitchen for something to drink. Wife asks me to throw a load in washer. Return to office. Wife asks if reds were separated out. Run to washer. Stash wet reds in nearby sink. Return to office.
3:45-4:00: Continue work on presentation. Kids home from school.
4:00-5:00 Ask kids to feed dog. Help daughter with Geography homework. 20 minutes to find Lichtenstein. Dog barks at door. Feed dog. Wife discovers aftermath of “red” laundry incident. Informed that “We will be buying a new set of towels”. Let dog out. Let dog in. Return to office. Pet dog.
5:00-5:15: Check email. Return calls. Tell conference presentation will be a little late.
5:15-6:00: Locate missing soccer shoe. Tell kids, “Be quite, “Dad’s working”. Work on presentation. Pet dog. Minimal progress. Shut down for day.

Based on my personal experience I don’t think that we can dismiss those that work at home as less productive than their office bound counterparts, although it may require us to explore the limitations of the conventional definition of productivity. Obviously, one man’s completed presentation is another’s happy dog and washer full of pink towels, and I think this is what the folks of Yahoo are upset about. Is Ms. Mayer correct in her belief that the company will be more productive if everyone works within the confines of their 4’x8’ cube? I don’t think we can say at this point, but I do know the folks at Yahoo should prepare themselves for more affection starved canines and dirty towels while they find out.

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