Work From Home

You can’t, if you are working for Yahoo. Reams have already gotten written about Marissa Mayer’s controversial decision so I won’t rehash those. Rather, I’ll make two quick points – where I stand with respect to telecommuting and, in my experience, what with respect to working from home I have seen work (and what doesn’t)

Firstly, a show of hands. I support working from home for certain functions (the standing joke at my office once was a window-cleaner who called in to say he was working from home). But again it is fallacious to cast these “functions” in stone. Even within functions some flexibility has to be built in. For example a Product Manager may very well decide to work from home the day she wants to finish up writing her stories but her presence at office is way much valuable the days engineers start coding her piece (assuming of course the engineers have all come in). So how does one write all these into a policy – is this not way too complicated? Short answer – one does not write a policy on this at all. That is why in most cases it is much simpler to ensure you’ve hired the right kind of folks with maturity to handle such black-gray-dirty white situations than have your exec veep sending out a hundred pager telecommuting policy. Telecommuting employees – especially those who come in only as an exception – must also realize that the workplace is as much a social construct as it is an economic vehicle. Staying at home gets the work done (and sometimes gets the work done much more efficiently than a noisy office with distractions) but one misses out on the working lunches, stairwell conversations and water cooler gossips. These are important in building an informal relationship network that becomes very important in getting things done. I think – and have seen – telecommuting to be career restrictive in most cases. So there is a price to pay for the flexibility that working from home offers

Even in organizations that allow telecommuting, working from home is looked upon derisively (“aha, he is working FOR home today” kind of jibes are common). Some rotten apples, who want to hide under the garb of working from home, bring about this bad name. For teams that have people working from home it is a must that they are all on some messaging system (not e-mail – that is too asynchronous). They must get on the phone much more often than across-the-hallway teams do. For teams producing artifacts – anything – like designs, wireframes, prototypes, presentations should use screen-sharing apps (webex for example) at the slightest possible excuse. And overcommunicate – nothing brings about a sense of togetherness and comfort than seeing conversations flowing back and forth

Now for something very trivial (but from experience I can say these make a lot of difference). Those working from home must get into the zone much like athletes do just before the start of an event. Please do not work in your night clothes (a friend of mine actually used to dress for office even when he just had to climb a flight of stairs to get to his home office). Get a home office setup – a desk, comfortable chair (not borrowed from the kitchen), a phone, headsets, good reliable internet connection and most importantly – a door that you can close to the rest of the house. Do take breaks and, most importantly, end your day like you would if you were at office

Enjoy the short commute back to the living room. And yes, you are now allowed to change into loungewear if you must

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