Working from home: one size can’t fit all

6 Mar

Reality or notThe blanket decision by Marissa Mayer this week banning working from home and recalling all Yahoo! employees to the office is, from subsequent information, rooted in the fact that the privilege was being abused by too many of those able to fulfill their job functions remotely in less than the time allocated by their salary and contracts. Yahoo!, it now transpires, is not longer the only one issuing such decrees.

I can’t comment on individual companies’ motivations for making these decisions, but it is a topic I feel very strongly about, as someone who takes my commitments to my employer and to my family very seriously.

I know, beyond doubt, as every working mother does, that I am not alone in these friction-causing divided loyalties, although too often we are made to feel we are by employers who don’t want to, or can’t, acknowledge some very simple facts.

Firstly, most of the people who want to work from home at least part of the time are people who would give their eye teeth for the opportunity to do so. Therefore it follows that a company providing them with that opportunity will score an otherwise hard-to-attain level of loyalty. When I was without responsibility and without the level of concern to maintain my income, I would have hated to work from home. I wanted the buzz of the office, colleagues, post-work drinks and the chance to act on impulse. Now, however, I want a fix of that (with less impulsiveness, I admit) alongside a deep emotional and practical need to be at home as well. So an employer giving me that chance will generate additional loyalty and – point two – the desire to go above and beyond the call of duty in the role.

Point two. People who work from home because they need to, for the reasons I give above and for other reasons alike – life is complex, and varied, and companies need to acknowledge this – will always over-perform in order to maintain the status quo. When I freelanced I was so aware of the existence of other freelancers that I always tried to think ‘what’s one more than this’ about every project I worked on. I wanted to prove value and also to prove homeworking responsibility, which is not something I have been inspired to do if the homeworking option has not been forthcoming.

And finally, should it be cost per hour, or cost per job done and done well? Because is there not a strong argument to say that if someone’s working on something the value comes from them doing it well, fulfilling objectives and achieving standards, rather than staring at a screen for a set period of time to earn the money available? This is probably controversial, I get that, but payment by results probably makes sense for cynical companies to dip their toes into homeworking water, since as long as the deliverables are agreed and signed off at the start, doesn’t everyone win?

Decent employees don’t stop being any less good or experienced or committed or creative or passionate just because they find themselves stretched often untenably between different commitments. The risk of a blanket ban on homeworking, and the imposition of a single working practice rule, is that those who can’t manage the change will have to opt out, so a lot of experience and ability could potentially be lost.

I’m just saying.

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4 Responses to “Working from home: one size can’t fit all”

  1. Chris Hall March 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    I worked in an office for 12 years. Now for the past year I’ve been a stay-at-home dad. I write a bolg 3 times a week the only thing I do that comes close to being like I was still working. With my son with me at home finding the time to blog is difficult. He’s a toddler and loves attention. And I am more than willing to give it to him. Also I have all the usual chores and errands to run.
    So my point is I do not see how people with children have the time to work from home and be as productive as though they were at the office.

    • lizrossmartyn March 7, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      I don’t think it is possible to work from home with children there. I have always had to use childcare (or now mine are school-age) in order to freelance successfully. I believe that’s one area where employers do have a leg to stand on with the debate: if you are working for them it isn’t possible to be looking after children at the same time – not fair on either party. You’re right, they love attention – and rightly so!

    • lizrossmartyn March 7, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      I don’t think it is possible to work from home with children there. I have always had to use childcare (or now mine are school-age) in order to freelance successfully. I believe that’s one area where employers do have a leg to stand on with the debate: if you are working for them it isn’t possible to be looking after children at the same time – not fair on either party. You’re right, they love attention – and rightly so!

      • Chris Hall March 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

        I’ve always thought that even before my son was bon. There are too many distractions at home.

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