The case for working from home
You’ve probably heard about Yahoo’s! decision to end working from home. The company can do whatever they want, of course, but count me among the folks rooting for the day when working at home is mainstreamed.
During my Politics Daily days, I worked from Casa de Lewis almost every day. I write best early in the morning (you know, during the time that most people spend getting dressed up — and enduring a hellish commute?), so I was able to knock out a ton of copy and research before most workers got their first cup of coffee and sat down at their desk.
There is a legitimate fear that working from home will turn your home into work. We need space and separation, the theory goes. This is probably true if, despite your physical distance from work, you are being micromanaged (or spied on.) Or if you hate your job. But if your company empowers you, this can be a win/win for everyone involved.
In fact, I found that my life and my work were nicely integrated. I would wake early, write for a couple hours, and then walk my dogs. Then I might sit outside and do some reading before heading out to a lunch. It felt very natural, very organic — like the way cottage industries might have operated before the Industrial Revolution.
Instead of an eight hour day, I was simultaneously always working and never working. I never wasted time commuting or making polite, but trite, small talk around the water cooler. Nearly all communication with my editors happened via email. It was quite fabulous.
Of course, there are a lot of reasons to have people show up at an office. I think the least legitimate reason is the desire to control people — to keep tabs on them (I say hire good people, empower them, and then measure success accordingly).
But there are plenty of good reasons for showing up, too. Some people admittedly aren’t self-disciplined enough to work from home. Others crave the interaction and friendship an office environment offers. You will develop much closer bonds and friendships with people you actually see every day (I still hang out with people I worked with a decade ago.)
Casually bumping into people can also give rise to new ideas, sharing, and cooperation. Since a lot of mentorship occurs via observation, it’s much harder to mentor someone (or be mentored) remotely. If your staff is young, this may be key.
And then, there is the fact that sometimes work can be an escape. I love my family dearly, but now that I have two kids at home, having an office to go to in the morning sometimes makes the Metro ride to Farragut North a sweet escape.