As the owner of a small business, I have been extremely interested in all of the commentary on Yahoo CEO’s Marissa Mayer’s decision to end their work-from-home policy. As I have indeed allowed WFH (Work From Home — liberally displayed on our internal calendars), and have experienced the pros and cons firsthand, I was curious to see how others weighed in.
Yes, I agree with the pundits that a good worker is a good worker, no matter where they are. They will give their all and get the job done. (VOTE: WFH) Yes, I agree, that many things are much more productively accomplished together, in person — for camaraderie and team-building as well as quality of work. For us, brainstorming and big creative reviews especially benefit from “together time.” (VOTE: Get your $#!& in the office.) And yes, we live in complex times where personal responsibilities and work responsibilities are at such overload levels that 24 hours and 7 days are often not enough to do excel at both. (VOTE: ???)
So, what’s a leader to do? Well, most of all, I agree with those who say that, beyond telecommuting, Ms. Mayer was primarily trying to signal a change to her organization that things were going to need to be different than what they had been, a change from the past, and if she lost some folks along the way, well that was to be expected (perhaps even desired) collateral damage. And even though Ms Mayer built a nursery in her own office to facilitate her own child care (scalable, Ms. Mayer?) it sounds like she is pretty confident that this is the right path for her large, centrally located, HQ-based organization, and therefore she will likely succeed.
But for GW Hoffman Marketing? Well, a “be here 100% of the time or else” policy would mean… we would lose the trademark laughter and strategic brilliance of one long-distance employee and the unflappable attention to detail, and to the clients (not to mention the marvelous comedic sarcasm) of another. I would lose out on the decades of experience and insight of my Strategy & Insights team, as well as the phenomenal creativity and wit of our newest Creative Geniuses. A brand new employee father would likely call in “sick” an awful lot because he had to to support his wife and newborn unexpectedly, and I could never have even considered the services of a valuable digital partner in Paris! And almost of third of my team would lose 4+ hours a day during the way-too-frequent “very bad traffic” days (including myself!)…
So for us — I know we will have to work harder at some tasks, and clean up some other behaviors when they get too “loose.” And I know it can’t be abused. But I think I VOTE to continue to listen to the needs of my people and to create an organization where they can thrive as individuals first, then as productive employees. Believe that when folks feel like you care about their lives, they care more about the company’s.
Hope I am right. Has paid off so far. So I call our liberal WFH Policy a GWH W.T.F. (Winner, Toss-Up or Flop) Award WINNER.