Friday, March 1, 2013

Pug coworkers: Why working from home is worth fighting for

Liam the pug in my office with his toys
Coworkers like this make work easier to bear.
Pug coworkers are the best coworkers. Ask anyone, especially someone who works at Yahoo. After this week, I'll bet any Yahooer has a lot to say about working from home with pets. Why? Because earlier this week, the CEO of Yahoo issued a memo stating that employees of the company should come into the office to do their work. The motivations for this move are a little unclear. The New York Times, for example, suggests that the ban is designed to pull creative types back into close proximity so they can share information and otherwise toss around great ideas and pull this flagging company back into robust health. I've seen a little web chit-chat, however, that speculates that the move was a publicity stunt, executed solely to get people talking about the company and how wonderful it will be in the future.

It's hard to know what the truth is, as many other news articles have dug and dug, only to be told that Yahoo doesn't discuss such memos with outsiders. The thing I find interesting, however, is that many articles about this issue draw a direct line between working from home and slacking off. Even the Daily Beast jumped on this bandwagon, suggesting that slackers would flock to a work-at-home situation so they could sit around all day and cash their checks at night.

I've worked in both offices and at home, and I have to say that I don't work less productively when I'm outside of the office environment. In fact, I get a lot more done. In an office, I am often interrupted by colleagues who need something or who just want to shoot the breeze for a few moments. Yahoo executives might call this "collaboration," but I call it "distraction." Creative work requires a bit of solitude, and that's almost impossible to find in a standard office. The only time I've seen it, in fact, is in offices full of people who are plugged into headphones. They're not collaborating, either.

Working from home also allows me to have a deeper connection with my animals, and that might sound like a silly perk to some people, but it's not something I sneer at. If I get stressed out at words that won't come, I can just take a break and throw the ball for the dog. I can put catnip on the scratching posts and watch the cats dance. I can stare out the window and listen to the dog snore. It's a nice connection to something peaceful, and that's something I could never find in an office.

I also work longer hours at home than I would work in an office. When I am at home, I can let the dog out to pee and I can get the animals their food on time, and then I can get right back to work. When I was in an office, I had to dash home to do these things, and I sometimes felt like a bit of a stickler about start times and end times, else I'd be neglecting my responsibilities as a pet owner. It's something parents might feel even more acutely. 

Modern workers can connect via so many methods, including IM, Skype, email, conference calls, Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Linked In and many more programs that I don't even know anything about. People who work from home could use any of these tools in order to stay in touch and share ideas, and having a butt in the chair in the office isn't required.

So let's stop equating working at home with a lack of creativity and laziness. Given my experience, it's just not an equation that can be supported.