On February 25, 2013, I thought my computer was going to blow up because there were so many blog posts and articles going around about the newly-instituted policy at Yahoo that employees could no longer work from home. I read countless posts fashioned as open letters to Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer extolling the virtues of working from home, and I joined in the outrage that Mayer could insult her employees' work ethics and infringe on their tenuous grasps at work-life balance.
The message from Mayer was clear: "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side... it is critical that we are all present in our offices."
To be sure, for many employees both inside and outside of Yahoo, the notion that they must be in the office to make a maximum contribution is both offensive and inaccurate. I thought it sounded pretty old-fashioned and short-sighted back in February, when I had just started a new job that allowed me to work from home one day a week. I was thrilled to be working from home: I bought a new desk, reveled in the short commute from my bedroom to my home office, and enjoyed not having to get dressed up one day a week.
After four months in my new job, though, I stopped working from home. I backtracked on my one-dimensional criticism of Mayer's policy. While I know it works for many people to set up a home office and get the work done, it wasn't working for me. I found myself struggling to integrate myself in my organization's flow of work, and I believed that my performance was suffering, in part, because of the isolation which resulted from not being there enough. I didn't feel like I was a part of what was happening in my office, and I suspected that the benefits of working from home were compromised by the hit to my morale when I realized I'd missed key meetings or wasn't as up to speed as the people who had a daily presence in the office.
So, I started going in, juggled my childcare and added another day of commuting and dressing up. As I spent more time in the office, I began to feel more invested and more comfortable about my work. The extra commuting time is a drag, but the feeling of being more involved is worth the extra time.
I certainly feel lucky that I had the choice, and I will always be pro-choice about policies that allow employees to work from home when it works for them. It just didn't work for me. Maybe that was because it was a new job for me and my first employment after taking a two-year hiatus to raise my children. Looking back, it's clear that I wasn't the ideal candidate for working from home. Maybe someday I will be. But in the meantime, I softened my comments about Mayer's policy, because I can no longer pretend I think that working remotely has absolutely no impact on performance or morale, because I know that it did. In my case, at least.
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