Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, made big news last week. In an internal memo she told her employees that they must now come in to the office to do their work. In other words: no more working from home.
No more working from home? Say it ain't so!
Kind of surprising, isn't it? Many of us are used to working from home nowadays. It's not only a trend, but a cost-saving measure for many employers. A whole industry of remote collaboration technologies exists to help people do their work without coming into the office. And besides, it's cozy working from home. How could she be so mean?
Mayer defends the action by saying
...to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
And you know what? She's right. But I think she's going too far. She doesn't have to require ALL of her work-from-home employees to come into the office. Only the ones who shouldn't be working from home in the first place. How can she (and you, if you're an employer) determine whether an employee can really and truly be productive from their home office? That's easy. All you have to do is ask these eleven simple questions.
1. Do you have a dog?
A productive home worker owns no dogs. They generally only have cats or household rodents running on a wheel inside of a cage. Their homes smell like urine and are dark even on the sunniest days. The odor and depressing atmosphere keeps all visitors and other distractions away. This makes for a sad, yet efficient workplace.
2. Do you have kids younger than high school age?
A productive home worker ideally has no kids. But if there are kids in the picture, they need to be older than 14 and in high school. By that age, most kids hate their parents and do everything they can to avoid coming home. As a result there is a quiet atmosphere to get things done.
3. Does your spouse have a job?
The best answer is no. Work-from-home employees with an unemployed spouse are the best kinds of employees. Their out-of-work spouses can take care of the chores in the morning while maintaining their own schedule of heavy drinking and pot smoking in the afternoon. By 4 p.m. he or she should be passed out, leaving plenty of time available for your home worker to take care your West Coast customers.
4. Do you enjoy pornography?
A reliable work-from-home candidate will laugh at this question and say something like, "Oh, I know it's out there but I'm not a porn kind of person." They're lying, of course. But at least they know how to respond and clearly have been asked this question before, which shows they have work-from-home experience. It also means that they've had the opportunity to practice their reply to make it sound off-the-cuff and sincere. If they can genuinely reply that they don't surf porn while all alone in their home office then you know they can successfully lie about your lousy products to potential customers too.
5. Do you listen to Howard Stern?
You do not want to hire Howard Stern fans for a work-from-home job. And it's not just because we have the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old. (We do.) It's because you can listen to the guy 24/7 online now and it's impossible not to be distracted when he's talking. That Joan Rivers interview this week completely disrupted my morning.
6. Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit?
People that have been in lawsuits should never work from home. That's because the first time a home-based employee turns on the TV during the day they'll be drawn in by the hundreds of sleazy legal ads daring them to sue because their soap stung their eyes in the shower that morning. You'll never get them to do an honest day's work after that.
7. Can we have a video chat every day at 3 p.m.?
The wrong answer to this question is, "Of course! I'm available to video chat at any time of the day and without any notification whatsoever. I'm sitting her at my desk, dressed professionally and working as if I'm in my office so feel free to video chat with me whenever you want. Nothing to hide here." An experienced work-from-homer will say, "Not unless you enjoy looking at the tattoo of Batman I have on my bare chest." The whole point of working from home is not getting dressed. Duh.
8. What is your position on the March 1st sequestration deadline?
Completely irrelevant. But I figured everyone else is writing about this so I might as well slip in a mention.
9. Do you own an assault weapon?
People with assault weapons should never be hired. And it's not just because they may show up at your office door, locked and loaded and smelling like Jim Beam the morning after you've had a disagreement with them about a product quality issue. It's because they likely don't have Internet access or even electricity where they live.
10. Who do you think is more annoying on the The View: Whoopi Goldberg or Joy Behar?
Anyone who has any opinion on this topic should never be working from home. Because it means that they're watching way too much TV during the day instead of doing work. But for what it's worth, is there anyone more annoying than Joy Behar?
11. What is the name of your mailman?
A truly productive work-from-home employee should never know the name of their mailman. If they do, it proves they're doing more chit-chatting and less working than you'd like. And please... the mailman? Like he's going to have a job in a few years anyway?
A version of this blog appeared on The Philly Post.