Working from home vs showing up at work

Working from home with Dilbert
Working from home with Dilbert

So Marissa Mayer ordered Yahoo employees to punch the card again and show up at their cubicles.  So what? Why is there such a fuss about a CEO who feels that she would like teams to collaborate in person? There are other corporate crimes far more serious that folks should rant about.  Perhaps you feel that it is the right of the employee to make that choice.

I did both.  I worked for a great start up and showed up everyday, sat at my desk and commuted back home.  I then worked for IBM where I had the option of turning up at my Burnett office or working from home.  I can see both sides of the coin and I can understand that it is not a heads you win, tails you lose option.

5 reasons to show up at work

1. Connection

Start ups are fast and furious.  You have funding that needs to be stretched.  Teams are working against the clock very often fueled by something larger than themselves.  There is an energy in a start up that is contagious.  Connection is very critical for a successful start up.  At Webify, we had Beer Fridays, developer weekends, pizza nights, bowling, skeet shooting, Hail Mary rallies and lunches were the teams would step out to grab a bite and discuss something that was brewing.  Over a short period of time, connections that were built in that small company continues to stay strong even after we were acquired.  Even after we moved on.Connections can start anywhere.  On a phone call, via email, via twitter but face to face strengthens the bond.

2. Collaboration

Yes, I have collaborated successfully working from home and we have worked with many teams.  But there is something to be said about sitting face to face at a meeting.  Think tanks, brainstorming, chalk boarding work well in person.  When you are in a room with other people you have to be present.  It is much easier to get distracted when you are working from home and you are on a conference call, pressing the mute button so you can heat a snack or answer an instant message.  Nobody can see you.  Nobody knows how much of you is in active participation mode.Collaboration has worked successfully for virtually connected companies like IBM.  But we still have enjoyed immensely the few times the team has been able to meet in person and suddenly the mind shifts from anonymous to someone you know.

3. Cooperation

It is easier to seek someone’s help if they are sitting next to you.  People will go out of their way to help you if they have some sort of a working relationship with you.  It is easier to be a stickler for rules when you are isolated.  Isolation also guarantees a lower propensity to seek new solutions to old problems.  It is much easier to coordinate an impromptu meeting to fix a critical problem by walking around and getting teams together than it is to schedule a conference call with key players.  There were many times, I would walk over to get my CEO to sign off on a marketing initiative or speak to the development team for their help on an analyst recommendation.

4. Community

When I would work from my IBM offices, we would meet for lunch.  I would go and mingle and get to know other folks from other departments at the Diversity Day or at a Halloween party.  I would make an effort to upgrade my skills by taking some of the courses on Career Day or show up with my children on Take your Child to Work Day.  At Webify, we had Christmas parties, we had All Hands Calls, we celebrated birthdays.  We spend most of our adult life at work and the relationships you form here stay for the rest of your life.

5. Communication

There is a reason why the best salesmen understand that relationships are forged by contact, communication and connection.  There is a reason why our sellers are on the road most of the time.  They know that face time (not Apple’s product) is persuasion time.  They know that likeability is a strong factor in getting their foot in the door.  That is also why we continue to host big events all over the world, in spite of technology making it possible to convey all this knowledge through virtual worlds.  There is still no substitute for a handshake.

I don’t deny the benefits of social collaboration tools and how a Social Business provides the framework to make all of the above more feasible, effective and productive.  I have also enjoyed the benefits of a flexible work environment.  It has provided me with the option of working from home.

But I have also skipped meals.  I have woken up at 5 am to get on conference calls.  I have stayed up till midnight to speak to our team in Australia.  I have stayed glued to my desk looking like something that the cat dragged in on a dark stormy night.  I had in a strange way become more isolated from my family because once I was working, they only got an impatient wave, a muted “What do you want? Don’t you know I am on a call.”  They would reply “You are always on a call.”

Yes I was always on a call.  I was always working at my desk.  My posture suffered.  I gained weight and didn’t mind being unkempt for most of the day.  There are no boundaries when you work from home.

Besides innovation is contagious.  It is like a virus.  Try it.  Get into a room with other people who are engaged, positive and want to change the world.  You will walk out with many ideas.

I leave you with another case in point…missing great onsite conversations such as these:

The Office

Toby:  Actually, I didn’t think it was appropriate to invite children since it’s, uh, you know. There’s gambling and alcohol… And it’s in our dangerous warehouse. And it’s a school night. And, you know, Hooters is catering. You know. Is that- is that enough? Should I keep going?
Michael: Why are you the way that you are? Honestly, every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.