By Tom Ehrich
I believe in the work-from-anywhere revolution that mobile technology makes possible.
In fact, I believed in it before the iPhone, iPad and wireless Internet. It seems antique now, but I once wrote in my hotel room in Naples, Italy, and then found a telephone connection for dialing into the Internet.
Since then, I have enjoyed working in airport lounges, Amtrak trains, my sister’s kitchen, countless coffee houses, various Manhattan parks, and my early-morning perch at a small table in my apartment.
And yet, when it came time to establish my business in New York, I rented an office in Midtown. As I set about growing that business, I bought a desktop computer, not the latest upgrade to my iPad. And when I brought a part-time marketing wiz into my business, I established a place for her in my Midtown office.
In other words, I agree with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s controversial decision to ban working-from-home at her company. It’s too easy to lose focus at home, to take care of household chores, instead of business, and to lose the zest of working alongside other people.
Maybe it would be different if I still had children at home. But I don’t think so. In my opinion, creative work requires people, interactions, irritations, listening, competition, sorting through nutty ideas and good ideas, and experiencing the many faces and accents of our diverse world.
Besides, if I were cashing a paycheck, I would expect to be held accountable for what I do, not just wired money for work I’m only halfway doing, which apparently was the case at Yahoo.
Those are my views. Others will see it differently. And that, too, matters. For making personal decisions about the work we do, how we do it, and where work ranks in our hierarchy of values is essential to developing and expressing our unique selves.
The challenge back to Mayer is to make sure face-time at Yahoo is quality-time. Too many office workers spend their time in pointless meetings. Bureaucrats in business, education, religion and government live for meetings. It is meetings that tend to stifle innovation. It is the layers of authority that meetings exist to support that stifle fresh thinking. It is the acting-out and gamesmanship that meetings evoke in the insecure that tend to prevent creative collaboration.
Getting employees out of their pajamas and into an office chair is fine. But treating them with dignity and respect and as free and capable beings whose time matters will contribute even more.