A NYTimes Editorial today brought an important point to the Telecommuting Debate - that innovation can happen in the unlikeliest of locales. She gives the example of 2 Cornell University Staff from different fields that came up with the Idea for a research study about retaining women in the sciences at of all places - while watching their kids at swim practice, the only place likely to have brought them together.
This resonated with me since these past weeks working from Mexico I've met quite a few entrepreneurs that have sparked great business ideas for me, including adopting better work processes, new PR/branding ideas, and long-term business strategies. I even got a few terrific leads for travel writers I'm hiring. Had I been back in Chicago, I wouldn't have met these people or gotten these ideas. Period. I attend great networking events with tech people and small business owners, but I don't often meet writers and risk-takers like I met here. And I didn't meet these folks at a networking event, we were hiking together in Central Mexico, and getting a bit dirty I might add.
As someone who works from home, and from various locales, the news frustrated me last week when the new Yahoo! CEO reversed their corporate policy last week that allowed staff to work from home. Best Buy also made a similar announcement that despite some 4,000 employees working from home, they're reversing their policy. These policy shifts insinuate that productivity & success are strained by allowing staff to work from home. Yahoo's CEO made the decision after studying data about her work-from-home staff, and seeing that productivity waned. What about reprimanding those that abused their policy or incentivizing better practices. To me, a lack of success in these policies are a failure in management and training rather than an employee's failure to produce. Could you imagine the shift in your organization to lose such a privilege?
As a small business owner & traveler that's run my business from different countries around the globe, I'm aggravated by the negative wrap these decisions place on business success. It's an archaic opinion that businesses can't be successfully run from home offices with employees in remote places. Sure, the social side of me feels a bit isolated working from a home office or from cafes, but I also have far fewer interruptions, and feel extremely lucky to have the higher quality of life that a flexible workspace provides, ie, having more time to exercise, eat well, and work from Mexico.
Let's not forget, the magic of the internet to merge remote "offices" around the globe - international communication is a huge industry with great innovations, or need I remind Yahoo & Best Buy. Free video chat around the world makes it possible for me to hire a graphic designer in Asia, writers in Europe, and me in North America to merge these into a great product. I can interview clients and sell my products to people in other timezones without hopping on a plane. It's utter nonsense that businesses would back-track these sorts of policies, although that's why I don't work for them.
So what do you think? What are the pros & cons of working remotely? Would you stay in a job that reversed your work from home policy?
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