We've Got Working From Home Backwards
Published Nov. 1, 2015
Of course this is a response to the outcry surrounding a decision by Yahoo Inc. YHOO, led by new Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, to end work-from-home arrangements. As the founder of AwareLabs, I'm here to tell you the debate is all backwards. Its not about working from home but homing from work.
Working Form Home
Working from home is the first natural attempt our corporate culture is taking in response to a work life balance that has spiraled out of control. When corporate culture and technological efficiency allow employees to work 2 hours a day and still keep the company profitable, work life balance becomes an issue. Employees dread spending 80% of their day chained to a desk they don't need to occupy. At the same time managers get tired of making up mundane tasks and reports to make their teams look productive. The natural solution, send the employees home where they work 2 hours a day like in the office, count it as a perk and reduce salary. Its a win fot employees and managers alike.
Where working from home falls apart is people are social creatures and even though employees only work 2 hours a day, they interact with each other all day. Even Marissa Mayer cited interaction, not hours of work as the failing of work at home. Without that interaction, an employee working from home has no sense of team or obligation. The work and the employer naturally lose priority. As time progresses employees continue to work 2 hours a day but without initiative. Marissa Mayer is completely right, employees need to be around each other to be productive but that doesn't mean she's executing correctly.
Homing From Work
Instead of working from home employees should be homing from work. Homing from work is the concept of bringing your house to work instead of your work home. The key advantage, if implemented correctly, is work life balance without sacrificing employee motivation. There are some companies already doing parts of this concept, for example:
- Employee services like car washes, dry cleaners, and day care.
- On campus housing in many Chinese corporations.
- Google's all inclusive cafeteria and game rooms.
Imagine this concept implemented to its full potential, it would be like a college campus or the famous compound of Hank Scorpio where Homer Simpson worked for one episode. Employees could work for a few hours, see their kids play and head back to the office a short walk away, talking product design and marketing in the halls. The goal of homing from work is to bring the employees life into the workplace and build a larger family leading to increased loyalty and productivity. Even Steve Jobs was onto the idea when just before his death he proposed the Apple City Building.
Companies like Yahoo shouldn't abandon work life balance because the work from home experiment failed. Instead keep the principles of motivation and family by bringing the family into work. Start improving work life balance by bringing life into work, its inevitable as we get more efficient.