As my readers know, I’m not a big fan of the “flextime/remote work” trend that most of the HR media loves to support and promote. I just don’t see it as being an effective option for the vast majority of people. In fact, in my experience, I have found those who most want the option to work from home are those who are least capable of being able to handle and be effective with it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some who can make it work well for themselves – freelancers, startup employees, entrepreneurs, and consultants, for example. Again, I just don’t think it is effective for the vast majority of employees who work for organizations.
I defended Marissa Mayer back when she reversed Yahoo!’s flexible work arrangements and required all employees to work at the office. The company was failing and she was tired of the empty parking lot and office and the fact the company’s vpn logs showed light usage.
She was quoted as saying this at an HR conference in LA as part of her reason for making the decision:
…people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.
While I disagree with the first part of her comment that people are more productive when alone (there are many more distractions at home than at the office), I definitely agree with her that collaboration and innovation are better when people are together.
HR media were quick to criticize Yahoo! and BestBuy when they reversed their flextime/remote work policies and required their employees to come into the office to work. However, the reversal seems to be a trend. Just recently, Reddit also announced it is requiring all their employees to relocate to San Francisco in order to get all their “entire team under one roof for optimal teamwork.”
These companies are finding out that it isn’t working. I predict there will be many more reversing their flextime/remote work policies in the near future.
To quote myself last year, I called flextime/remote work a fad:
I think there are only a limited number of people who can be productive working remotely from home. It’s a fad and will eventually be proven as such. People are social beings and work better when with other people.
It’s important to leave home and all its distractions and go to a place that is designed to get work done – the office.
It seems the marketplace agrees.
I came upon this interesting article in the Denver Post the other day. It’s about the rise of “co-working” spaces where people who work from home or have flexible arrangements with their company can go to an office with others similar to them and get their work done.
The article proves my point and reinforces my opinion about flextime/remote work.
Turns out, we are social beings. Who knew? We like to get together with other people and socialize, even at work. Interaction with other people generates more innovation and creativity.
The article opens with these sentences:
After two years of working from home, Bruce Wolk desperately needed a change in scenery.
It was “mind-numbing,” the Denver-based freelance writer said, recalling the many days he spent alone in his small home office.
“The truth of the matter is, it’s so incredibly isolating,” Wolk said. “Each hour seems like three.”
“I needed to find a space where I could work easily and at the same time interact with other people,” Wolk said.
“There can be four, five people here, and everyone will be merrily working along and all of a sudden, a spontaneous conversation will break out,” he said. “You really can’t do that at home.”
Looks like Mr. Wolk is finding that he is more productive at the office.
In addition, co-working spaces eliminate the distractions of being at home and help people be more productive. In the article, Madison Carroll, who has a remote work arrangement with her organization claims she is more productive in an office environment:
The days she spends at Shift (Boutique Workspaces) are “definitely” more productive than the ones spent at home, too, she said.
“You do laundry, you do something else. You don’t work,” Carroll said. “When I come here, I work. I’m here to work.”
Again, it seems like Ms. Carroll is more productive at the office than she was working at home.
My point here is that even those people and professions most conducive to flextime/remote work are finding that they are more productive and creative in an office environment rather than working from home.
Despite the efforts of most of the HR media, I continue to consider flextime/remote work a fad that will never be mainstream. The marketplace is experimenting with it and finding that it isn’t working.
It simply doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of people in the workforce. And it doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of organizations.