Yahoo! It’s all about being at home at work

Silhouette of person in tie monitoring home workers on multiple monitors and ordering goof-offs to report to office.

There has been a lot of noise about Yahoo’s decision to prod all those working from home to get up and report to work in the office. That has stirred up a debate about working from home, just when I have been feeling very smug about doing exactly that for some 20 years.

You may not have noticed that I have been at home and that I have been working. That happens when your one-man show is a wee bit small compared to Yahoo.

In my opinion, what really matters is not your location but if you feel at home where you work.

Making home work

In my early days, entrepreneurship was a euphemism for glorious, uncertain, nail-biting unemployment. I would often land up in the office (he had one!) of a friend. I would pretend to have just come from a client meeting; he would pretend to be rushing off to another. After both of us got comfortable enough to shed our masks, the first question he asked was, “How do you manage to stay awake at home? I could never bring myself to leave the bed. That is why I splurged on this (unprintable) office.”

Composite image of rubber slippers and formal shoesA young manager at one of my early clients once sat me down to have a chat. When I told him I was not a management  graduate, he looked at me as if I had just crawled out of the coffee vending machine.  Just to make him comfortable, I assured him I came to office only two days a week, that too for a few hours. “It is just not professional,” he burst out.

I am a writer. I love my job because I love writing. My job places me in offices full of interesting people for several hours a week. I am fortunate to be working with some very intelligent people (some of them are so good they consistently reject my work and then offer tea).

I must understand all dimensions of an issue before I can attempt to resolve it for my client through my writing. That conversation must happen in the conference room, in the office, even if the chair they give me tends to sink to the floor without notice.

As for the actual writing, I would rather do it at home. I spend more hours at home than in various offices. That makes the house cleaner throw looks at the leech shamelessly living off his poor wife, who must trudge to work every day to keep the family alive and pay the servant’s salary.

Here and there

John Sullivan thinks I have the mix right. The New York Times report about the Yahoo missive quotes this professor of management at San Francisco State University, who runs a human resource advisory firm. “If you want innovation, then you need interaction,” he said. “If you want productivity, then you want people working from home.”

Now you know what I mean when I insist on your business because I am “innovatively productive”.

Combined image of house coat and formal wear

Susan Cain writes in her book Quiet what collaboration meant for Steve Wozniak, the co-creator of Apple: “the ability to share a donut and a brainwave with his laid-back, nonjudgmental, poorly dressed colleagues—who minded not a whit when he disappeared into his cubicle to get the real work done.”

No client has yet shared a donut with me. They have been generous with the brainwaves, though. I lug it all and disappear into my cubicle—my home.

In the same book, Susan Cain talks about Pixar Animation Studios, where “the sixteen-acre campus is built around a football-field-sized atrium housing mailboxes, a cafeteria, and even bathrooms. The idea is to encourage as many casual, chance encounters as possible. At the same time, employees are encouraged to make their individual offices, cubicles, desks, and work areas their own and to decorate them as they wish.”

So, it is about creating little spaces where you feel “at home” in the office. That is exactly is what I have been saying. You need a prudent mix of home and office for best productivity.

Yes, I will start work on your presentation, as soon as I finish cutting the vegetables before my wife returns home.

Composite image of small home and large office


9 thoughts on “Yahoo! It’s all about being at home at work”

  1. ‘Being at home where you work’…what an interesting perspective. I am a writer and blogger who works from home. I love what I do and how well I do it. Sure I’ve lost some productivity thanks to not having those long lunches, endless meetings and being cced in innummerable emails:-)

  2. Now, that is a refreshing take on the Yahoo-sponsored debate.

    But you know what, while I couldn’t agree more on the ‘what works for whom and where’…. I think a conventional office has its pluses… maybe it is to do with being a woman and the fact that at home she is operations manager, executive director, wife rolled into one. Essentially, her ‘cubicle’ (HO-OF) is eternally swamped with issues ranging from what to be cooked in the morning meal thru maid’s husband’s drinking problem to husband’s Ph.D thesis requiring ‘another eye’…. HER WORK? That she gets done post-midnight when she manages her find her writer’s hat from all the junk jamming the doorway to her mind!

    1. Thanks for reading, mj. You have very strongly and very rightly expressed your view. I dare not wish you Happy Women’s Day and rub some extra, inconsiderate, male salt on the “wound”. Tell me this. How do you manage to write those wonderful poems with all the junk jamming your doorway? (Deep bow!)

      1. I apologize if I came across too strongly. It’s wonderful to be a woman and I’m all for the differences between man and woman. I also like the fact this debate is now gathering wind… our generation of women has struggled to balance, and has inevitably ended up losing on some or the other front (you will agree)…

        In my personal capacity, I like the concept of getting away from home. That way, I get to do justice to my work, and loving justice to my home and family. Of course, I am flexible, as we all must be.

        As for writing my poems… most of my preliminary construction, I do in my head even as the junk jams my lifelines… it’s a life skill I learnt early. Virginia Woolf has been my guru.

        I must also add, in this piece, the reader gets to see another side of you as writer – the lightly playful, self-deprecatory viewer-writer, with an easy bonhomie with words that speaks of long years of labor and a deep love for the craft. I love this side of the writer. More success to him and more such pieces for the readers! 🙂

        Have a good weekend. Stay well!

  3. HI Vijay

    I Love working from home ! I get far more done at home then at work. There are less distractions at home ( even with Nico ). I can work in my pajama’s, relaxed.

    Also my computer at home ( Mac ) is alot better/faster then my work pc.

    As long as the work gets accomplished and on time, I think more companies will be trying to cut cost and allow their employees to work from home.


    1. For all you know, you may setting a good example for Nico. Companies will keep cutting costs any which way, but I am not sure that would translate into more people working from home.

Your comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s