Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Should You Be Allowed To Work From Home? (Answer: No)

See what you're missing by working at home in your filthy sweatpants?Silicon Valley people and home-office employees everywhere are very worked up about the new Yahoo policy, which says people can no longer screw around at home instead of going to their perfectly good corporate headquarters. What about the ladies, who have the babies the world so desperately doesn't need? Well, they will have to do what non-Silicon Valley $100K salaried ladies do, which is "try to find a spot in a day care where the TV isn't on all the time."

There are legitimate reasons for working at home, of course. You may be in an Iron Lung or full body cast, which would frighten the editorial assistants. You may live outside the metropolitan area where your colleagues live and work, which is the case for me: My editors are always in New York, and I am usually 3,000 miles west of New York. Still, working at home is only a luxury for those who have never worked at home. Next time you're home, take a look around. Do you want to work there, with all those dishes in the kitchen and dog hair on the sofa and undone chores calling your name while you're trying to make a joke about something in the New York Times nobody even cares about, including the New York Times reporter on the byline?

Working at home is bad for society. Look around, if you happen to leave your house today, and you'll see Americans don't exactly need encouragement to relax their personal appearance standards. Going to the office is the final fraying thread between occasional showers and becoming a dumpster monster. Have you ever been to West L.A.? Just try to get a coffee, just try, and you cannot, because every Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is packed solid with unemployed screenwriters typing on their MacBooks. They don't want to be home! It's depressing.

Here is what you should do: You should live close to your office, close to your kids' schools, close to All The Things, and then you should go to work where people go to work. Need to take Lil' Poopy to the pediatrician? It happens! Children are dangerous disease vectors, indiscernible from other vermin. But when you live in a compact urban environment, you tell your boss you'll be out to take your sick kid to the doctor, and you'll see your boss in court if that's a problem, and also you will return to work in 90 minutes to do your job. Sorry about how you can't get a 3,000-square-foot stucco monstrosity in the city, but you don't need that anyway. Millions of Knowledge Economy Workers who were better and smarter than anyone alive today existed happily in small city apartments during the 20th Century. When they wanted fresh air, they went to their country house, hours outside of town, and it was affordable because it was just some house in the woods where there was no economy beyond the weekenders.

The workplace is part of civilization. Yes, it is true, that back in the Middle Ages or Colonial Williamsburg or the HBO series "Rome," tradespeople often worked on the lower or street-facing portion of their home, but that's because they lived in the town, in the marketplace. They were engaged with the populace. Even acclaimed fiction writers of the 1960s—those awful East Coast men writing about masturbation and suburbs and hating their adult children over some kind of tortured inadequacy—had offices, sometimes in their own ridiculously inexpensive Manhattan apartment buildings.

Working at home is crap. Chat rooms will never compare to being able to tell people to get bent in person. Emails are ignored, while following someone into the elevator or bathroom is very difficult to brush off. There is nothing like being in the same building with people, letting them know you are there, watching them, always. Traditionally, management has exploited this role, but in our terrible modern society, it's the employee who should be in the workplace, conspicuously watching the bastards. You know who never learns they were laid off by reading Romenesko? People who are in the office, engaged, alert, watching for signs the way a storefront psychic watches for tan lines on ring fingers. And when you need to concentrate, go have a coffee for 20 minutes, or take a smoke break. That is so much better than whatever people do when working at home and need a break, which is mostly "eat stuff out of the pantry" and "think about moving."

And if someone does wrong you in the workplace, you're right there to follow them to the subway station, not too close now, through the bustle of busy streets, waiting outside the corner market as they pick up a six-pack and some milk, and finally to that one place where they cannot enact the company crisis plan: their own home.

Also there should be onsite quality daycare at every business with more than a dozen employees, come on.

Photo by Wallenrock, via Shutterstock

23 Comments / Post A Comment

CaptBackslap (#10,313)

Dafuq is going on in that stock photo?

Smitros (#5,315)

@CaptBackslap Now we know what Paula Broadwell is up to.

@CaptBackslap : (in Karl Lagerfeld voice) I sink his pantss ahr poorly cut.

CaptBackslap (#10,313)

@Smitros That's actually kind of an eerie resemblance. But it does NOT explain:

* The dude who tucked his shirt in to his shiny silver slacks but didn't wear a belt

* How obviously fake the computers are

* And most importantly, THE WALLS. I don't care if you're at work, at home, or in an ashram. You aren't getting shit done if your walls look like the opening for The Electric Company.

@CaptBackslap This is obviously a shot from a tech-themed porn movie. "Repetitive Motion SINdrome". "Wow, Dirk that's such a…big tablet. Can I touch your screen?"

Smitros (#5,315)

@CaptBackslap Of course the clothes and decor can't be readily explained. That comes under the heading of the problem of evil.

flossy (#1,402)

@CaptBackslap His chart is going up. Her chart is going down. They're going to arm wrestle over it, because the office.

LondonLee (#922)

You can't have a wank in the office though.

Vulpes (#946)

@LondonLee Oops!

riggssm (#760)

@LondonLee Half the people I follow on Tumblr think otherwise …

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Yeah, lets get everyone in the cars and on the highways to get to work. That should increase productivity (not to mention help the environment)! Plus, leaving your child behind while the CEO gets to have a nursery installed in her office should boost the morale and loyalty too! Finally, Yahoo is the industry leader (right?right?) they should know what they are doing and what kind of a nutjob they hired to run their company, right?

P.J. Morse (#232,627)

@Niko Bellic Yeah — not one thought of the commute, and Yahoo! is smack in the middle of a terrible commuter zone.

I'm not for people working from home every single day of the week. People do need to hash out ideas in person sometimes, but it's ridiculous to revoke working from home for all situations. I imagine Yahoo! will roll out some flexibility soon, if only to make themselves look better.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@P.J. Morse I'm pretty sure the problem will solve itself when Yahoo goes bankrupt in a year or two.

P.J. Morse (#232,627)

@stuffisthings Maybe this was a diabolical move to get the word "Yahoo!" in the press so people say, "Oh, Yahoo! That's still a thing? How cute. Weren't they the ones who sent the CDs in the mail?"

scrooge (#2,697)

I once worked next to a compulsive raconteur. But they fired me.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Ken, I'm sorry, I'm sure whatever you wrote was funny or intelligent or interesting but now literally ALL I want to do is meet the person (man? it has to be a man) who composed that stock photo scene.

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

Mayer is a genius, and I suspect she's trying to introduce some flavor of Agile into Yahoo. So, sorry entitled, layabout programmers, you have to be there for it to work. If you don't like it, go find another failing web property to work for.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@Bryan Keller I'm pretty sure the kind of management philosophy needed at Yahoo is more "deactivated nuclear power plant" than "tiny mobile app startup," but good luck to 'em I guess.

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

@stuffisthings True dat. But Agile would probably work pretty well for deactivated nuclear power plants, too.

CraisinHell_a (#238,657)

I liked that Rome series. Pissed me off that it got cancelled.

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