Out of sight, out of mind
By Carmel Fisher, Managing Director
07 April, 2017
Last week was frantic. Multiple deadlines coincided with colleagues wanting to talk about all manner of things, each conversation reducing the likelihood I'd get my work done well or on time.
I did what I had to do. I took myself home and with only the dog to distract me — for mere seconds at a time — I achieved considerably more than I would have at my office desk.
I kicked off my heels, brewed a tea in my favourite cup and went for it. I didn't stop, I didn't look at my phone or emails, I just worked. Without being immodest, it was good work and equivalent to the output of two people.
Working at home, or remote working, is not something I've embraced in the past. When team members have suggested working from home for one or two days a week, I've typically resisted. I feared others would follow suit and we'd soon have an empty office.
But, based on my recent experience and that of a colleague who alternates between his Hamilton home and our Auckland office, I'm a believer. I can see the flexibility of working in your own environment, without distraction and at your own pace can be as beneficial for employers as it is for employees.
After my work at home epiphany, I was surprised to read of IBM's "move or leave" programme that effectively bans remote working, years after it embraced the concept on a company-wide basis.
Just months into her role as IBM's Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle Peluso announced thousands of IBM marketing team members must now work out of one of six different locations.
In an internal video, she explained: "I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and, starting with the US, it's really time for us to start bringing our teams together, more shoulder to shoulder."
She said co-locating great people in creative inspiring locations is the "only one recipe I know for success".
IBM is not alone. In the past year Honeywell, Yahoo, Best Buy and Reddit have banned remote working for most of their workers worldwide.
Honeywell CEO Dave Cote announced: "Working from home should be a rare occurrence to accommodate legitimate individual circumstances. These occasional situations should happen no more than a few days a year."
The change was needed to "encourage the high level of collaboration we need to outperform."
In announcing Yahoo's change of view, CEO Marissa Mayer said: "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo and that starts with physically being together."
It is interesting Mayer thinks speed and quality suffer with remote working.
A remote working blogger thought the opposite: "I propose that most remote workers work at least as hard, if not more so, than their local counterparts. This is fuelled in no small part by guilt and fear".
His view is that people who work remotely feel guilty as they assume colleagues think they waste time and work fewer hours at home. Remote workers compensate by working late and even working weekends, achieving far more than office-based co-workers.
Remote working is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every business or individual. I understand the need for collaboration. But flexibility and solitude can also enhance worker productivity.
Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Quite the contrary.