working from home

Recently, Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer implemented some HR policies to phase out working remotely.  There are a bunch of articles--WiredForbesBuzzfeed, to name a few--and a lot of strong opinions.

I've been in a variety of work situations, running the full spectrum: some required my presence in the office every day, others in which I worked almost entirely from home.  I've worked from home one or two days a week regularly, and have also regularly spent half days in the office and half at home.

I've noticed that there can be some benefits to working form home.  Sometimes it's easier to focus or buckle down on a particular problem in the comfort and solitude of one's home. This is especially true if you have a social office or don't have solitary space at work. Allowing working from home can also improve job satisfaction: sometimes we need to sign for an important package or wait for the cable guy, and it's nice when our employer doesn't make us take a vacation day for that.  It's also more welcoming to people with kids or otherwise need flexibility in their lives.

But, there are also some disadvantages.  Often, there is little or no accountability when an individual works from home.  So, if they can work fast, or claim they got stumped on something, then they don't have to put in a full day's work.  Then there is also the issue of people not being in the office when you need them for something; instead of stopping by their desk, you either need to call or email, which might be a barrier for some people to asking at all.  On the flip side, you can't ask people things in person when you're at home, and so you might not have all the resources you need.  And then there's the most obvious downside to working at home: distractions.  This ranges from chores to novels to kids.

So here's my proposed solution: accrew work-at-home days like you do vacation.  Or, just give people slightly more vacation days and force them to use half or a quarter of a vacation day every time they work from home.  You don't need to eliminate working from home, you just need to disincentivize it.


little love

On my walk home from work today, I found a little sparrow that could not fly.  It was chirping pitifully at the curb of a walkway, unable to move.  I cooed at it for a while, and then picked it up gently and carried it home.  After a few minutes, it escaped, and flew into the sky so beautifully, I thought that it was perfectly fine.  But in a few seconds, it plummeted to the ground, flailing.  I managed to get it home, talking to it the whole time.  I gave it some water and seed, and put it in a makeshift cage: an overturned basket.

After a while, though, it became apparent that the little bird did not want to be there.  It kept trying to escape, and was almost hurting itself in the process.  With time, I decided that it would be best to put it back outside, and N and I put it near some bushes in the woods behind our building.  At the very least, it is more protected there than it was on the open walkway on which I had found it.

I thought of calling a vet, getting a proper cage, etc., but it seemed against the natural order of things.  I couldn't bring myself to kill it, either, although it will certainly die soon.  There is something to be said for the good Samaritain mentality, but some things should just run their course.  Little Bird is beautiful, and I hope and pray for it, but caring for it properly was both beyond my abilities and beyond my responsibility.  It is more important for me to spend my time and energy on myself, N, and the people I love.  I have no shortage of love, especially for the little living things, but I do lack omnipotence.

Happy Valentine's day to all, no matter if you're giddy or the day is bittersweet.


knowledge vs. belief

It's very common for Mormons to say "I know ___," as in "I know the church is true," or "I know that Christ is my Savior."  Today, we had a man stand up and shamefully declared that he didn't know, but that he believed, and it was one of the most touching expression of faith that I've heard in a good long while.

We also had an investigator sitting near us today, and after the meeting he asked me what people meant when they said that they knew something that is generally considered to be unknowable.  I told him that it was a way in our culture of expressing that one has had a spiritual experience confirming the belief in question, but that often times we just say I know instead of I believe out of cultural habit.  People simply like the strength implied by knowledge.

I'm somewhat comfortable with this specialized cultural context of knowledge, but my main struggle with this phrasing is that it discourages people that don't know, or that haven't had confirming spiritual experiences.  It's exclusive: you're not in the club because you don't know.  Because of this, the use broadens to cover simple belief as well, making the club more inclusive, but making things even more painful for those who feel they cannot honestly declare knowledge when they have none.