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.

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