Marissa Mayer, like many suspicious CEOs, doesn’t like remote work. To be specific, remote work done by work-at-home employees since I assume remote work done while maintaining an insane travel schedule on behalf of the corporate giant would be perfectly acceptable.
It doesn’t matter what you think of her decision to force remote employees to come back to the office or leave the company. There are many opinions on whether or not it was the right decision, ranging from a decision she had to make to clean up Yahoo to it’s just an old fashioned attitude that has no place in our brave new, social media connected world.
What matters is her opinion isn’t far from what many people think about working at home. After a decade of working from home, I have endured the knowing smiles, the playful jabs, and the jealous comments about how much fun it would be to work in your pajamas. In short, the perception is that people who work at home goof off.
The Work Habits of Contractors versus Captive Employees
Let’s take a look at the perceived goofing off habits of work-at-home professionals (or as the rest of the world likes to call us, pajama-wearers) and compare them to the habits of captive employees who are stuck in offices, forced into mandatory productivity (or so they think):
Personal Errands – The common misconception is that work-at-home professionals spend a lot of their time doing personal errands. While we do often handle family tasks during the day outside of billable time, we also make up a lot of time after hours. Captive employees, on the other hand, are perfectly happy fitting in a few personal chores on company time.
Napping – Yes, we know you think we nap during the day (and yes, sometimes we do). Usually it’s when we are overtired or sick and in desperate need of rest because in an office of one, there are no coworkers telling you to call in sick. Captive employees would just call in sick because they get paid anyway (and I have heard stories of employees sneaking off to the bathroom to catch a little shut-eye as part of their regular routine).
Frittering Time Away – The comment I get the most when I tell people that I work from home is “I wouldn’t get anything done if I worked from home” ergo they think the same applies to you. Chances are if you are working from home (and reading this blog), you are doing so on a compressed schedule where every second is precious. Captives have an endless supply of ways to fritter away the day.
Chit-Chatting – This belief is often what leads well-meaning friends or neighbors to call or drop-in mid-afternoon under the false assumption that you have time for social visits. We don’t and it’s one of the first rules of working at home: teach people to respect your work boundaries. Captives just love the social aspect of their work (I know because they tell me the isolation would drive them insane).
Surfing the Internet – People seem to believe that we just can’t resist the temptation to surf the Internet or watch daytime television. Yeah no. We do, however, take social media coffee breaks with our virtual colleagues. Oh, and all those measures you take to make sure your employees can’t surf during the day? They don’t work. An iPad tucked in a briefcase is all you need to get around that pesky firewall.
Extended Lunches – This is my favorite misconception: the glorious days of extended lunches. Rarely do we have time in our busy schedules to leave the office to go out and do something as frivolous as eating with other people. Your captives, however, know exactly how to justify an extended beer-swilling lunch: ‘working meeting’.
Unproductive Work – There is a myth that work-at-home professionals spend a lot of their time on unproductive work. The truth is that the lack of distractions in a home office is what frustrates many people with working at home. Captive employees are exceptional at manufacturing fake-work projects to justify the time they put in behind their desk.
The reality is that bad workers are going to be bad workers in the office or at home. All joking aside, whatever you think people are capable of doing at home, trust me, they will find a way to do in the office environment. For employees, it’s important to know thy self and know whether working at home is something you can handle. For employers, you need to build in systems and structures to properly manage remote workers.