Earlier this year, the news was flooded with stories, comments and opinions about Marissa Mayer’s putting an end to remote work at Yahoo. During National Work from Home Week, it feels only appropriate to talk about working from the office vs. working from home.
I’ll start by saying Yahoo’s “work-from-the-office” policy makes sense to me.
At either a small company or a large one, all employees need to work closely, collaborate formally and informally, and take advantage of common areas to converse. It’s all summed up in this sentence from Yahoo’s internal memo: “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
Plus, I love working in an office – interacting with people, debating ideas, getting to know my colleagues better. And there’s a real sense of satisfaction that comes from attacking my to-do list and driving home with a sense of accomplishment.
But I, like Marissa Mayer, am a new mom. And that has changed everything for me.
After 12 years of being in an office and enjoying every day of it, I now work from home about half the time. Given that I’ve loved going to work for so long, you’d think I’d be the last person to change my ways. But kids have a way of doing that – upending your life – and the funny thing is, you’re happy to oblige.
To be sure, adjusting my work routine has required some, well, work. It’s all too easy to be distracted when you’re not in the office: There’s the TV, the kitchen with leftovers and snacks, household chores, and an 11-month-old who is so much cuter than he has any right to be.
But, while there is a plethora of distractions at home, I’ve found that it is possible to be productive. The key is putting structures in place that let you stay focused.
I have an “office” (a desk in my living room that has my laptop and a comfortable chair).
I have multiple connectivity tools close at hand (the RingCentral app, which lets me fire off an SMS or jump on a conference call in an instant; WebEx Connect, the instant messaging software we use; and Microsoft Outlook, from which I can place calls with the RingCentral softphone).
I have a schedule that is consistent and realistic. I’m a morning person, so I book most meetings and calls for early in the day. Nap time is at 11, so that’s a great time for me to write or tackle big quarterly goals.
I still have a to-do list. When I need to focus on it, I ignore everything around me just like I do in the office.
I’m still social. I instant-message my work buddies. I call them for meetings, as well as for mental breaks. This helps me feel like a part of the team, just as I did before.
And at the end of my workday from home, I get the same sense of accomplishment I had when I was a habitual office worker. Now, even though I am not physically in the office, I am still focused on my work, my colleagues and my goals.
I still spend a reasonable amount of time at work: meeting with my team when we need to collaborate in person, planning for the months ahead with our creative agency, and presenting in important meetings.
That means I can enjoy the benefits of “physically being together” (to borrow a phrase from Yahoo) when it matters.
Yet, after several months of working remotely, I’ve realized that successful work depends on more than just “physically being together”. It’s as much, or more, about mental focus.
If you can achieve focus regardless of where you are – and not let your physical location determine how effectively you get things done – you can absolutely make remote work “work” for you. Just try committing to it. I think you will impress yourself!
Nisha is RingCentral’s vice president of corporate communications. She would like to caution that, her remote work success notwithstanding, her productivity plummets if she tries working from the beach.
Originally published Oct 10, 2013, updated Apr 18, 2021