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COMPANY CULTURE

Hey, Marissa Mayer, You've Got it Wrong: Telecommuting Isn't A Bad Thing. It's The Future

The Yahoo! chief argues that productive work requires everyone to be in the same place. She has it exactly backwards.

In February 2013, Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, ignited a not-insignificant controversy when she announced that employees no longer would be permitted to work from home.

We think she made a big mistake. Because work doesn’t happen at work.

If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond “the office.” If they do say the office, they’ll include a qualifier such as “super-early in the morning before anyone gets in,” or “I stay late at night after everyone’s left,” or “I sneak in on the weekend.”

What they’re trying to tell you is that they can’t get work done at work. The office during the day has become the last place people want to be when they really want to get work done. In fact, offices have become interruption factories. A busy office is like a food processor--it chops your day into tiny bits. Fifteen minutes here, 10 minutes there, 20 here, five there. Each segment is filled with a conference call, a meeting, another meeting, or some other institutionalized unnecessary interruption.

It’s incredibly hard to get meaningful work done when your workday has been shredded into work moments.

Meaningful work, creative work, important work--this type of effort takes stretches of uninterrupted time. It’s the only way to get into the zone. But in the modern workplace, those long stretches just can’t be found. Instead, it’s just one interruption after another.

The ability to be alone with your thoughts is, in fact, one of the key advantages of working remotely. When you work on your own, far away from the buzzing swarm at headquarters, you can settle into your own productive zone. You can actually get work done--the same work that you couldn’t get done at work!

Yes, working outside the office has its own set of challenges. And interruptions can come from different places, multiple angles. If you’re at home, maybe it’s the TV. If you’re at the local coffee shop, maybe it’s someone talking loudly a few tables away. But here’s the thing: those interruptions are things you can control. They’re passive. They don’t handcuff you. You can find a space that fits your work style. You can toss on some head- phones and not be worried about a coworker loitering by your desk and tapping you on the shoulder. Neither do you have to be worried about being called into yet another unnecessary meeting. Your place, your zone, is yours alone.

Don’t believe us? Ask around. Or ask yourself: Where do you go when you really have to get work done? I bet your answer won’t be “the office in the afternoon.”

If working remotely is such a great idea, why isn’t everyone doing it? I think it’s because we’ve been bred on the idea that work happens from 9 to 5, in offices and cubicles. It’s no wonder that most who are employed inside that model haven’t considered other options, or resist the idea that it could be any different. But it can.

The future, quite literally, belongs to those who get it. Do you think today’s teenagers, raised on Facebook and texting, will be sentimental about the old days of all-hands-on-deck, Monday morning meetings? Ha!

Over the next week or so, we’ll provide some examples of how we make a remote workforce work for us at 37signals. “Office not required” isn’t just the future--it’s the present. Now is your chance to catch up.

Reprinted from the book Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.  Copyright 2013 by 37Signals, LLC. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. For more information, go to http://37signals.com/remote/

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