I have a little rant tonight. Since I work from home, I’ll be careful not to trip over my oversized pajama pants or lose my fuzzy bunny slippers when I step on the soapbox.
After my 5:00 AM workout wakeup call this morning, I turned on the news to hear about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s ruling that employees can no longer work from home.
As of June 1, Yahoo! employees must report to the office or lose their jobs. According to the leaked policy changes, associates need to be present and working side-by-side to increase communication and collaboration. Mayer wants employees to be present in their (corporate) offices, having hallway and cafeteria discussions, and meeting new people.
For what it’s worth, I must disagree with Marissa Mayer. As a professional writer who works from home, working outside of the office has increased my communication and collaboration skills and let me meet new people beyond the cubicle walls.
First- working from home demands rethinking methods of communication. Since I’ve only worked from home for around 9 months, I remember the days of seeing friends in the hallway or parking lot, chats by the water cooler, and lunches in the break room well. 95% of our conversations in those areas had nothing to do with work.
My coworkers and I still have the same conversations we normally had at the water cooler- only on instant messenger, through texting, and using social media. Gone are the days of Yahoo! 15 years ago, when people went to chat rooms to “meet” friends- social media involves networks now, networks of colleagues, friends, classmates, and family members. Some workplaces frown upon social media, but most of us won’t wind up on MTV’s Catfish by occasionally using Facebook (especially at a tech company where we already know the secrets they expose). Most of us are socializing with meaningful people in our lives.
Second, when you work from home, collaboration can be an adventure… and has made me a better writer. In an office, collaboration is easy. You have vocal tones, facial expressions, and body language that can paint an accurate picture of what you want to say. Working remotely, those are luxuries. Most of the time, I only have text- and with the exception of ALL CAPS YELLING, I must use that text to accurately convey my message.
This isn’t a bad thing- after all, I’m a professional writer. The end users who read the instruction manuals, training guides, and articles I write don’t have my voice, face, or body to make them comfortable with a product. What do they have? That’s right- the text.
As a writer, I use text to instruct an audience- those who purchase and use our products. But, who IS my audience? Our end users aren’t always the relatively young, college-educated, middle-class, technology geeks who are on the other side of the cubicle walls. Administrators who develop software on the side read the instruction manuals I develop. So do administrators who struggle to keep up with the ever-changing Facebook interface, along with those who don’t text or touch a computer outside of work.
Feeling slightly inspired by the Brad Paisley song, working outside the office gets me out of my “Southern Comfort Zone”. Interacting in a shopping mall, fast casual restaurant, coffee house, or track practice is completely different than interacting in an office or sitting behind a desk all day. It’s neat to sit back and just watch people go about their day, and as a writer, you have to be a student of people. By working remotely, in a completely different and new-to-me city, I’ve met a plethora of people. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect my writing- the key to writing for a diverse audience is to surround yourself with one.
I’m glad I don’t work for Yahoo (Of course, I really love my current job and have no desire to leave anytime soon). Between the rise of Google and social media, I agree that they must do something to keep up. Just like Yahoo’s glory days of the early 2000s are fading, so are the days when most people work in an n8-5. What worked yesterday doesn’t work today and will be obsolete tomorrow.
The tech industry isn’t a slow neighborhood jog. It’s a marathon at race pace- constantly moving forward, progressing, and changing in the long run. Either push the pace, change with it, or get left behind and forgotten- just like those Geocities webpages we young techies played around with in junior high.