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SOUND OFF: Does Working From Home Really Work?

SUCCESS talks to 7 entrepreneurs on making working from home...work.
Emily J. Mitchell

When news broke that Yahoo would enforce a no-work-from-home policy, CEO Marissa Mayer fielded a media firestorm of passionate responses and rebuttals on both sides of the argument. What are the benefits of working from home, and can it actually work, or does it have the potential to backfire and promote laziness and inefficiency? Join the discussion below and share your thoughts about telecommuting.

 

Why does telecommuting work for you?

Dave Heinzinger, Director of Communications at inMarket

“My company is based in Venice Beach, Calif., and I am our New York City guy. It is a waste of time commuting in both of these places; in California on the freeway, and in New York City on the subway. Working from home is helpful when a time difference is involved between offices, allowing flexibility with hours and time zones. With a home office, you can focus on meeting deadlines and being productive if you have a dedicated place to work and get yourself into a work mindset. You do lose basic office camaraderie, personal communication and co-workers to run things by, but we use Google Chat constantly for quick questions that don’t require an email.”

 

What benefits do you enjoy by working from home?

Emily Sidley, Senior Manager of Publicity at Three Girls Media & Marketing Inc.

“I’ve been telecommuting for Three Girls Media for almost five years now, and two huge personal benefits have been being able to move several times without losing my job and a lot of schedule flexibility. I became a mom about four months ago, and because I telecommute, I’m not faced with the decision so many parents need to make: not work and lose the salary, or work and spend most of the income on childcare costs. Telecommuting has definitely gotten easier and easier as technology improves.”

 

What tools help telecommuter-friendly businesses succeed?

Todd Murphy, Vice President of Universal Information Services

“To work remotely you have to have two things in place. One, people you trust and two, a culture that embraces good management of remote workers. You can’t just give remote workers an assignment and then let them go. Weekly huddles, at a minimum, help you get a feeling for what type of remote workers you have. Using online communication tools like Yammer help remote workers feel like they are part of the whole, as opposed to working from an island. The fundamentals are the same and it depends on if your company has a good culture, a winning strategy and the infrastructure to support the execution of your mission.”

 

What strategy should managers take when managing telecommuters?

Chris Goward, Founder and CEO of Wider Funnel

“I believe in giving freedom and responsibility and following it with performance measurement. To make it work, the work needs a high degree of accountability for project deliverables, independent work tasks, trusted employees and commitment to use communication tools like Skype video, Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting video-chats regularly. The downside is that some people will abuse the system. You need to identify and deal with problem areas quickly.”

 

What are the negatives of working from home?

Steve Gumm, Chief Marketing Mechanic at 18 Stories: The Idea Factory

“The negatives are countless, but ultimately all of the negatives fall into the hands of leadership and the ‘work from home’ plan. Employees getting distracted, not finishing work, loss of culture, lack of camaraderie or momentum are all the result of a poorly laid out stay-at-home plan. It’s very easy to ‘fall asleep at the wheel’ when you can’t pop into someone’s cube or launch an unplanned meeting. But if the plan is sound and your team understands their role and what they are accountable for, stay-at-home work can be amazing!”

 

Why do you support working from home?

Cary Prewitt, Chief Gunslinger at Guns and Oil Brewing Co.

“I feel working from home is a way to attract and keep the best of Gen Y talent. Businesses are changing, and offices are trying to keep up with the times by being more open, friendly and less departmentalized. As the CEO, I also frequently work remotely. When I am in the office, it is hard to stay single-task- or goal-focused in the office when working on solo material. I find a lot of my best material comes out when working remotely without the distractions of working in the office.”

 

What is the key to making telecommuting work for your small business?

Karen Kerrigan, President of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council

“There are innumerable success stories and models demonstrating that flexible arrangements are a win-win. They work. There is a mix of both innovative and traditional ways to enable collaboration, and they are driven by common sense. Obviously, technology plays a key role in this—Skype, private social media platforms, and good old common sense in scheduling weekly meetings or as-needed conference calls or ‘touch bases.’ Most of the business owners who we work with who use work-at-home arrangements have regular staff get-togethers or may require that the employee spend a day or two in the office each week. That is why we call these arrangements ‘flexible’—there needs to be flexibility on both ends to make it work.”

 

SOUND OFF: What’s your experience with working from home? Does it work or do you find yourself having to defend your time? What’s the most common misconceptions about working from home?

Post date: 
May 6, 2013

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