Home office: 7 reasons pros and cons

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A few years ago, the then Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer asked all employees to give up their home office and in Company to work - and sparked heated discussions.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.


“Working side by side” again

The change in the world of work seems to be unstoppable - towards more flexibility, independence and collaboration even over longer distances. But dam announces the youngest woman ever to run a Fortune 500 companythat the home workers should return to the company. A turnaround?

As Kara Swisher reported on allthingsd.com at the time, the then Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced in an internal memo that the Yahoo employees should again work side by side in the company and no longer in their home offices. Your reasoning: More productivity. So it says in the memo:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed ​​and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo !, and that starts with physically being together. ”

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Do CEOs have to be role models?

Lisa Belkin sharply criticized this step in the Huffington Post - because Marissa Mayer was the first young woman, pregnant at the same time, to take over the management of a well-known company like Yahoo last summer and now has a role model role: as a young company boss as well as a mother, that combines child and career. Instead of making Yahoo a model company for family-friendly work and thus taking advantage of digital work, Mayer would do the opposite, Belkin complains.

Now it was not Mayer's job to follow a role model, but rather to run the company that was entrusted to her: This departure from her home office will have been considered well and for the good of the company: Because collaborative work may have many advantages, but it does In my opinion, the personal conversation cannot be replaced - we have already discussed this extensively at imgriff.com.

"I can't work like this"

The risk of isolation and cutting off important information is great. Mayer cites this indirectly as one of the reasons for her call. The encouragement that coworking and “coffee house working” received in many places from freelancers, to whom the blanket falls on the head at home, points in a similar direction. This goes well with the statement by Julia Seeliger, former TAZ editor and ex-member of the Greens, who, when looking for a job, says how much she would like to meet colleagues at the coffee machine again.

The question remains: what made Marissa Mayer take her step?  Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®At that time, the business insider gave some reasons for this approach, informed by a source well familiar with Mayer's thinking. I have thought a few more things about the reasons and the social impact and compiled a list of pros and cons:

7 arguments against the home office

  1. Working together is more fun: In her memo, Marissa Mayer appealed to the community spirit of the “Yahoos” and also emphasized the fun nature of the collaboration. In order to create the absolute best place to work, it is important to work side by side, she says.
  2. Exchange is important: The exchange in personal conversation is still extremely important today - despite all digital means of communication. Above all, informal conversations, gossip in the cafeteria increase productivity and creativity. Google, the company from which Mayer comes, has already successfully demonstrated how important teamwork and constant creative exchange are when developing new ideas.
  3. You can organize meetings efficiently: Of course, meetings can be annoying. However, Marissa Mayer is known for holding extremely efficient meetings of short duration. For example, she only accepts invitations to a meeting if she knows exactly what it is about and what her role is. And she wants to be able to estimate beforehand what will be discussed for how long. More on this in this article by Gregor.
  4. Communication takes time: When people work together at distant workplaces, communication takes significantly longer than when you sit next to each other in the office due to the lower media richness. For example, because misunderstandings arise more often.
  5. Home workers are not necessarily more productive: At the time, according to Business Insider, Yahoo had a large number of employees who nobody knows, who never come into the company - and who are not particularly productive. Because working in the home office is not necessarily more productive than in a concentrated work environment. Distraction by children or the household damages concentration. Missing structures also make disciplined work difficult.
  6. New forms of work do not necessarily make you happier: Those who work at home initially think they are self-determined and flexible - and seem to have achieved exactly what they always wanted. But soon the homeworkers notice that the blanket is falling on their heads at home, and new forms of work are needed. I recently spent a few days in Austin, Texas. Austin is also known as Silicon Hills as the fastest growing city in the USA with numerous IT companies. Here I noticed: The cafes were full of young coffee house workers. But also: Most people sat alone at the table and worked on themselves. Collaborative forms of work and discussions were rarely observed. That makes me think of Shirly Turkle's thesis of shared loneliness. I have also been comparing different coworking models internationally for years. Whether in New Zealand, Canada, Latvia or France: I could always see that coworking spaces were founded because the owners, usually freelancers, fell on the ceiling at home.
  7. A company needs fixed structures: CEOs like Marissa Mayer want more control over their employees - that doesn't have to be bad. A company needs fixed structures and hierarchies in order to function efficiently. If the structures are too loose, hierarchies are also formed, but in a much more non-transparent way.

7 arguments for the home office

  1. Meetings are often unproductive: If they are not structured in a targeted manner, meetings can quickly degenerate into unproductive discussion groups or become an individual's self-presentation platform. I know companies where meetings are a popular method of procrastination, because they are so much more pleasant for the boss than simply to do his job.
  2. There is more gossip than inspiration in the coffee kitchen: I already reported about Julia Seeliger's job search above. In her blog post, she also frankly wrote that she would like to meet colleagues at the coffee machine again. This motivation was criticized more than once by commentators who accused her of not having to look for work when she was looking for a job, but rather just gossiping at the coffee machine. At least, this statement shows how important the chat at work and the feeling of belonging are for many.
  3. "Working through" brings more than constant exchange: I was in Houston some time ago interviewed a rocket scientist, who held senior positions in NASA’s space shuttle program. So a very successful man. And what does he give us as a recipe for success? “Work hard and seek the challenge!” Not about: “Always exchange ideas with others!” It may be that he belongs to another generation. However: I am also most successful in my work (and incidentally also the most satisfied) if I simply work through my tasks consistently. Just to get the loose ends out of your head. Sometimes this also means isolating myself from distractions and just stubbornly following my plan. Certainly I lose some inspiration or two. But it is precisely because I focus that I also finish my tasks. In my opinion, too much exchange is disruptive. And I personally do this efficient work best at home, where I am undisturbed, and not in an office.
  4. Exchange doesn't necessarily make you more productive: Precisely because I have always boasted of the advantages of collaborative forms of work, I would like to raise the question: How productive are collaborative forms of work really? And how often is easy sense- and aimlessly discussed? As an example, I come back to the freelancers who meet with others, for example in cafes or while coworking. I assume that working together more productively is not the real purpose of these collaborative forms of work. Many simply want to be with others. And not a single owner of a coworking space gave me the basic idea that he was more productive with others or that he needed more inspiration. These aspects usually only crystallized out over time, or they were mainly a marketing argument from the start to attract customers.
  5. Who works at home works more: Many people who work flexibly at their desk at home actually do more for their company than some bosses suspect. The problem is that bosses often don't notice it and prefer to have their employees under (apparent) control and therefore right in front of their noses.
  6. It's about more control: As Business Insider writes in his post mentioned above, in more successful companies like Facebook or Google does not usually have employees work from home. In spite of their fun character, there are more efficient structures that Marissa Mayer also wanted to introduce at Yahoo! It was simply about controlling the vast number of homeworkers and also saving costs, because it is to be expected that some of the employees will actually quit.
  7. The boundaries between work and private life are becoming increasingly blurred: However, if companies want more control over their employees, it makes sense to use another tool that has already worked successfully at Google: the fun factor. Google is known for the fact that it offers its employees massages, sports rooms and all kinds of other gadgets. I remember the marble runs hanging over the desks at the Google headquarters in Hamburg, which we visited as a group of journalists a few years ago. And we concluded with concern: "Those who work in this way have no private life." Because true to the motto “We are so cool and we all love each other and we all have fun”, people are then made to work longer and more voluntarily (no one is forced!). And for some, the workplace becomes a substitute for private life. However, this much-vaunted mix of professional and private life is the wrong path of a perfidious corporate logic: the former is about making money, about efficiency and results, no matter how fun you try to make your work. On the other hand, other things should play a role in private life.

Home office yes or no? It depends on the corporate culture

How the topic of home office and virtual work is ultimately assessed depends on the point of view: For a company of this size, a certain amount of structure is necessary to keep an overview. So it doesn't have to be the worst for companies.

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However, this decision certainly has a negative effect on the quality of work, self-determination and flexibility of the employees, and they have every reason to be angry. This can also lead to a well-qualified workforce. It remains to be seen whether other companies will follow this example and reduce the achievements of flexible working methods.

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