why one start-up won’t let people work from home, March Madness is killing your productivity, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now: March Madness’s impact on your productivity, one start-up’s reasoning for not letting people work from home, and more. You can read it here.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonsie

    I’m earnestly trying to read the Entrepreneur piece to give this guy a fair shot but it’s like nails being dragged down a chalkboard hearing this same packaging of a face-to-face preference as a rebellion against the decay of communication in the face of modernity. If that’s how they want to run their company, sure, but spare us the “people just use chat speak instead of really talking to each other” junk please. Is everyone you’ve ever met really incapable of having a fully expressive conversation in writing? Really? And you hire those people?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to want to have an all-local staff that is primarily sitting in your physical office, just leave it at that.

    1. fposte

      I didn’t see it quite that way, and I went in ready to hate anybody who names their company “Uberflip.” I thought he had a legitimate point that people are likelier to respond collaboratively face to face rather than the kind of rote “I hear you” responses of IM and email. I didn’t see it as about about chatspeak per se.

      1. Connie-Lynne

        People are more likely to respond collaboratively F2F in an environment that does not support or promote WFH. However, I worked remotely for a virtual world company for many years, and by our very nature we had to support remote workers. We were definitely collaborative and innovative. My current team, at another company, is very collaborative, and we all work whereever we happen to be (two are based out of Chicago and I’m based out of SF).

        You do need in-person time to ramp up and make the initial connections, and you should come together regularly to help keep these connections strong, but mostly what this Randy Frisch piece is is a repackaging of the standard reasons CEOs give for not letting people work remotely.

        If he doesn’t think collaboration and innovation are possible remotely, and more importantly he’s not laying the groundwork now that is necessary to make them possible, I wonder what he is going to do when his company opens a second office? It’s the same skills.

        1. Colette

          There’s a big difference between a group that is set up to work remotely and one that has a couple of people who sometimes work remotely, in my experience. If the bulk of the team is in the office, remote people will miss out on any impromptu hallway discussions. If the bulk of the team works remotely, those discussions will take place online and it’s not an issue.

          1. Connie-Lynne

            Colette, I partially agree with you.

            I’d add the caveat that if the workplace has set up a culture of including remote workers, the remote people at least tend to get looped in to the hallway convos, even when the majority of the team is located in the office. This is why I’m so opposed to forbidding WFH and why I think folks need to build up a remote work culture at the start — what do you do when half your team is in one location and half is in the other, if they’re not already used to looping in people not around?

      2. Anonsie

        But he specifically said exactly that!

        I fully acknowledge that I am way crankier about this today that I probably should be, but I was ready to have to concede I am just being a crankasaurus when you reminded me his company is called “Uberflip.” For god’s sake.

        1. fposte

          I didn’t read it that way. Here’s the quote: “Our dependence on instant messaging and shorthand updates have decreased our likelihood to brainstorm, opting for a quick WTF or LOL, rather than an attempt to build off a crazy idea. We’re so quick to reply to a pending message that we can easily overlook the importance of hashing it out or bringing an outsider into an impromptu chat.”

          It’s about the speed and brevity, not that it’s chatspeak. A quick “OK” would be the same problem.

          1. fposte

            To be clear, I also think he’s a buzzword-generating goof, and I think it’s good to have some work at home opportunities available.

            But I totally agree that it comes at a cost, and it’s a challenge to hit the spot where the gain is more than that loss.

          2. Connie-Lynne

            Of course, that’s a problem of his teams and his management not encouraging building off of brainstormed ideas, not of the tools he’s using.

            My remote teams would come up with the most outlandish ideas in chat, then top each other figuring out ways to actually implement them.

            I might be a little passionate about this subject. *grin*

      3. Anna

        The biggest thing to me was that the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer ended WFH when she took over and everyone’s reaction was that she was some sort of cruel ogre overlord when her reasoning was exactly what this guy is saying.

        1. VintageLydia USA

          Yeah no that’s different because she was BETRAYING HER GENDER and SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE and DISCONNECTED FROM THE NEEDS OF HER SUBORDINATES but this dude is revolutionary and awesome and this totally makes business sense but see he’s different because reasons!

          (Those reasons are in his pants.)

          For the record, I think nixing WFH out of principle is ridiculous, ESPECIALLY in most tech industry jobs where often productivity can be killed by distractionsimeancollaborations than not.

          1. Anonsie

            (Those reasons are in his pants.)

            +1

            When he does it, you know, it’s just business sense.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

          I see what you’re saying but in that case I think part of the outrage was that it was an existing privilege being taken away, whereas it seems like this other company never offered it from the start.

    2. AMT

      I agree. It’s kind of like the managers who think they need to monitor their employees’ bathroom breaks. The bathroom breaks are not the real problem and neither is working from home. If your team isn’t communicating and collaborating, putting them in the same building isn’t going to help.

      Bonus points for the paragraph about telecommuting employees “opting for a quick WTF or LOL rather than an attempt to build off a crazy idea,” which I think is code for “I don’t understand the kids and their Skypes and baggy pants.”

      1. Ann

        I’m trying to think of a scenario where I would respond to a colleague’s idea with “WTF.” Is that something that people really do, or is this one of those theoretical things that has a one-in-a-million chance of actually happening?

    3. Laurel Gray

      And beyond people being able to express themselves in writing. Think about how many office environments across America there are where people show up every day and don’t even use common greetings toward their colleagues as they pass them. The room and time for collaboration is available and people just sit through meetings sketching in a notebook or texting under the table or reading sports high lights. I too can’t stand this argument.

      1. Cat

        But that only says that some companies aren’t doing a good job fostering collaboration in person, not that it’s inevitable. I’m biased here because I work somewhere that does a lot of in-person collaboration. We have one person who regularly works from home (rather than doing so when kids are sick or waiting for a repair person) and honestly? It is much, much, much harder to work collaboratively with her when she does so. The contrast is marked.

        That’s not to say that everyone will experience the same difficulties under every circumstances, but I’ve seen first hand that it can definitely be an issue.

          1. Stephanie

            Or Startup Buzzword Drinking Game.

            “Making the world a better place”=finish your drink.

            1. College Career Counselor

              At the end of the day, when the rubber meets the road, you’ve got to service your stakeholders.

              1. Ann O'Nemity

                Our thought leaders center is focused on new ways to future-proof the consumer space through out of the box deployments of impact.

            2. James M.

              I have a cabinet filled with brainstorming tools. When I pull them together to collaborate, I achieve innovative outcomes that are always best in glass.

        1. puddin

          But…But… Game Changing collaboration happens every day at my No WFH place of employment. We change the game ALL THE TIME! We collaborate our azzes off – especially when its a food day and the sign up sheet is passed around.

          Seriously that is the most intense collaboration I have seen lately…potluck sign up sheets.

    4. iamanengineer

      Some people tend to place too much stock on collaboration and bouncing questions off each other as benefits without noting the cost – distractions and loss of focus on projects. Yes it is faster for me to ask someone for a piece of information than to look it up myself. It also takes me a while to refocus and pick up where I left off after I help someone. Bouncing ideas off each other can turn project focused workers into task driven workers. It’s fine for a short time like a brainstorming meeting, but constant interruptions can impact long term projects and project quality.

      1. esra

        Yessssss. As someone who tends to have 2-3 big, very time sensitive projects on the go, being surrounded by people who deal in quick one-offs is a waking nightmare.

        “Can you just…” is the beginning of everything terrible.

    5. Connie-Lynne

      I am also impressed that someone who so values innovation and thinking out of the box would not have figured out that he can still send his “three adorable kids” to daycare on WFH days.

      1. Anonsie

        Don’t even get me started on that little jib, the subtext oozing from all seams that says “You kids think you want to work from home because you don’t know what it’s like in the real world for real adults. Synergy.”

  2. Xarcady

    I’m a curmudgeon. I have serious misgivings about the way our colleges and universities are used as farm teams for football and basketball, and ethical questions about the players admittance, and how they are “helped” to pass their courses (speaking as a former grad student and TA Freshman English). I don’t follow those sports at all, at any level.

    Yet I’ve been pretty much forced, at two different companies, to join in on the March Madness, or be labeled the dreaded “not a team player.”

    For the sake of those employees who really do not care, please keep any and all sports-related things in the workplace to a minimum, and completely voluntary. Opt in, rather than opt out.

    Or start giving figure skating equal time in the office with football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, baseball and soccer. Either one.

    1. _ism

      The same could be said for keeping grandkids out of my workplace. We don’t talk sports here, but the other women are obsessed with their grandkids. Their children bring the grandkids in for extended visits with no notice, the grandmas all stand around and coo, and some will actually call a number of other staff away from their desks to come and see the babies. And in that time nobody gets any work done (except me, who does not care for any of it).

      In fact the same could be said for whatever it is in any workplace that isn’t work that people assume everyone is into and focusing on. Some non-work things just seem to get a pass because the majority finds them acceptable and pleasurable.

    2. AmyNYC

      Did you see John Oliver’s piece on college sports this weekend? If you’re curmudgeonly about March Madness, I highly recommend it

      1. Cath in Canada

        Yeah, that was a great segment. I <3 John Oliver.

        I don't watch basketball at all, so all March Madness means to me is that I get grumpy because a lot of my favourite TV shows go on hiatus for the duration.

        1. Xarcady

          Yes, that’s another thing I get grumpy about. Jeepers, I sound like a horrible, grumpy Scrooge, but I assure you it’s only about sports. I wish I could find a non-sports-fixated country to live in.

          1. Cath in Canada

            I don’t think that exists. Just different sports. Although I think it’s only the US (that I know of) that cares about college sport – everywhere else I’ve been it’s pro leagues only.

      2. Stephanie

        “You can play in administrator mode, where your only job is figure out how to stay a nonprofit!”

      3. UK Nerd

        As a Brit I find the US fascination with college sports utterly baffling. Nobody cares except the people playing the sports. The only exception is the Oxford/Cambridge boat race, and even that one’s primarily of interest to people who actually went to Oxford or Cambridge.

    3. LQ

      I don’t follow at all either but the bracket we use here has nice handy rankings so I just take about 5 minutes run the rankings through as appropriate, then I get labeled as a team player.

      I do wish that work could just be able work but I’m glad it’s 1. free, 2. only requires about 15 minutes. At some point someone will say OOOOo LQ you’re out of the rankings and I’ll be aww shucks then back to work. If I was required to pay to participate I’d take the “not a team player” stamp.

    4. illini02

      I’m a huge sports fan, so I’m on the opposite side as you. The problem is with “keeping it to a minimum and voluntary” is that you will then have people who claim that they are being excluded because EVERYONE wasn’t invited to play. Even when you say you were forced, a bracket takes all of 3 minutes to fill out, then you could never pay attention to it again. Did it really affect your life that much.

      1. Xarcady

        If one is opposed on principal to the sport and how it is played/managed/revenues handled at the college level, yes.

        One email inviting everyone to participate is a minimum, but should be enough so that no one can complain they weren’t invited. Or, you know, banning the office pool entirely would have the same effect.

        Going desk to desk, pressuring people because someone wants 100% participation from the department or the company, making announcements over the paging system whenever a game is won, that’s what bothers me.

        At one job, at a small family owned company, I was apparently the only hold-out. The owner decided it must be because I didn’t want to spend the money, so she paid for me and filled out the form. She thought I’d be happy. I was not, but this was my direct boss, so I felt unable to explain just why I didn’t want any part of the whole thing, or explain how upset her action made me.

        1. illini02

          That does seem excessive, even to me. But I do think in general, when its something a majority of people in the office would be interested in, it can be good to find a good way to work it into the office.

    5. Mike C.

      That, and not paying the athletes really, really pisses me off. Single year scholarships that can be yanked away if they get injured on the field/court/whatever? That’s not a fair exchange, that’s exploitation.

      1. AHP

        I think this (paying student athletes) is something that will happen in the relatively near future. Because players have the right to retain their identities now, universities are going to start paying them to use them. Also, it’s not the university that sets these dumb rules that limit how they treat their athletes, it’s the NCAA.

        I think the reason for there being single year scholarships is primarily so the team could invite more players. If you have 14 full scholarships and you give 10 of them to stellar athletes, you divide the rest amongst other athletes you want to see how they perform before giving them all 4 years.

        1. Mike C.

          Yeah, the NCAA is really a miniature FIFA or IOC, isn’t it?

          I would argue that colleges who participate in NCAA sports are complicit in their shenanigans, but collective action is obviously difficult to do.

  3. Sparrow

    Working from home – I feel like there should be some leeway given for occasional work from home time for illness or service appointments. Maybe you’re not feeling well enough to come into the office, but you can still get some work done. Or if you have one of those “between 8-12” appointment windows. It seems silly to lose day or productivity or vacation time for situations like these.

    I’m sure part of it also has to do with the type of job. I work in one state with a couple of co-workers, but my boss and other co-workers are in three other states. The majority of my communication is done via email and conference calls, so it doesn’t make a difference if I am physically in the office. My company has a very open and relaxed work from home policy. Also, our laptops have a good VPN program so I can use my laptop and still have access to the company intranet and other programs. I’m lucky that I’m can take care of life stuff while still having the ability to keep up with work stuff.

  4. BRR

    For #2 He wrote an article that should be titled “Concerns I have about telecommuting.” If a lot of his employees would like this he should be figuring how to make it work for them. People are going to love suggesting new ideas there.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      But how can they come up with new ideas if they aren’t collaborating in person?!

      /sarcasm

  5. C Average

    The Randy Frisch piece kind of made me mad.

    OK, so you are a buzzword-loving twerp who can utter sentences like “as a team, we are limitless” with an apparently straight face. Rock on with your twerp-hood, my little friend.

    But surely your company employs coders and writers and other folks whose day-to-day work is, at its essence, not collaborative work. Why not let them work from home? Why create a whole policy based on the collaboration preferences of a few extroverts at the top? That’s silly.

    Your smart knowledge workers (as well as your potential contributors who have scheduling difficulties, transportation issues, mobility limitations, etc.) are going to leave you for a place that accommodates their differences and preferences. And your cookie-cutter approach is going to net you a bunch of buzzword-loving twerps just like you. But hey, maybe that’s the whole idea.

    1. KJR

      Some how, some way, I WILL find a way to use “Rock on with your twerp-hood, my little friend” sometime today. It will happen.

      1. C Average

        Please let me know how this goes! (And I must say, I smiled to myself as I wrote that sentence. Surely some of my best work.)

        1. KJR

          I must admit I keep picturing myself saying it to my 15 year old son…it’s been one of those weeks!

    2. Anonsie

      I’m highly extroverted, I don’t particularly enjoy working from home, and I still wouldn’t want to work for this guy.

      Even if he did have a totally open telecommuting policy, I don’t know if I could afford the ophthalmology bills that would be generated by my eyes trying to roll-pop themselves out of my head every time he talked.

      (Crankasaurus today, seriously.)

      1. Stephanie

        LOL. Yeah, these tech startups are ridiculous some times. I interviewed (over the phone) for two different roles at one of the big tech companies and was trying not to roll my eyes at the number of times the interviewer said “life-changing.” Admittedly, my background is in a far more traditional industry where no one had any delusions that we were doing game-changing work.

        1. Anonsie

          I think it may behoove people to spit out the our-mildly-convenient-tech-product-is-changing-anything koolaid.

          If you’re ever curious how deep this runs, I’ve had multiple people on multiple occasions tell me my work is a pittance compared to their game-changing-paradigm-shifting startup that is going to do things and make a real difference. You may recall I work in a hospital.

          1. Mike C.

            I like to remind my tech friends that when my company’s main product crashes, it hits the front page of every newspaper in the world.

    3. JB

      I agree. I think there is value in having face-to-face interactions. It’s easier to casually bounce ideas off of someone you ran into in the hall or break room but hadn’t previously thought to consult–that happens to me several times a week. You can built a rapport with someone who doesn’t come across as warm over electronic media. I have several coworkers who are great people I connect well with, but I wouldn’t know that if I’d only worked with them remotely.

      But that doesn’t mean everyone always has to be in the office for collaboration to occur. There may be legitimate reasons for not wanting your employees to telecommute, but his inflexible approach sounds, as others have said, like an excuse for micromanagement.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        At the same time, I work in an office where no one works from home, everyone’s onsite, but people barely talk to each other. It’s one of the least collaborative environments I’ve ever been in (and I am one unhappy extrovert). Having everyone onsite doesn’t automatically mean collaboration happens.

        I agree that working for that guy = buzzword hell.

    4. Allison

      “But surely your company employs coders and writers and other folks whose day-to-day work is, at its essence, not collaborative work”

      I think you hit the nail on the head. The problem is, if he’s managing the business end, *his* role is collaborative. He’s going to meetings all day, his every day tasks involve chatting with people in other departments to get stuff done, ensure things are getting done, and to make sure everyone’s up to speed on what’s going on. He may be so wrapped up in his role that he might forget that not everyone works that way. He may not realize that there are people working in heads-down roles who may actually be more productive if they’re not constantly being visited by their co-workers, pulled into meetings, and generally being forced to overhear other people’s conversations.

  6. Marissa

    I’d be interested to know what their ‘sick day’ and vacation policy is. Do they allow their employees more time off to compensate for the mandatory office attendance? Many people work from home for various legitimate reasons (either because they’re sick but work just has to get done or their kids are sick or the weather has hindered their commute) and on varying schedules (occasionally, once/twice a week, all the time because they work remotely out of town).

    1. KJR

      I have the utmost respect for anyone who can get a decent day’s work done with kids in the house. I would like to know their secret.

    2. baseballfan

      I don’t agree that mandatory in-office time deserves more PTO. If you are working from home, you should be just as much on-task. Otherwise, this takes apart the entire argument that people can be just as productive working from home.

      My former employer has a pretty liberal flexible work arrangement policy, but if you are full time (or 80%, or 60%, or whatever), then you are full time. Benefits don’t vary according to where the work is getting done because the presumption of allowing flexible locations in the first place is that the same amount of work will get done.

      1. Colette

        Sometimes the choice is between “be at home giving 80% due to illness” or “be at home doing no work at all” – being in the office giving 100% isn’t on the table.

        1. Marissa

          +1 That was exactly my point. Thanks for highlighting it!

          If I MUST be in the office because it’s company policy, but I am sick, I’m not going to be able to come in. Therefore, I’ll end up taking/needing more sick time. BUT, if there is a WFH policy in place, I’m going to try my best to do as much work my body will allow while being comfortable.

      2. Anonsie

        I think the difference is in accounting for times that you could be telecommuting for all or part of a day but instead would be forced to take the time off. For example, waiting around all morning for a repair person, you could get in some hours of work rather than take them as PTO.

        Or if you’re just somewhat under the weather and if you could stay at home you could be on task but once you have to get up and deal with your whole commute you get to work drained and end up not being as productive since you’re worn out. Or running an errand midday that could be your lunch break from home but would be a half day from your work site.

      3. Just Another Techie

        I think the idea is if you aren’t allowed to WFH to, for example, let the cable guy in, you have no choice but to use PTO, because you still have to be home to let the cable guy in. So you’d have to give your employees more PTO, because otherwise they’ll be resentful that they couldn’t take that week long vacation to the bahamas because you forced them to use all their PTO on drudgery like letting the cable guy in or dropping the car off at the mechanics.

    3. fposte

      This makes it sound like coming to the workplace is some outlier demand, though, that employers need to compensate for. And I don’t think that’s true–I think it’s still the expectable norm.

      1. Connie-Lynne

        I… would argue with you about that being true _for this guy’s specific industry_, which happens to be the same one I’m in.

        In tech these days it’s pretty much assumed that, unless you work for Y!, your company allows remote work. Mostly because, well, the best employees aren’t going to come work for you if you don’t, because it’s clear that most of the jobs don’t require you to be a butt-in-a-seat every day. And nothing gets engineers so up in arms as policies with the deadly combo of “makes their life more difficult” and “for no reason than that it gives the execs warm fuzzies.”

  7. Allison

    I totally get wanting people to physically come into the office during normal work hours, and to not want to hire remote/telecommuting employees or give people the option to work from home regularly (like a certain number of days per week). To be honest, working from home can be nice, but even I prefer being physically present in meetings to dialing in, and I like talking to someone face to face instead of over the phone. BUT, he needs to realize that:
    – Stuff happens. Weather happens. Illness happens. Cars break down. No system of public transit is 100% reliable. There will be times where someone shouldn’t be expected to come to work, and allowing them to work from home may be better than either forcing them to “suck it up” or “find a way” or take PTO and not get any work done at all. If he’s going to be a stick in the mud about this, he’d better give people plenty of paid time off to compensate.
    – By limiting himself to people who can commute to the office, he’s limiting his potential talent pool and that’s going to make hiring for some of his engineering roles difficult.

    1. oaktown

      Yeah, but he seems to be okay with that (your last point) and I am okay with him being okay with that. I don’t like his ‘techbuzzpeak’ and I wouldn’t want to work there. But I think he is doing it 150% right when he says they communicate clearly about their policy throughout the interview process. So, he is getting employees who are okay with or even agree with their concept of work and collaboration, and people who are not happy with it are clear about their policy and can make sure not to work there. Win-Win! This is how EVERY company should be. Make clear decisions about your culture andthen communicate them clearly to your candidates, everyone will find a place to work where they are happy! #WINNING

      1. Allison

        Yes, he is getting employees who want to work in the office, my concern is that when he wants to hire someone with a niche skillset with industry experience, he probably goes to the recruiting team and expects them to deliver him some candidates within a couple weeks. The fact that no such beast may exist in that geographical area may not concern him, but it should, because if he hassles the recruiting team (or whatever agency he may be working for) for candidates that don’t exist, he’s setting them up to fail and it means his staff may not grow as quickly as it should, because they needed this engineer a month ago and the position still hasn’t been filled. It’s a recipe for disaster.

        If, however, he’s open to hiring candidates in other geographical areas, or at least open to relocating people, he stands a better chance of being able to hire people with the necessary skills to grow the business.

  8. Stephanie

    I think I am actually the rare exception (or at least it feels that way) of someone who has no desire to work from home. I will concede that I’ve yet to have a living situation where working from home was easy (I’ve always lived in small places with roommates or family), I’ve mostly had very introverted coworkers who kept to themselves (so I could easily go a full workday without interruptions or talking to anyone), and I’ve always needed a physical separation between home and work (even in college, I mostly worked at the library or in a lab). And I did have a boss who was entirely remote and we had a lot of communication issues (some of which I think would have been mitigated if we were actually in the same office).

    That is to say, eye roll-inducing techspeak aside, I can see this guy’s point. But I don’t know if a blanket ban is good, either. (And like I said, I think I’m might be in the minority in not wanting a WFH situation.) Sometimes you need to meet the UPS guy or the repairman, sometimes you have a cold and don’t want to infect everyone, and so on.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      I’m allowed to WFH when needed: kind of sick or waiting for a home appt. But I agree. I’m a geek but I still need some social interaction. In addition, I’m on a distributed team, with co-workers in 3 other states. And it’s sometimes hard to be a team. There are things we learn from each other by seeing the other’s work. It’s hard to explain, but I can tell there is something missing. I just returned from working for a week with co-workers in the closest state, and I learned a lot! Not all of it was planned — some of it was that serendipitous sharing, the “wait, what did you just do? How did you do that?” that you won’t get when working remotely from your co-workers.

    2. EditBarb

      I had the option to WFH at my old job, and never took it–I really enjoyed being around my coworkers. At my current job, 6 weeks in they started renovating the office and I was forced to WFH for 4 months. In some ways I loved it, but it made it very hard for me to connect with my coworkers and the organization itself. I currently WFH twice a week, and it’s a good balance. Being able to talk to my coworkers in person and physically attend meetings is very helpful for me.

  9. NavyLT

    I’m always fascinated by the work-from-home discussion. As you can infer from my extremely original username, I’m in one of those jobs where working from home really isn’t possible, and I don’t see how it’s a big deal to go into work every day. I’ve done conference calls/VTCs/chat, and while it’s certainly possible to get things done that way, I find it faster, easier, more spontaneous, and more effective to have a face-to-face conversation. If you can get work done from home, there’s no reason to have to take time off when, say, the cable guy’s going to be there between 10 and 6, but I don’t find it unreasonable to have the default be to show up at the office.

    Obviously this is just me talking with zero personal experience working from home, and zero desire to do so. So, out of curiosity, has telecommuting become common enough that this guy is really an outlier who is being unreasonable? (Also, I wouldn’t want to work for him either, mainly because I’d be worried that he would want everyone to speak in buzz words.)

    1. Allison

      I wouldn’t say that he’s an outlier, but he’s behind the times. In this day and age, most companies are catching on to the idea that if a person’s job duties don’t require them to be physically present in the office – as in, they’re mostly at a computer all day and aren’t interfacing with clients or running around from meeting to meeting – it’s silly to require them to be in the office all day every day with no flexibility. And if a position doesn’t require that presence AND it does require a niche skillset, it’s a good idea to at least consider remote candidates for the job.

      And I get it, this is America, we’re all free to do what we want and have our preferences and structure our businesses however we see fit, but I’m also allowed to say that his approach is short-sighted.

      1. fposte

        Is it really “most companies,” though? A New York Times article from last year suggests that it’s 38%; another source in the same article, looking at fewer companies, found an even lower rate.

        That’s a significant amount, but I don’t think it’s enough to make it a norm.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Yes, but tech startups probably are more likely to support telework because tech jobs are usually much more flexible with respect to time and place, unlike, say, service jobs, where you have to actually be there to do the job. I can do my job from anywhere with an internet connection, but even if I was allowed to telework as much as I wanted, I would want to have face time with my coworkers and collaborators at least 2-3 days a week.

            1. Connie-Lynne

              This — it’s common enough in the tech industry that most job postings call it out if you have to work from the office, rather than the other way ’round.

              The assumption is that you’re allowed to work remotely at least a portion of the time.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          Right. When I was looking for work about 3 years ago (ages ago, I realize), I was looking for telecommuting jobs (since more than 62% of the local jobs didn’t allow it, and most weren’t hiring anyway). Most of those that advertised telecommuting still required you to live in the area where the offices were.

        2. Just Another Techie

          Within some fields it is most companies though. As a programmer, I’d honestly be shocked to find out a company I was interviewing with had a no WFH ever, not under any circumstances, rule. I’ve never seen that, or even heard of it, and it would definitely be a deal breaker for me. And I don’t work from home on a regular or scheduled basis, but I do end up working from home on average once a month or so, a bit more often in winter, a bit less in summer.

    2. NavyLT

      Thanks for the replies; that all makes sense. I’m a little out of the loop as far as normal civilian workplaces go (it’s been 10+ years since I last looked at my resume or thought about job interviews), and I like reading AAM because there seem to be voices of sanity here. I definitely appreciate the good info to pass on to people who are getting out and joining the real world for the first time.

    3. gy = c

      I’m in one of those jobs where working from home really isn’t possible

      But I hear they’re working on it!

      The article was meh. I’m sorry, I know I sound like a douche saying this, but WFH is something I know a lot about: doing it myself, helping other people do it, even studying people doing it. My biggest criticism about the fellow who wrote that article is that he’s going all-or-nothing on it. In truth, F2F and WFH both have their place, and if there’s any kind of optimal arrangement, it involves an appropriate amount of each .

      And, frankly, whenever management puts their foot down and says “NO WORK FROM HOME!” it is almost always a reflection on how the management views their workforce. “No Work From Home” is another way of saying “We Don’t Trust You To Do Your Work”.

      Oh well. It is what it is. The day will come when some critical system goes down at FlippenUber, and the only person who can fix it is on their honeymoon in Acapulco, and Randy will call the person and she’ll say “I’d love to help you, but unless I’m in the office, I can’t brainstorm or otherwise properly communicate with my co-workers”.

      1. Connie-Lynne

        Heh, I once made my boss drive to the datacenter to repair a machine on a Saturday night.

        “I believe I am speaking to the man who told me last week that not contracting remote hands was never going to be a problem. Also it is Saturday, and I am not in a state that would legally allow me to drive.”

    4. Kyrielle

      After my company moved the office, my daily commute went from 20-30 minutes round trip (barring disastrous weather events, 30 was the max) to being 90-120 minutes.

      I value the ability to not make that hideous commute. But my husband’s job didn’t move at the same time, good school system, kids, owning our house – lots of factors made “move to the job” not a good option at the time also. (I’m looking at it now, but…well, vaguely, because moving a household with two full-time working adults and two small children is not a small undertaking, let alone also having to sell a house to do so.)

  10. James M.

    Reading between Mr. Frisch’s buzzwords and considering his company’s product (CMS curator), I’m inclined to believe that he has either had unsavory experiences managing remote workers or has heard one too many horror stories about remote workers. Remote work is relatively common in the tech industry and many companies manage it well.

    I think the “no WFH” policy is more about culture than about any buzzword-laden excuse.

  11. Ruth (UK)

    Ok, I am the only person who has never heard of March Madness? (it sounds like… ok I don’t even know what it sounds like).

    PS. a google search brings up some acronyms and wiki reckons it’s either to do with basketball (or a tv package?). I’m not sure I’m getting the right search results (as I can’t think anything work/business related to do with the term?)

    1. Ruth (UK)

      wait nevermind, it actually IS basketball (I’ve noticed there’s a picture of a basketball accompanying Alison’s article).

      (I still fail to see how basketball has anything to do with anything but whatever)

      1. De Minimis

        It’s like a World Cup for college basketball!

        We’ve already gotten our yearly “Absolutely no March Madness pools, betting, or watching online at work” e-mail.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      Yep, March Madness is the annual U.S. college basketball playoffs. It’s an immensely popular tournament spawning a sorts of small-time gambling pools. It’s become so popular that many people with zero interest in college basketball get involved in the betting pools.

      All the talk about the games and the gambling can impair workplace productivity, which is the connection to work/business.

    3. gy = c

      You’re not alone. I was born and raised in the US, I live in Texas. I think I heard of “March Madness” for the first time maybe 3 years ago? But I was born without the Sports Gene. It totally blows my mind that people will spend massive amounts of money for tickets to a sporting event. Or even larger amounts to buy a team. I think it’s something like how I like music, maybe. Except I’m pretty sure that when someone who likes music a lot gets rich, they don’t run right out and, like, buy Nine Inch Nails. (I guess I could buy a record label, though?)

      Also – speaking as an outsider to all of this sports stuff – it just kills me when there’s a drug scandal in some sports league. People are shocked (!) to discover that some sports figure is using recreational or performance enhancing drugs. Someone once said to me: “Can you believe it? Lance Armstrong lied!” This person was not trying to be funny.

      Anyway: March Madness? I haven’t a clue. The name sounds like something dredged up out of the shallows – there are no depths – of some PR / marketing firm’s Creative Hype team. I’m going to guess there’s some kind of office betting pool involved, too, but (for what are probably obvious reasons) I never get invited to participate in such things.

      And yeah, I think it’s basketball. But I sure wouldn’t trust me on that.

      1. De Minimis

        My wife isn’t into sports and she didn’t know what it was either, and couldn’t believe it has such a major effect on work productivity.

  12. MT

    I don’t understand why people care what policies companies put in place. You can either choose to work for a company or not to work for a company. If you don’t like a companies policy, then either find a new company or start your own. Wheneve i see these conversations it reminds me of parent who judge how other parents raise their kids.

    1. Sue Wilson

      …because what is industry standard becomes important for a whole host of calculations (including contract negotiations and fit within an industry) and starting your own business isn’t incredibly feasible?

    2. Anonsie

      Sure, they can do whatever they want. And I’m going to sit over here and make fun of them.

    3. Kyrielle

      Ah, but how other parents raise their kids is something *my kids* might care about. They might look at what the parents of their friends are doing and hope I do or don’t adopt that practice. (“Oh, man, I hope she doesn’t give us as many chores as they have!”)

      The difference is, one doesn’t go parent-hunting. One does go job-hunting. And if the CEO touting the butt-in-seat paradigm evangelizes it to the point where a large percentage of companies use it, then people who want flexible schedules face a greater limitation in job options. We’d much rather companies went the other way.

      And, as some have said…own what you want, don’t claim it makes people “more X” unless you have studies proving it does. Because by and large, if people working remotely aren’t collaborative…well, that may be about how you are enabling remote workers to be collaborative, not about remote working in general.

  13. mt

    In my industry butts in the seats are necessary. Also the industry is very inflexible. To make up for that the pay is well above comparable level positions. We get canidates through the door who are drawn in by the pay, but think that the jobs will become work from home,becuase that is all the media wants to cover and hype it up. Work from home may work well in some situations, its wrong to say that non work from home policies are absurd.

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