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Entrepreneur: Can't work from home? I quit!

  • Sarah Evans is a work-from-home entrepreneur and mom
  • She says Yahoo's decision to take away the option of working remotely will hurt productivity in the long run
  • She fears that as a role model, Marissa Mayer's decision sent the wrong message that will create a domino effect
Entrepreneur: Can't work from home? I quit!
Sarah Evans

Editor’s note: Sarah Evans is the "Chief Evangelist" at Tracky and owner of Sevans Strategy, a public relations and new media consultancy. She's the author of [RE]FRAME: Little Inspirations For A Larger Purpose. She is on Twitter.

Each year in the United States alone, more than $1.4 trillion is lost in productivity. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a traditional office setting or in a local coffee shop: If you’re not productive, then you’re not productive. Finding a better way to work should be a company’s priority -- not telling people where they can do said work.

When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently announced that employees who regularly work from home need to start coming into the office or find a new place to work, I was on edge. No, I’m not a Yahoo employee. What I am is a business owner and new mom who works from home 70% of the time.

I was on edge because I think it sends the wrong message, in particular, to working mothers. Why? Because Yahoo is punishing all for the mistakes of the few. It’s an ultimatum, and no one truly wins in these cases. Even if people choose to keep their jobs and return to a full-time office setting, they may be sacrificing more than we know on the home front.

Mayer is a powerhouse. A role model. Working mothers, including me, look to her for inspiration on what is possible to achieve in the professional world. When Mayer, or any leader, forces employees to change their work style because the company was allegedly not managing remote workers well, it’s a full two steps back on the work/life balance front.  

My fear is that Yahoo’s decision will start a domino effect, resulting in other companies who will follow their lead based on fear.

If Yahoo is doing away with remote workers, perhaps we should, too? That’s not a question I want other businesses to ask. Instead, I want them to focus on how they can create the most productive environment for their employees and a happy workplace. Yes, happy. America’s happiest companies also make more money. It’s not a coincidence.

Now, the working mothers who are also high performers are forced to make a decision that could impact their family life and employee satisfaction. If their satisfaction goes down, it’s highly likely that their productivity and quality of work will, too. That’s not something that Yahoo needs right now. And, if these same people choose to pursue alternative employment, Yahoo is off-boarding the wrong people.

We no longer live in a 9 to 5 world.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops allow anyone with an Internet connection to create a fully functional mobile office. From my iPhone alone I can scan, create an invoice, sign a document, manage tasks, access the company’s private documents and even conduct a face-to-face meeting.

A study from Stanford University found that work-from-home employees are more productive than those based in a traditional office setting. Maybe it’s because those who work in a traditional office setting are interrupted, on average, every 3 minutes. And, when interrupted, it takes 23 minutes before they can get back to what they were originally doing.

Take on productivity, not a new work ultimatum.

For the past six months, I’ve tracked my productivity out of my home office and while traveling. I was able to do this because of remote office best practices I’ve discovered over the years. The caveat is that a remote employee must be able to manage his or her time and resources, which, for highly productive working mothers, is a cinch.

Here are my tips for better managing your workflow from a remote office:

TIP 1: Update your superiors and team members throughout the day. My team is updated continuously during the day in an ongoing discussion thread. There’s never a question as to whether or not I got something done.

TIP 2: Find your optimum office environment. Mine is a space that:

-Allows me to concentrate, without interruption
-Inspires creativity (as I work in a creative role)
-Allows me to cook breakfast and dinner for my family

TIP 3: Give yourself the option of privacy. An office door that shuts, preferably with a lock, is essential (especially if you have other people in your home).

TIP 4: Use a project management platform. There’s no better way to protect your work-from-home status than through project management. It will help reduce miscommunication and allow work groups to truly collaborate.

I would love for Mayer to retract that announcement, admit it wasn’t the right direction, and focus on the people who aren’t performing to their full potential. Then, reward high performers with the continued option to work from home.  

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