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Productivity and Accountability

By Steve Jones,

Recently Yahoo decided that remote work was no longer an option, requiring all workers to either begin coming into an office, or terminating their employment. As expected, it seems many tech workers were outraged, though more than a few noted while working at home is great, it isn't the best thing ever. There is no shortage of articles that support the decision, and ultimately I think, as with most things in the database world, what you think about this "depends" on your situation.

I've worked at home for over a decade; my wife for over two decades. In that time we've learned a few things. One of them is that telecommuting isn't for everyone. It's hard. We alternately struggle trying to stay motivated with understanding we need to stop working. We realize that the ability of telecommuting to work is job dependent. The more your job involves just you, the more likely it is that you can do it remotely. The more it involves collaboration, the more you'll struggle to get things done. We have also learned that periodic face-time is important in almost all situations.

There are numerous challenges that others have elicited with telecommuting, but the success or failure of remote work is measured no differently than it is in an office. If you are accountable for your productivity and complete all your work, you're a success. If you don't, you're not. It's that simple. It doesn't matter if you work in an office or never leave your house. It's about getting work done.

The people that do well as telecommuters typically do well in an office. They're just happier at home where they can juggle tasks. The people that slack off in offices, won't do well at home. We might blame slacking off on being away from supervision, but my experience is that people that don't want to work hard, don't.

I don't think the Yahoo decision was a good one for everyone, but it probably was for some. I think telecommuting is a great way to build a small team, and get work done in an efficient fashion when jobs are discrete and easily defined, but ultimately employee success comes down to each person being held accountable for their work.

Steve Jones


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