What I gained by working from home. A new appreciation for a corporate environment By Mike McCarron
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer surprised people when she recently decreed that the tech company’s employees would no longer be allowed to work from home. Never one to miss a chance to grab a headline, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, reacted by calling her decision “old school thinking.” He boldly predicted that in 30 years people would wonder why offices ever existed.
In the transportation industry, the topic of working from home seems to start and end with the sales department. In most organizations, salespeople are the only employees with the leeway to wake up in the morning and decide whether to work from their backyard patio or their cubicle that day.
Frankly, there are no clear winners in the worker mobility debate. Ultimately, employers have to decide what’s best for their own organizations. A few years ago, I had the notion that I could be more productive chasing skids by spending less time on the commute and more time working from home. Here’s what I learned when I put on my tie and ventured down to my basement office:
At the time of my “experiment,” I honestly believed I had the perfect setting: a quiet, empty house because my three teenagers were at school all day. I quickly discovered that school days are shorter than I thought, holidays and “test-itus” days are plentiful, and kids eat lunch in large packs. Bottom line, my darling children were a massive interruption to my work- day. It’s hard to accomplish anything when your kids think they have a taxi, bank machine, referee, and tutor at their beck and call. And I can’t even begin to fathom working with an infant at home. A wailing baby in the background is not very endearing to the customer on the other end of the phone.
Given the price of dirt these days, very few of us have an extra room that we can turn into dedicated office space. For me, Plan A – working from the kitchen table, the epicenter of my family’s existence – quickly proved to be a mistake. Plan B was to spend some dough and convert my basement “man cave” into a work space. Within weeks, however, my office became everyone’s office, with a distinct pecking order: kids’ homework first, Dad’s business work second. I went back to Plan A and my limited productivity at the kitchen table.
The technology devil
I was naive to think I could easily replicate the reliability and speed of the office “machinery” at my house. LMAO! I’m now convinced there is a computer devil that puts curses on every piece of office equipment I own. I dealt with one technology crisis after another, usually on days when I had the luxury of a vacant office. I learned that cell phones don’t work in basements, and when they do, the reception stinks. Since I was too cheap to get a second phone installed (a must), getting an available line became the highlight of my day.
New age of collaboration
Today, selling involves a team of “experts” collaborating and working as one. It’s essential that you draw on every ounce of expertise within your organization to educate your customers and provide innovative, compelling, win-win solutions for them.
Sales reps don’t have the expertise, facts, or often the proper incentives to drive the company sales bus alone. Working from home further isolates them and builds barriers between themselves and the rest of the team. It’s hard to collaborate with people whose names you can’t remember because you have zippo relationship with them.
If I gained anything by working from home – aside from an extra hour of sleep and 15 pounds – it is a new appreciation for a corporate environment. An office is more than simply a place where you can do your job. It’s a tool that sup- ports your sales efforts with reliable technology, dedicated space, and a collaborative environment.
Great ideas still stem from informal meetings around the coffee maker. When it’s just you, the drip-drip-drip of a pot brewing won’t help you get a stick of freight.