Thoughts on working from home

In the last month seems that the main topic to talk about among IT start-ups is telecommuting. It all started when the actual Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announced that all company employees must start to work at the same place:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side. […] Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, […] Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

There are some reasons why those arguments could be right. While being at the same place, people tend to have closer and quicker work relations and this could speed up some projects, but this comes with some drawbacks like coworkers distractions when you need to keep focus on your duty, spending time going to the Office, ….

We all at OpenHost are working from home, and it’s not a change we did from some months, it’s more a philosophical reason for the company, we want to create the best place to work in order to be creative and improve our product, OpenNemas, and for that you need a calm scenario where your can promote “turn the light on” moments.

Obviously we do in-person meetings every two weeks for reviewing work and plan the next two weeks, but actually you don’t need to be in person to “be together”. There are a wide range of tools that can help you and your company to maintain a good customer service without being attached to a physical place, and that in fact we use every day:

  • Product/Development/Ops planning: Trello
  • Permanent connection with Google Chat groupal chats
  • Daily stand ups and important meetings with Google+ Hangouts
  • Customer service through UserVoice

IMHO, I find this working approach quite enjoyable due to flexible schedules, and the lack of distractions that could arise when you are in a crowded office. At other hand, I definitely appreciate having more time to mix the work time with  the development of my hobbies which lead me to relax and take time for thinking in important things and keep focus at work when I go back to it. Some times being apart from the day-to-day office work provides you a global sight of your product and help you to mend fences. But, don’t be confuse, I’m no trying to avoid coworker banter and I’m not a selfish monster seated down for all the day, I just enjoy keeping focus at work without distractions.

Nevertheless, not everyone could do telecommuting. You must be liable and with a huge sense of self commitment, what I can sum up into “a professional worker”. For that when hiring a new team member without telecommuting experience you have to ensure to train them about the bias of this kind of work, to maintain daily communication, you must provide them hardware and software to be up to date and work seamlessly with in-office systems, and finally include remote workers’ input when brainstorming or asking for feedback from in-office employees.

I’m really interested in the new book that Jason Fried will release about this topic that actually a recent study says that working from home for at least one day a week grew 34 percent.