• author
    • Marla Pugh

    • March 3, 2013 in Columnists

    I work better without pants

    I write this column as I work from home. I am pant-less as well as bra-less. I type while reclining in my easy chair with my cat napping at my side.  I have a little dry oatmeal splatter on my T-shirt from the breakfast I ate this morning. I’m saving it for later.

    I work from home every Friday. It is a perk of my current job. It’s also one of the main reasons I am still remotely sane – although the picture I just painted of myself may suggest otherwise.

    I live in the Silicon Valley and although my job is a mere 27 miles away it usually takes me one hour each way to commute. One day this week it took me two hours to get to work. When I finally arrived I was not only more violent than usual, but I also had to pee so badly that I ran by security in 6 inch heels, pushing a meek engineer into the wall to get to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to drive the two hours BACK to my house to change my pants.

    I blame the exceptionally bad traffic this week on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who has banned all telecommuting at her company. All those Yahoo employees who used to be happy at home in their underwear now have to get dressed and get behind the wheel – further clogging up my commute and adding to the road rage.

    Here in the Silicon Valley, telecommuting is not a luxury. In many ways, it is a necessity. Very few people live right next to their work. If you are living with a significant other, chances are you both commute and live somewhere in between your jobs. People also change jobs here more frequently, which can change or lengthen their commute.

    But it’s not just about traffic. Most companies continue to demand more from their employees in a still-struggling economy where it is difficult for them to justify adding more people. The expectation is even when you aren’t supposed to be “working” you are still “connected” – via BlackBerry and laptop – so you can respond whenever necessary. Business also demands it – especially when you are dealing with customers in different time zones and in an industry that is constantly changing. Even if a company’s policy is to not work from home, you end up working from home on weekends and evenings in order to do your job well.

    Which is also why the people I see in the car next to me stuck in traffic have that exhausted, on-the-edge, I-could-totally-drink-a-martini-even-though-it’s-only-9-a.m. look in their eye. They are mentally DONE. Between the commute to the office, picking up the kids, stopping at the store, making dinner, doing the necessary household chores, checking their e-mail, and finishing that report at midnight, they are lucky to be getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep before it all starts again. And god help them if they want to nurture any relationships. There’s no time for that kind of frivolous behavior. Screw the people I love, I’m tired.

    Telecommuting is like everything else – it works in moderation, and it works when it is managed properly.

    I think everyone understands the value of face-to-face time with the people you work with. Even if you hate your co-workers, you can be more efficient about showing your hatred when you see them in person. After all, flipping off an e-mail just doesn’t give you the same satisfaction of flipping off a human being. Also, ideas tend to grow and flourish when people are under one roof where they can banter, watch each other’s reactions, and feed off of each other’s creative energy.

    But there’s also something to be said about having uninterrupted time for projects and detail-oriented tasks. I get more done on my Fridays from home because I don’t have Sue stopping by my desk to tell me how mad she is at the new parking policy or Bob stopping by to ask me – for the third time – if I want to buy Girl Scout cookies from his daughter. Having one day where I can focus, and save two hours on the road, helps me be a better employee, I believe. And it also makes me less likely to smack either Sue or Bob.

    I hear you mocking me. “Sure Marla, you say you’re a better employee – but aren’t you supposed to be working RIGHT NOW?”

    There’s a party-pooper, finger-pointing goodie-two-shoes in every crowd, isn’t there?

    Yes, I’m supposed to be working, and HAVE BEEN except for the hour it took me to write this – an hour I also used to suck the leftover oatmeal off my shirt and chase it with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s an hour I also like to call LUNCH. So get off me, kill-joy.

    Besides, it’s up to my manager to pay attention to whether I’m getting my job done or not. If I don’t make a deadline, produce shoddy work, or don’t answer my phone when she calls because I’m writing columns and watching reruns of Roseanne all day, it’s my ass. As it should be. But if I’m getting the job done well and on time, does it matter if I did the work half-naked in my living room with an empty jar of peanut butter next to me?

    Working from home should be a privilege that employees earn and respect. It also should be limited so people still know what their co-workers look like. The problem at Yahoo was that it was neither of those things.

    The bigger problem at Yahoo is that they let things get out of control. Employees performance suffered, and as a result the company’s performance suffered. But the knee-jerk response by Marissa that no one should telecommute  AT ALL does not solve that problem. It just changes the geography. Without a change in how people are managed and held accountable, my guess is that the people watching reruns of Roseanne at home during the week will just find a new distraction when forced to come into the office – like watching You-Tube videos of cats on their smart phones. The people who weren’t abusing the privilege and used telecommuting as a way to keep sanity in their lives without jeopardizing their work performance will just be more tired and frustrated and in need of that 9 a.m. martini. They will also be less likely, I’m guessing, to give Yahoo any extra time than is absolutely necessary. And that won’t help Yahoo either.

    • Very well said Marla. I had a management job full-time which necessitated long hours and lots of extra work. After a year I found I could do the job in half the time if I worked my own schedule. After a couple of years I asked for reduced hours and 3/4 pay for about 20 hours a week less work. They agreed and I started my own schedule. When I left a few years later to explore other avenues they needed one full time person and one assistant to replace me. Wasteful spending in my mind since I had done it all with much less support. Funny how that works. Some people are just so much more efficient when they work their way. And of course there are others who waste so much time it becomes more than full time work. I think working from home works for many but for others as pointed out to me, they abuse the time and the business suffers. Working for myself for years made me aware that this is the only way for me. I am my own boss and no one puts this baby in the corner.

      • Carolyn Wyler

      • March 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm
      • Reply

      I think if you are forced to go into the office at least five days a week the company should allow a pant-less bra-less day one day out of the week! Enjoyed your column.

      • davidlacy

      • March 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm
      • Reply

      Hell yeah, great opening day column for iPinion!

      • Maya North

      • March 3, 2013 at 8:36 pm
      • Reply

      Oh, I’m with you! It has to be a balance–accountability but with the respect for the human needs of the employee. If you don’t have both, you either have business failure or you have employees who hate their jobs and their employer. I’d call that a lose/lose. Like it or not, businesses of all stripes have to realize they have *people* working for them, not convenient and fungible automata who run quite well until their keys stop turning.

      Well written, well said, and right on!

      • Matthew Najmowicz

      • March 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm
      • Reply

      They were talking about this topic on Slate Political Gabfest and on the Sunday political talk shows. I think the ban on telecommuting will only be temporary at Yahoo.

      I think the thing to realize is that Yahoo has been a rudderless corporation forever, so I can understand Ms Mayer’s need to crack the whip and bring everyone in.

      Also, I really enjoyed what you wrote Marla. Makes me think of the possible situations if I am ever hired in a company like that.

      • Kelvin

      • March 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm
      • Reply

      What’s funny is I saw the headline of this column in an email notification while I was out but it didn’t show who wrote it and I immediately thought, “Oh wow, Marla must’ve joined iPinion.” LOL Great opening column in classic Marla-style. Matt, I hear you about Yahoo. Some let’s say permissive companies need a shake up like that. Sometimes it needs to go the other way. Cathi’s company hasn’t had raises in years and a lot of their perks have dried up with the fragile economy so morale is low. The boss finally realized he could do things like casual Fridays, allow things like pot lucks (even have a pajama day!) and let people have more flexible hours, things that wouldn’t cost him anything but boost morale. Marla was my favorite editor at the Daily Republic She rocks! And she drinks. On the rocks.

    • Ha ha Kelvin, you know me so well (and yes, I’m having a martini right now. With no pants on). When pot lucks (bringing your own food to share) becomes a “perk” the corporate world really needs to reconsider how it treats its employees. Thanks to everyone who commented. Looking forward to more exchanges in the future 🙂 P.S. Kelvin – you were my favorite too, but I couldn’t show favorites.

      • Angela

      • April 16, 2013 at 10:15 pm
      • Reply

      Great article! I really enjoyed reading it. Telecommuting can be beneficial to both businesses and employees. It has it’s place if it is not disrespected or abused. I don’t think the ban was necessary with Yahoo. The people abusing it should have been punished, not the entire staff.

    Leave a Comment