Friday, March 1, 2013

The Working Life

By now you may have heard the uproar about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer requiring employees to report to the office rather than working from home.  There are certainly many arguments for and against the policy, but the absolute worst argument is that work-at-home employees nap all day while office workers are pillars of productivity.

As a computer programmer, I’ve worked in a corporate setting for over 20 years. For the past ten years I’ve worked from home, going into the office usually only once a week, so I think I'm in a good position to provide detailed summaries of both realities. Let's take a look at a typical workday for me at home (the real “me,”) and me in the office (“me” being a composite of the many office-mates I’ve had through the years).

Working from Home

7 a.m. - 4 p.m.

7:00: I sit down at my desk in sweats and a t-shirt with a cup of coffee, activate my computer.

7:05: I scroll through my work emails to see if anything urgent happened since I logged off the night before. If not, I pull up my personal emails and respond as needed.

7:15 - 8:30: I scan my newsfeeds via twitter to see what happened in the world while I was asleep.

8:30 - 9:00: I check the weather forecast etc., warming up to the idea of thinking about maybe getting to work.

9:00 - 10:30: Procrastination over, I actually work.

10:30 - 11:00: Work continues with a conference call. Read online newspaper during meeting.

11:00 - 11:30: Too close to lunch to get any more computer work done, so . . . a little housework.

11:30- 12:30: Lunch hour! But not really. I usually do one of the following:

A. Mow the lawn

B. Empty the dishwasher

C. Ride my stationary bike

D. Laundry

12:30 - 1:00: Eat last night’s meatloaf at my desk while working (if there’s a time-sensitive project) or scanning newsfeeds.

1:00 - 2:30: Work continues.

2:30 - 3:00: Break time: I fold clothes, clean up from lunch, or take a walk if the weather is nice.

3:00 - 4:00: Wrap up whatever work I need to finish for the day, then read my newsfeeds and hope no co-workers contact me before 4:00.

4:45: Get a call from my boss. I answer it because she thinks I might be gone golfing so she's checking up on me.

Working in the Office

8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

8:00: Park, lock my car, and head towards the building. Being parked by 8:00 is considered “on time” because it's not my fault the parking lot is so far away from my office. Plus, the elevator takes forever.

8:10: Activate my computer then head to the break room to get coffee. If the coffee pot is empty, make a new pot and wait for it to finish. No one else is there yet.

8:30 - 9:30: Back at my desk I go through work emails and then personal emails. Hearing co-workers’ voices, I wander back to the break room to hang out for a while and discuss the absence of a Starbucks in the building, how much we hate our jobs, “the Man,” and non-present co-workers.

9:30 - 10:00: Check newsfeeds while being subjected to a loud conference call that Leesha two cubicles down puts on speaker phone.

10:00 - 10:30: Go downstairs, walk outside at least twenty feet from the building, and take a smoke break with the handful of employees left who smoke.

10:30 – 10:45: Work, alternating with video games on my cell phone.

10:45 - 11:20: Attend a meeting. Everyone except the person giving the presentation plays with his/her cell phone.

11:20 - 11:45: After the meeting, hang out in the conference room and argue with co-workers about where to go for lunch.

11:45 - 1:15: I win! It’s the Japanese steakhouse around the corner. Eight of us sit and watch the chef do an impressive stir-fry on the grill in front of us. We all split three slices of fried cheesecake.

1:15 - 1:20: Drop off the to-go box with leftovers at my desk.

1:20 - 1:45: Smoke break, then I take the Wall Street Journal to the restroom.

1:45 - 2:00: Back at my desk. Across the aisle Kip yawns/growls like King Kong, burps loudly, and makes other bodily noises I haven’t heard since the 5th grade. He hollers at me that he just sent me a funny video.

2:00 - 2:15: I check out the YouTube link of “hilarious cat farting.” A few other videos catch my eye, so I return the favor via an email to Kip.

2:15 - 3:00: I wander down the corridor, alert Kip to the email I just sent, pause at Rodney’s desk, and we discuss either:

A. Our previous night's league softball game

B. Fantasy baseball or football

C. How much we hate our jobs, “The Man,” and non-present co-workers

D. How hilarious that “cat farting” video was that Kip just sent

3:00 - 3:15: The afternoon’s flying by so it’s time to multi-task: Coffee break and smoke break.

3:15 – 3:45: Get afternoon work done while wearing headphones and posting IM status as “busy” so no one will bother me before 5:00 quitting time.

3:45 – 4:45: Catch up on Facebook, twitter, and my gaming forum.

4:45: Time to leave! Woo-hoo!

4: 46: Get a call from the boss on my cell phone. I ignore it; she should have called me on my work phone before I left for the day.

So yes, there are advantages to working from home. Although, I would argue that my typical work clothes are a step up from the “casual” office-wear I’ve seen some of my co-workers show up in. But all in all, the idea that you can measure productivity by the number of hours that someone “shows up” is absurd.

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