Vacation is over and so I have been thinking a lot about the workplace. Why we do what we do...
When I was Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's age, we did not talk about work-life balance much. There was a certain amount of stigma about having personal needs and a home life. The technology did not support working from home (WFH). As a young working mom, I did ask to work part-time and after being shot down for that radical idea, and then, after asking if I could WFH occasionally, I was told the liability risk was too much for the employer - if I tripped at home, they would be held responsible. I soon moved on to another job that allowed me to work part-time so I could spend more time at home. It was a double whammy because I felt "less than" at work while still feeling the pull, and the longing, to be full-time at my new vocation: mother.
I'm all for improvements in productivity, for communication and collaboration, but sometimes working from home, or working at odd hours, is the only way to get things done, the only way to keep the interruptions at bay. And our technology easily supports this now. And thankfully WFH, in many environments, is more commonly accepted and supported.
I'm still wincing about what Mayer decided - that working side-by-side is the only way to excellence. I disagree. I'm convinced that higher employee engagement is a result of the flexibility we offer our workers - that working remotely, even in modest amounts, can increase employee satisfaction, improve productivity, encourage engagement, inspire loyalty.
Organizations with motivated and energized employees make an extra effort and tend to be more creative. Did somebody forget to tell Mayer that stigma-free flexibility might just help her company? That YAHOO means just that: You Always Have Other Options.
Or else...we could just move to France (still dreaming about Europe anyway). Apparently the unions and employers have agreed to a legally-binding deal about that obnoxious and necessary work tool we call "work-related email" - employees are now banned from checking in before 9 am or after 6 pm, in order to protect their 35-hour work week. Along with their cheap, fresh, ubiquitous baguettes, this work-life balance is looking like a pretty sweet option!