Why I (Often) Work From Home And You (Maybe) Should Too

All of us whose jobs bleed beyond the anachronistic 9 to 5 -- who take calls in the evenings, or send emails before dawn? We are all proof that the lines between work and home are gone.
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Coffee cup and laptop for business.
Coffee cup and laptop for business.

When news feels personal, the Internet fills with stories. And because Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's ban on telecommuting hit close to home -- literally and metaphorically --everyone who has ever spent the day at home (or in a coffee shop) on their computer seems to have taken to a keyboard this week to tell their tale.

"I'm sitting writing this in my home office at 7:42am," wrote Emma Gilbey Keller, an online reporter for the Guardian. "I started planning the piece in my head at 7am when I took my dogs for a walk. I emailed three editors ...15 minutes ago and heard back immediately. On the desk next to me are this month's bills, waiting to be paid once I've finished writing."

Echoed Susan Coleman, a Wall Street Journal reader in a comment on the paper's "At Work" blog: "I can accomplish more in a three hour period at home than I can in an 8-10 hour workday in an office setting. I would think productivity and morale is greatly improved by working from home."

Even moguls like Richard Branson weighed in: "Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will," he wrote on his blog.

So is Mayer right? Are Keller, Coleman, Branson and the more than three million of us who are estimated to do at least some work from home every year (an increase of 73 percent since 2005) somehow slacking off?

Clearly not. A multitude of studies shows that telecommuters are more productive. Some data, however, also shows that the price for that productivity can be decreased innovation -- the cross-pollination that can result from in office interaction. And, it is entirely possible that the particular employees Mayer is targeting with this new edict are being neither productive nor innovative. That is not a problem with telecommuting though, and banning it probably won't solve the problem.

Every job can't be done remotely. I don't want my ER doctor to be working from home; my taxi driver is not of much value from there, either. Similarly, every worker is not inclined toward out-of-office work. When I need to get writing done I have learned not to sit at a desk; I need a coffee shop or a shady spot in my backyard. But I have co-workers who can't focus as well out of the office; the laundry beckons and their brain doesn't engage. Good management means sorting the work and the workers in the most productive ways. Mostly that means trusting your employees. The work has to be done. Doesn't it make most sense to allow a worker to do it as best she can?

After all, the question of whether people should work out of each other's sight is effectively moot. In the modern workplace, most of us already telecommute. Not always in the way that first comes to mind -- from home, every day, with limited to no time at the office. But any company with more than one office, requiring electronic communication through out the day? They are telecommuting. And anyone who has ever stayed home during a blizzard? That's telecommuting too. And all of us whose jobs bleed beyond the anachronistic 9 to 5 -- who take calls in the evenings, or send emails before dawn? We are all proof that the lines between work and home are gone.

My disagreement with Marissa Mayer, then, is not with what she did, but with the blunt instrument she used to do it. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater (a particularly interesting metaphor when applied to Mayer, who paid to have a nursery built at her Yahoo! office. Her employees can't work from home, but she can bring her home to work.) A case-by-case look at who should and should not be telecommuting makes sense. A blanket edict against the practice does not.

I work from home two or three days a week and I'm at my desk here at The Huffington Post the other two or three days a week. I determine my schedule by what meetings I need to attend and what writing I need to complete. Talking to colleagues fires my neurons during the days in the office; not commuting an hour in each direction saves wear and tear on my psyche and the environment on days when I am not.

It works for me, which, I hope, works for my employer.

Why do you work from home? Tell us in the comments or tweet your answer to @HuffPostParents with #whywfh and we'll compile your answers in a slideshow here.

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