Yahoo’s Work From Home Fail

Working moms everywhere are no doubt aware of the dustup this week over Yahoo’s new policy banning working from home. In an age where telecommuting is the rule rather than the exception in many companies, this move shocked and horrified business leaders. At my company, gyro’s Rick Segal even wrote an article in Forbes on why this is a bad move. Just look at the SERP for “yahoo work from home” and you’ll see why this is a disaster.

As a working mom myself, this issue hits home. I’ve worked from home for over 5 years now, for 2 different companies. I currently work for a company that’s based in a different state from where I live. It’s no big deal. My coworkers know I’m just a phone call, email, IM, Skype, or FaceTime away from them, and report that it’s not very different from me being in the office. From a work standpoint, I’m as productive as anyone else – if not more so. At home, I have a quiet environment in which to work, free from the distractions that come with an office.

I start my day when my kids leave for school at 7:30, and am usually done shortly after they get home at around 4pm. It’s a conscious move on my part to spend my most productive hours when no one is home to distract me from the task at hand. At the same time, I get many of the same benefits as stay-at-home moms – I’m here to see my kids off in the morning, and am here to greet them when they get home.

That’s not to say I never have calls or meetings when they’re here – I do. And that’s not to say I’m never in the office – I was there most of this week! But the flexibility is what counts.

I have to believe that Yahoo is going to lose good employees over this decision. After all, the digital space is uniquely suited to working from anywhere, any time. That’s the way work is these days – are we ever really not working? Why hamstring people by telling them they have to haul their butts into an office every day?

I’m thankful to work for an employer that embraces working from home.

As a working mom, Marissa Mayer should be ashamed of herself.

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Yes, You Can Do SEM From Home!

Everyone knows that telecommuting has become more commonplace lately – even more so with gas upwards of $4 per gallon. And yet, a surprising number of companies here in the US have not yet embraced the work-from-home concept.

For me, working from home most of the time is a must. In addition to being a PPC pro and working on a lot of great clients, I’m a busy wife and mom with a full life outside of work. I live about 80 miles from our company headquarters, so rather than make the 3-hour daily commute, most of the time I work from home. This way, I’m more productive (and I stay sane).

More productive, you may ask? What with all the distractions calling my name: house work, the TV, the stereo, the Wii, my children…..

First off let me say that I hate house work, so that is not a distraction at all. I watch almost no TV. My kids are at school 8 hours a day, and I save RockBand for the weekends. But still, it can be challenging to stay productive without the watchful eye of a boss or coworker staring me down.

So what does it take to be successful working from home? Here are the keys for me.

Act like you’re going to an office, even if you’re not.

Believe it or not, I get up at 5:30 in the morning, even though I have no commute. Partly that’s because my kids are out the door by 7:20 am, and I want to see them off – but mostly it’s because I still get ready for work, even though “work” is at home.

Get up at the same time every day (it doesn’t have to be 5:30 – that’s just what works for me) and get dressed in decent clothes. Eat a good breakfast. Fix your hair and put on makeup (OK, that’s just for the gals out there – right?). Put shoes on your feet. Yes, shoes. You wouldn’t go to the office in flip flops or bunny slippers – so don’t wear them at home.

All of this preparation puts you in the right mindset to approach your work day in a professional manner.

Establish a set workspace.

I know people who can work an entire 8 hour day sitting on their couch with their laptop in their lap, or hunkered down in a coffee shop. And in many ways, that’s one of the biggest benefits of working from home – you can pick a spot that’s comfortable, and it can be a different place each day.

For me, though, I need a real desk, with a real desk chair and a real keyboard. Yes, my work computer is a laptop, but I use a port replicator to enable me to use a full-size monitor and ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Working with a laptop in my lap at search conferences is fine, but doing that day in and day out, for me, is a recipe for unbearable back and neck pain.

But I digress. The point is, have a regular space to work, even if it is your living room. Again, you’ll be in the right frame of mind, not discombobulated from working in a different space every day.

Establish set working hours.

Another great benefit of working from home is the fact that your work is always there, so you can do it whenever you have a chance. This is a boon for busy moms like me who might have to cut off early for a school event, or take someone to the dentist in the middle of the day – it’s easy to catch up early in the morning or after the kids go to bed.

But this can backfire on both ends: it can be tempting to short-change your work for all the other stuff in your life; and it can also be tempting to work every spare minute of the day (and night), just because it’s there.

Don’t fall into either of these traps. Establishing regular work hours not only helps you maintain a work-life balance, but it lets your coworkers and clients know when they can get a hold of you. That’s not to say you can’t ever stray from your normal hours – work life and home life both demand this at times – but having a set schedule will keep you from getting that 10pm call from your boss wanting to chat about an idea, or an 8am call from a client while you’re trying to get your kids onto the school bus.

By establishing a few simple routines, you can be even more productive at home than in an office. And for me, that’s the key to being wealthy. (By the way, if you value the work/life balance at all, Sugarrae’s recent article on taking her life back should be on your daily reading list.)

For tons of great articles on working remotely, check out Web Worker Daily. Their blog is another daily must-read for me.

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3 Indispensible Tools In My Home Office

As many of you know, I’m the Online Marketing Manager for Fluency Media, an Ann Arbor, Michigan based internet marketing agency. I live in Lansing, which is about 80 miles from Ann Arbor – and no, I don’t make that commute every day. Most of the time, I work from my home office.

I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to work from home. Not only do I save time and the environment by not driving 160 miles every day, but I get to see my kids off to school every morning and greet them when they come home in the afternoon. I also have the luxury of large uninterrupted blocks of time to manage PPC accounts.

I wouldn’t be so successful if it weren’t for the great tools in my home office. While these tools may seem obvious to many of you, I’ve heard from a surprising number of individuals that don’t have all of these tools – so again, I know I’m blessed.

#1 – My cell phone. Like I said, while a company-provided cell phone may seem like a given, it’s really not. I know more than one home worker who has to use their own landline for work, or their personal cell. While I’m sure they’re reimbursed for these expenses by their employer, it’s still a pain. My phone is nearly 3 years old, and it’s just a cell, not a Blackberry or smartphone. Still, it’s small and durable – I’ve fumbled it in parking lots and on tile floors more than once, and it comes out without a scratch every time.

#2 – My laptop. Again, seems like a given, but not everyone has a company laptop. My HP is my main PC, so I can take it anywhere. On the days I go to the office (about once a month), I just set it up at my desk there. If I’m at a conference or in a client’s office, I can still get work done. I’ve gone to coffee shops & wifi cafes more than once for a number of reasons – power or internet outages at home, family stuff that’s distracting, or whatever. If you work in an office and your power goes out, you’re screwed. For me, I pick up my laptop & my cell phone and drive 2 minutes to the local Biggby, grab a latte, and keep going without missing a beat.

#3 – My corner desk & laptop docking station. When I found out I’d be working from home, I needed to create a workspace. While our house is a decent size, the floorplan is pretty open; and I didn’t want to take over any of the main living spaces. We have a small dining room that we weren’t really using, so we turned it into my office. We found a great corner desk that doesn’t take up much space, and fits nicely next to a big window that overlooks our back yard.

I think people overlook the value of windows in office spaces. Our Fluency office has huge windows, so it’s not an issue there. But I’ve worked in plenty of places where most of the employees are stuck in cubicle hell with nary a window in sight. It’s depressing and dreary. What’s even better about my home setup is that I’m looking out at our own yard instead of a parking lot or industrial space. I love it.

I also have a docking station for my laptop, which enables me to connect a full-size (albeit old-school CRT) monitor, an ergonomic keyboard, a mouse, and a printer. Laptops are awesome, but they’re not very ergonomically friendly. The docking station makes it feel like I’m using a regular desktop computer, and it’s way more comfortable.

Incidentally,if you work from home, you really need to read the WebWorkerDaily blog by GigaOm. Many of the posts are geared toward freelance workers, which I’m not; but it’s an indispensable resource for even infrequent remote workers. In fact, this post was inspired by this post on WWD.

What are your favorite home office tools?

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