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Etiquette At Work

At home or in office, productivity is key

When news of Yahoo’s decision to require its employees to work at a Yahoo office instead of from home, bloggers immediately weighed in. (See my own contribution — “Did ‘Yahoo’ Just Become a Verb?” — at the Community Voices section of Boston.com.)

Comments came in fast and furious about the Yahoo decision, and broadly speaking, most fell into one of two camps. Those in support of the decision argued that (1) people do not work as efficiently at home and (2) face time is an integral and important part of the office and work-world experience. People who disparaged the decision argued equally vociferously that (1) more work gets done at home without the annoying and often unnecessary office distractions and (2) axing the commute is better for the environment.

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Who’s right? They both are. Success for people working at home only comes if they take the responsibility that goes with the privilege seriously. That means:

Treat the home office as if you are actually at the office.

ª Each day mentally, if not physically, transition from home to office.

ª Dress for work. (While some may scoff at this, you’ll be more mentally prepared to “work” if you dress in at least in casual clothes rather than in pajamas.)

ª When at “the office,” focus on work and don’t let “home” interruptions distract you. That could mean limiting interactions with kids or neighbors.

ª Clock in your full, contracted work hours.

ª Proactively stay in touch with your colleagues, through e-mail and phone calls as well as virtual meetings such as Skype, iChat, or FaceTime. And actually visiting the office is a great way to reconnect.

On the other side of the equation, managers of people working at home need to actively supervise the work of their at-home employees just as they supervise those in the office. Good managers will focus on productivity issues with employees regardless of where they work.

A number of commenters pointed out that employees who aren’t productive at home are not likely to be productive just because they’re in the office environment. So simply banning all at-home work and bringing all employees into the office may not fix underlying productivity problems. The key here is that managers shoulder the burden for supervising at-home employees as well as for those who work at the office.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.
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