Yahoo, telecommuting, focused work, and higher ed

There’s been a good amount of chatter over Yahoo’s kibosh on telecommuting. They’ve called everyone back to the office. Work from here, or don’t work. 

Some people think it’s great. Others think it’s a move backwards. A few things stand out:

  • Every workplace is different. Programmers who can be evaluated on productivity and lines of code may not need the same office environment as other jobs.
  • Environment matters. Some part of creativity comes from serendipitous conversations and connections. There’s something about connecting face to face with your coworkers that makes a difference.
  • Sometimes, to do good work, you need an environment where you can focus. This article hit home for me. It’s great to work from home, but it’s also frustrating to try to do good work from home if your work requires concentration. Sometimes it’s best to go somewhere, be present, and do your work. Then go somewhere else, be present, and do whatever you do when you’re not working.
  • The author says it better here: “Look, I don’t know what Marisa Mayer is thinking. I’ve heard her workforce is lazy–telecommuting for no good reason at all. I’ve heard her called draconian, a traitor to mothers, to parents, to her generation. And I don’t really care what she’s up to at Yahoo, whose raison d’être has been in doubt for more than half the company’s existence. But I do know that I like to work at work—it lets me separate that me from the other me, the dad I am when the sun goes down from the guy who’s charged with steering a publication into the future. Neither my family nor my co-workers should have to deal with the other guy. I certainly wouldn’t want to.”

I wonder what relation this has to the online vs physical university trends we are seeing in higher education. For some people, working at home works. But for others, going to a place with other people for a focused time makes a difference. 

Looking at undergraduate education, non-traditional students can benefit from how online options allow them to fit education into an already full life. And we absolutely need to rethink how the traditional undergraduate experience is shaped. But the physical environment – around other people, working together for a purpose – still makes a difference.

Maybe it’s not for everyone, but for some groups, the environment and experience can make a real impact on the outcome.

Get started early. Let your mind get to work.

Fred Wilson shares profound advice from his father about problem solving and subconscious information processing:

“He explained that I should start working on a project as soon as it was assigned. An hour or so would do fine, he told me. He told me to come back to the project every day for at least a little bit and make progress on it slowly over time. I asked him why that was better than cramming at the very end (as I was doing during the conversation).

He explained that once your brain starts working on a problem, it doesn’t stop. If you get your mind wrapped around a problem with a fair bit of time left to solve it, the brain will solve the problem subconsciously over time and one day you’ll sit down to do some more work on it and the answer will be right in front of you.”

I know this works for me when I actually do it. We’re in the process of moving right now, and I’m amazed how my mind is working on different ways to arrange our stuff and charting our moving day plans as I’m doing things like making dinner or sleeping.

(Via SwissMiss)

Life lessons from a three-month-old: time to refocus

When our kid was just a few months old, everything was new and overwhelming. He couldn’t handle much stimulation or input for very long. He’d begin to get disorganized – flailing about and fussing. He couldn’t focus and his emotional state quickly went downhill.

It doesn’t change much when we get older.

Sure, we hide it better, but most of us need some time during the day to refocus and recenter on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Maybe we’re flailing about in our to-do list – bouncing from project to project (or blog to blog) not really getting anything done. Or maybe we’re getting fussy in our relationships – hitting that afternoon slump and not really treating people like we truly value them.

Where do you need to get organized so it’s possible to focus on what’s most important?