Saturday, August 18, 2007

C U When U Get There

IT has announced the work-from-home policy and site strategy we've been hearing about for the last year or so. There we no real surprises, and most of the rumors were accurate. There are preferred locations for IT work around the world, and everybody is expected to be in the office at least 4 days/week, with one day as a work-from-home day (with your manager's approval). Having higher numbers of IT people at specific sites makes a lot of sense. You get more density of people at a single location, likely working on similar projects.

The idea that everybody needs to be in office 4 days/week is raising a lot of questions. We haven't gotten a good explanation why someone who doesn't have any peers or internal customers in their office can't work from home most of the time. If you have a job where you're working by yourself or are always on the phone, how can it possibly make any difference where you sit? These situations are rare, but the new policy comes across as "because we said so" rather than something based on logic or reason. I get that allowing someone to work from home sets an expectation that they may always be able to do so. And it puts managers in the position of having to answer questions of "why her and not me?" and "what will it take for me to get a work-from-home job?" So from the perspective of consistency, this makes sense, but needs to be better communicated.

It's also kind of funny. Years ago when IT and eBG starting moving our jobs offshore, they told us that it didn't matter where people sat, and that since we were all connected we could work from anywhere. "This is the future" they said. Many of us were not convinced, and complained that by breaking up in-tact teams it would be more difficult to get work done. That not being able to solve problems with small, co-located work groups would slow us down. That the kind of brainstorming breakthroughs we take for granted when face-to-face would not occur on the phone. We were convinced that efficiency, team affinity, quality, and results would all suffer.

"Nonsense!" they said. "You guys are stuck in your old office-bound mentality. If you can't make this work, then you don't want this to work! In the Internet age people will be working from home, or on the road, or anywhere else they can get connected." But now the reasons they're giving for wanting everyone back in the office are exactly the reasons we gave for not waiting to send work offshore: lack of efficiency, poor teamwork, and bad results.

As we watch the slowly moving pendulum of irony swing back the other direction, you have to wonder if JJ and those on IT staff have any sense of how absurd this all seems.