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Editor at Large

Working from home hurts efficiency back at the office

Everywhere they turn, baby boomer bosses are bombarded with the notion that they must acquiesce to what millennials want in terms of work-life balance.

Flexible work hours. A socially conscious company. Working from home.

In the long run, fighting these trends is futile – as millennials ultimately will rule the business world. And, to be sure, some of these concepts are good for all concerned.

One of the ideas, though, is not optimal: working from home.

It’s been my experience that allowing someone to work from home curtails the efficiency of the supervisor, and others, back at the office. The main reason is that communications are hampered.

Here are examples from a former stop in my career as an editor.

-- Transferring phone calls to a staffer who is working at home is impossible, and you certainly don’t want to force the customer to make another call. If the staffer is at work, I can see if he is at his desk and transfer the call. If the staffer is at home, I have no way of knowing his availability at that moment.

-- Editing a story is a major hassle when the writer is not in the office. If there are issues with a story, and often there is, it’s best to have the writer with you during this heavy-duty editing. Otherwise, I call him and go through the story, line by line, reading the changes to him – a more difficult and time-consuming method because the writer cannot see what I am doing to his words.

-- Sometimes I’d call an impromptu, five-minute staff meeting to stress something important. That’s much more difficult to do if several staffers are at home. Yes, there are speakerphones, but you have to arrange for staffers to call in. More importantly, key messages are received better in person.

-- E-mail hell often results when staffers work at home. If a reporter has a question or needs guidance, he takes the time to write it in an email, send it, wait for me to read it and then type in my response and send it back. (And this doesn’t even consider how the printed word often is misinterpreted.) If three or four staffers are working from home, that’s scores of emails a day to respond to – wasting precious time. Talking in person is a much more efficient and precise way to communicate.

-- Visual communication suffers when someone works at home. An example: A page designer working at home emails a page to proof. I print it, mark it up, scan it, email it back and hope the designer understands the changes. The better way is to print, mark it up and show it to the designer in the office, talking through the changes. (It’s the same scenario with proofing a graphic.)

Of course, people who work from home will say that doing so is more efficient for them. Not sure if I believe that – some of the examples above apply to the staffer as well as to the supervisor.

Plus, not all of the advantages of working at the office are available at home. Examples include access to technology and equipment, as well as to reference books and style books.

But I’m not one to fight a trend, necessarily. Especially if someday I can work from home while wearing sweatpants or watching golf on TV or grilling burgers for lunch.

COUPLA PREDICTIONS

-- Penn State covers the spread vs. Ohio State.

-- Eagles pin the Vikings with their first loss.

-- Nobody misses the presidential debates, which were more uncomfortable than the wait staff at a chain restaurant singing happy birthday to you.

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