I spent a career working for a high-tech developer and manufacturer. In the personnel management field, I soon learned about “skunk works” and their mission in life. Although the term was first applied to engineering and development groups, it has been broadly used for any group of employees who work in teams. Team work, rather than individual effort, has become the norm of productivity. Images of a Thomas Edison at work in his laboratory are passe.
One would imagine that the bulk of the work at an Internet Service Company such a Yahoo is of this very nature, yet in a progressive atmosphere, many employees have been allowed to work from home. This is a nice accommodating policy and is especially helpful for the Mom with child rearing duties as well. However, Yahoo just made a decision that such an arrangement hurts productivity. http://mashable.com/2013/02/24/yahoo-remote-workers/ Of interest, the decision was made by a female CEO.
Now there are plenty of stay-at-home jobs available. My neighbor works full time doing medical billing and never leaves the house. Companies also have individual contributor positions. But the greater number of jobs involve face-to-face interaction with members of a team on a daily basis. This is especially true where the end product is achieved by creativity. In short, you can't run a skunk works with some of the skunks missing in action. You need to be smelling each other in the same room or work area. Believe me, recognizing an odor or a voice over the telephone are two completely different level of being close. (Pardon the smelling analogy.)
I found in my 35 year career with my company that the interpersonal communications were critical to success. I often found myself on a plane to California and North Carolina in the same week, as I had national responsibilities. There is no way I would have done an effective job using the phone. Sometimes I did forget to use my Southern drawl after being out on the West Coast.
It is a dilemma in these days of progressive policies towards employees. More women are in the work force in responsible positions. They are mothers too. And yet, sometimes all the skunks need to be in the same room is you are going to be productive. After all, it is a skunk works.
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