Telecommuting is common, but so are the suspicions around it. Recently, corporate policy at Yahoo was modified to dramatically curtail employees working from home. And Hewlett-Packard soon followed suit. Is working from home a clever way to get caught up on one’s laundry backlog or to orchestrate a three-day weekend? Even if the intent is sincere, often the remote worker is cut off from the on-the-fly tasks that take place within teams who are all together in the same location.
But Susan Cain, who wrote the New York Times bestseller “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” has a completely different take on working alone, away from the hive. “Group dynamics contain unavoidable impediments to creative thinking,” she writes. Warren Buffet, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak are five people she profiles in her book as case studies for creative introverts. But take a look at most office layouts, especially those where software engineers work, and you will see workspaces closely situated to one another, a configuration that assumes the best work happens in groups. To be sure, teamwork is critical to many projects at the company, but perhaps the team is most productive when each member of the group can pull back once in a while for some focused work in isolation.