11 Questions to Ask Employees Who Want to “Work From Home”

A simple test that allows Marissa Mayer to keep telecommuting at Yahoo.

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo! made big news last week when, in an internal memo, she told her employees that they must now come in to the office to do their work. In other words: no more working from home.

Surprising, isn’t it? Many of us are used to working from home nowadays. It’s not only a trend, but a cost-saving measure for many employers. A whole industry of remote collaboration technologies exists to help people telecommute. And besides, it’s cozy working from home. How could she be so mean?

This is how Mayer defends the decision:

… to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

She’s right. But I think she’s going too far. She doesn’t have to require ALL of her work-from-home employees to come into the office. Only the ones who shouldn’t be working from home in the first place. How can she (and you, if you’re an employer) determine whether an employee can really and truly be productive from their home office? That’s easy. All you have to do is ask these 11 simple questions.

1. Do you have a dog?
A productive home worker owns no dogs. They generally only have cats or household rodents running on a wheel inside of a cage. Their homes smell like urine and are dark even on the sunniest days. The odor and depressing atmosphere keeps all visitors and other distractions away. This makes for a sad, yet efficient workplace.

2. Do you have kids younger than high-school age?
A productive home worker ideally has no kids—but if there are kids in the picture they need to be older than 14.

3. Does your spouse have a job?
The best answer is no. Work-from-home employees with an unemployed spouse are the best kinds of employees. Their out-of-work spouses can take care of the chores in the morning while maintaining their own schedule of heavy drinking and pot smoking in the afternoon.

4. Do you enjoy pornography?
A reliable work-from-home candidate will laugh at this question and say something like, “Oh, I know it’s out there, but I’m not a porn kind of person.” If they can sound genuine when they say this, you know they can successfully lie about your lousy products to potential customers.

5. Do you listen to Howard Stern?
You do not want to hire Howard Stern fans for a work-from-home job. And it’s not just because we have the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old (we do). It’s because you can listen to the guy 24/7 online now, and it’s impossible not to be distracted when he’s talking.

6. Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit?
People who have been in lawsuits should never work from home. That’s because the first time a home-based employee turns on the TV during the day, they’ll be drawn in by the hundreds of sleazy legal ads daring them to sue Palmolive because their soap stung their eyes in the shower that morning.

7. Can we have a video chat every day at 3 p.m.?
The wrong answer to this question is: “Of course! I’m available to video chat any time of the day and without any notification whatsoever. I’m sitting here at my desk, dressed professionally all day. Nothing to hide here.” An experienced work-from-homer will say, “Not unless you enjoy looking at the tattoo of Batman I have on my bare chest.” The whole point of working from home is not getting dressed. Duh.

8. What is your position on the March 1st sequestration deadline?
Completely irrelevant. But I figured everyone else is writing about this so I might as well slip in a mention.

9. Do you own an assault weapon?
People with assault weapons should never be hired. And it’s not just because they may show up at your office door, locked and loaded and smelling like Jim Beam the morning after you’ve had a disagreement with them. It’s because they likely don’t have Internet access or even electricity where they live.

10. Who do you think is more annoying on the The View: Whoopi Goldberg or Joy Behar?
Anyone who has any opinion on this topic should never be working from home. (But it’s Joy Behar.)

11. What is the name of your mailman?
A truly productive work-from-home employee should never know the name of their mailman. If they do, it proves they’re doing more chit-chatting and less working than you’d like.