Working From Home

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Human Resources professionals are notorious for vetoing the idea of flexible work arrangements, working from home, workshifting, and results-oriented workforces. We assume the worst about human behavior. We believe in old-fashioned concepts like face time and Monday morning meetings in the conference room. And we say things like, “Given the chance, employees will slag off and do the least amount of work and maximize the total amount of ‘free time’ they have to pursue personal endeavors.”

I said something like that — in 2002.

And I was an idiot.

I believe that team cohesiveness is important. I know that some work is neither project-based nor able to be accomplished via Skype. And sometimes you need to see people in order to communicate properly. I also know that some of that shit is overstated. Unless you’re a factory worker or physically responsible for manning some kind of location-based business, much of what you do for ‘work’ doesn’t require the acquisition of commercial real estate to support you.

And it doesn’t require eight hours in the office.

We have such stupid notions of work. It should define us. We should be physically and mentally aligned with our team. The best relationships are formed at the water cooler (and not over Yammer). Working from home can be isolating and we need the energy of the team to be creative.

Right.

When I hear people criticize working from home, I ask some questions.

  • If a job can be accomplished in two hours/day, do we have our compensation packages crafted properly?
  • And so what if an employee is efficient and manages his time better than you?
  • If employees work from home but communicate poorly, what does that say about the job we’re doing as leaders to ensure that ideas/concepts/status reports flow smoothly in the organization?
  • Can technology help? Has technology been oversold? What are some commonsense practices we can implement to communicate more effectively?
  • Have we hired adults?
  • Can we document / measure performance and fire people who suck?

And conversely, I’m all about questioning the concept of working from home. People do slag off. And sometimes ‘working from home’ it’s pushed a little too heavily as a ‘benefit’ because our companies can’t attract and retain talented people without it. Do we spend too much time talking about culture and flexible arrangements because we need a fun ’employer brand’ to cover up for the fact that our products and services can’t compete in the marketplace?

Working from home can be isolating and ineffective — and it might not work for some companies — but it’s less disruptive than you think. And you will always reap rewards when you hire people who have a work ethic and a commitment to operational excellence. Those people will never suck no matter where they are physically located.

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