In a recent article on SMH, Bellinda Kontominas spoke about how more employees wish to work from home, while employers are fearful about the fact that they may do less work. Of course, there is merit to her statement that some employers are cautious, but the latest figures from Global Workplace Analytics are undeniable: More people are telecommuting than ever, with an increase of more than 62% in government employees working from home, and an increase of 70% in for-profit employees. The number of state government employees working from home increased by over 122%.
Emily Tappel from Mugsy PR says that employees work better from their own spaces, and as an employer, you will not know unless you try.
Granted, some employers out there have legitimate concerns about allowing employees to telecommute. However, as the co-Founder of Mikogo, I am a big proponent for allowing my employees to work from wherever they are comfortable (and productive, of course) and when it makes sense for the business. Ultimately, providing your employees with more freedom, could increase their job satisfaction and productivity. Of course, not all employees are able to self-motivate, which is why it is crucial to employ the right people in your team while putting structures in place to ensure that they bring the expected value to the table.
Jay Steinfeld covers some fantastic ways in which you can set boundaries while at the same time maintaining a culture of excellence in his article on Inc.com.
When an employee asks me whether he or she may work from home, I follow this process:
1. Decide whether working from home is a viable option
I personally think a team works best when they can stick their heads together, i.e. they are all in the same room or office and can get work done together. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, because:
- valuable team members move to other cities, or
- sometimes you want to hire a great talent, but they’re not ready to move close to your office, or
- sometimes too much time is wasted in long commutes.
In such cases, working from home is a good option (not the best, as I outlined in my first point, but the second best).
2. Set clear expectations and boundaries
Making it work isn’t as easy as it looks; it’s easy to get distracted when working from home, and being alone at home. Being close to the sofa, bed and TV can easily lead to poor productivity; it’s definitely not for everybody, but some people are as or even more efficient when they work from home. Setting clear expectations, deadlines and work hours, if required, should be done before you agree to allow people to work from home.
The setup should also be clear to everybody. Some team members might always work from home (e.g. those working in a different country); some team members might be away most of the time, but in the office 1 or 2 days per week and some team members might be in the office most of the time, but still work from home for a day per week.
There should be transparency with regards to who is working from where and when they will be at the office. If you allow team members to decide in the morning whether they will go to the office or not, it will create chaos. There will be miscommunication, and time will be wasted in terms of trying to collaborate with others who may or may not be in the office.
3. Create a reporting system for them to adhere to
Create a set of clear objectives which employees should meet, whether they work in the office or at home. If they work from home and don’t meet the objectives, the privilege of working from home should be revoked until the outcomes are met. However, as an employer, you can support your time in reaching the high performance levels you expect by providing a suitable infrastructure for communications, and whatever else they need to succeed.
4. Check in regularly and assess the process
Communication is important because remote workers miss all the chit chat at the coffee machine, therefore, regular online meetings are important. Online meetings are handy, as you can check in with your remote workers, keeping them informed and on their toes. That way, you can spot factors for concerns and address them early on to prevent them from becoming issues.
Here at Mikogo, we have several remote workers, some in different countries around the world. As a general rule, I feel that:
- Team members who live close to the office, should work in the office because that’s always best;
- Team members who need to commute for more than 2 hours every day, should consider a part-time home office arrangement, such as 2-3 days per week from home, 2-3 days in the office;
- Team members in different countries should work from home or (even better) work from a co-working space nearby, for a professional environment and fewer distractions
Ultimately, I agree with what Yung Trang, the President of TechBargains had to say on the topic: “First, working from home is a privilege, not a right,” he says. “It can be revoked if abused. Second, when you are working from home you must be available — and productive, via email, chat and phone — as if you were here in the office. Third, if working from home impacts productivity and adds to the work of others, then you must come into the office.”
Discussion: What are your feelings regarding telecommuting and remote working arrangements? Do some of your team members work from home? I’d love to hear about your experiences.