I engaged in a lively and interesting debate online (via Facebook) about the pros and cons of working from home (aka, WFH). It centered around Yahoo’s announcement that, effective this June, employees will no longer be able to work remotely.
Those who were against a WFH policy felt that it promoted slacking and disrupted a cohesive team environment. Those in support of a WFH policy (and that includes me but I do believe there have to be some standards) felt that it flew in the face of the same technology that companies like Yahoo provide and that requiring people to return to a 20th-century work environment was a morale killer of the first degree.
A few made comments that working remotely reduced accountability and performance, though no one could provide any data to support that assertion but they were quite emphatic about this nonetheless.
That last point got me thinking that the reason why some don’t support a WFH policy is that either require having people around just so that they can be productive (which sounds like an issue in itself) or that they do not trust that people outside the office are working as hard as they are (but is working hard working smart?).
So really the issue around a WFH policy is not so much WFH but ensuring that goals and performance measurement is transparent so that everyone, inside and outside of the office, can see everyone’s contributions. Actually, a real-time ticker of success (showing revenue contributions, bug fixes, etc. would be a powerful motivation and accountability tool).
Of course, if a company doesn’t have a valid measuring toolkit and its goals are not well thought-out, then maybe everyone should come into the office…to pick up their last check and head to greener pastures.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Jon! You raise an excellent point about younger or newer workers. I can see where there would be cases where being on site early in their tenure to build skills and relationships makes sense but eventually their roles and lives will require flexibility. After all, work doesn’t stop at 5:00 PM and wait for the next day anymore!
Completely agree about the coffee too…:)
Interesting article, I agree with you that issues with productivity are much deeper than simply whether or not someone happens to be in the office or not. I also agree that office buildings, crap coffee and stale sandwiches for lunch are so 20th century!
Where it becomes difficult though is where, as a manager, part of your responsibility to your staff and to the wider business is to be developing the skills and experience of your team.
While those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth can expect to be dealing with peers who are motivated, skilled and experienced, what happens for example, where you are recruiting graduates who while talented and motivated, may not have the necessary skills to understand what is important, prioritise and deliver work to the standards required by the rest of the team? Yes this *could* be done remotely but it’s a lot easier when they’re sitting a few meters aways from you!
Don’t get me wrong though, I really don’t like being stuck in an office, I’m a big believer in home working and I’ll escape whenever I get the opportunity. I just don’t think it suits everybody all the time… but then you never said it did 🙂