Source: Brendan Cournoyer
While my posts typically cover topics like content marketing, SEO and social media, lately I’ve been reading a lot about another business topic that I felt inspired to sound off on.
It involves giving employees the option to work from home.
My colleague Devon McDonald recently touched on this topic in an article about the pros and cons of managing remote sales teams, and Fast Company posted a fun infographic just last week on how some employers go about making the decision.
For this post, I want to focus only on the issue of local staff, as these days many companies already have remote employees who work in different states or even countries, and thus are pretty much never in the office. In the Internet/SaaS age of doing business, it just makes sense, and most people accept this (case in point, here is a cool infographic via Mashable.
Yet ironically, when it comes to the core team of local employees, many managers have trouble getting their heads around a working environment where folks can come and go as they please. And I get the concerns. If you’re paying for an office, you want people to actually come and work in it. Yes, if they aren’t physically in the building, it’s harder to keep a close watch on what they’re doing during the day. And sure, it can be harder to build a cohesive team when the members are spread out all over the place.
I really do understand these concerns. But these are the types of issues that need to be dealt with on a company-by-company basis. Having worked at places with strict attendance policies and others that let you come in at your convenience, I can vouch that the latter can be very effective when administered properly.
So while there are arguments on both sides, here are a few things managers at young companies should keep in mind when deciding to give folks the “work from home” option.
First, it’s just an option. Just because you allow people to work from home doesn’t mean you’ll never see them again. It should be made clear that their attendance is required on days when important meetings are taking place or any other event that would call for their presence.
Most people like coming to the office. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. In my experience, the whole “working alone from home every single day” thing gets old pretty fast. The best workers want to be around people and involved at the office, and will likely come in the majority of the time. But the added flexibility of being able to work from home on a slow day or if they are feeling a little under the weather can be a great perk as well.
Just because you see someone everyday doesn’t guarantee productivity. One of the chief concerns about managing remote workers is that employers can’t be sure that they are actually … you know … working. Hell, maybe they’re just kicking back, watching Jersey Shore reruns and checking their email occasionally so no one is the wiser. And some might. But if being in the office was the key to productivity, no one would ever get fired for poor performance.
Good workers will do good work no matter where they are, and the ones who are prone to goof off can do so just as easily right under your nose. It all comes down to trust. Be prepared to enforce the fact that working from home is a privilege, not a right. If certain people slack and take advantage of the situation, believe me you’ll know it. But don’t punish the others who work hard and responsibly, even if it’s from the comfort of their own couch.
Not every business/department is a fit for a work from home policy. While I don’t think managers should outright dismiss the possibility of letting employees work from home, I understand it’s not always practical. For example, a software development team that practices Scrum will likely have daily team meetings to discuss impediments and productivity. In this case, I can see how team members being in and out of the office throughout the week would probably disrupt things. Again, it’s up to the manager to decide what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Finally, I would just stress that the whole option for working from home isn’t about encouraging employees to stay out of the office, it’s about giving them the peace of mind that they can. Once again, good workers will do quality work no matter where they are, but the flexibility of knowing they can stay home if necessary without having to worry about personal days or angry bosses can really do wonders for a company’s culture. I’ve seen it myself.
As long as people are performing up to snuff, that’s all the really matters. And isn’t that the one thing managers should care about enforcing more than anything else?
About Scale Finance
Scale Finance LLC (www.scalefinance.com) provides contract CFO services, Controller solutions, and support in raising capital, or executing M&A transactions, to entrepreneurial companies. The firm specializes in cost-effective financial reporting, budgeting & forecasting, implementing controls, complex modeling, business valuations, and other financial management, and provides strategic help for companies raising growth capital or considering M&A/recapitalization opportunities. Most of the firm’s clients are growing technology, healthcare, business services, consumer, and industrial companies at various stages of development from start-up to tens of millions in annual revenue. Scale Finance LLC has offices in Charlotte, NC, the Triangle, the Triad, Southern Pines, and Wilmington