Six Tips for a Work-From-Home Policy That Works

work from homeMarissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, is being scrutinized and second-guessed for her decision to not allow employees to work from home starting in June. It’s easy for pundits to take pot shots from afar, but speaking as a manager who has struggled to find the right balance with this same issue, I’ve learned there isn’t a one size fits all policy that works for every employee in every organization.

One thing is certain – trust is at the heart of a successful work from home policy. If your work from home policy isn’t based on the premise that your employees are trustworthy, and if the boundaries of the policy don’t nurture and protect trust, you’ll find that allowing employees to work from home will be an ongoing source of suspicion, resentment, and irritation.

Working from home can provide tremendous benefits to both the employer and the employee. Studies have shown that working from home can increase motivation, productivity, efficiency, and allow for better work/life balance. I know that when I work from home I often work longer, harder, and accomplish more than when I’m in the office.

Based on my experience in managing a large team composed of a mixture of office-based and home-based associates, here are some tips I’d pass along:

1. Have a written policy. The policy should include who is eligible to work from home, technology requirements, communication norms, etc.

2. Be clear on performance expectations. It’s easy for people to fly under the radar when working from home. Make sure goals are clear, regular one-on-one meetings are scheduled to stay in touch, and performance evaluation standards are clear.

3. Deal with performance issues. Don’t let poor performance slide. It’s easy to adopt the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy with remote workers but you should treat them the same as you do associates in the office. If you noticed an employee arriving to work 40 minutes late every day you’d have a discussion with him/her, right? Do the same with your telecommuters.

4. Evaluate people on results. It’s critical to have some sort of performance metrics in place to gauge an employee’s effectiveness. Whether you adopt a Results Oriented Work Environment philosophy, have employees keep time sheets, or audit work samples, it’s important that you have a method of evaluating a remote worker’s productivity and effectiveness.

5. Be transparent and fair. Publish your policy. Talk about it with your team. Let everyone know exactly where they stand when it comes to working from home. Vague or inconsistent telecommuting policies breed suspicion and resentment in teams.

6. Set people up to succeed. Make sure your remote workers have all the tools they need to succeed such as the right training, technology, and equipment. Remote workers need to be high performers in their role and be technologically savvy in order to operate independently.

Working from home isn’t for everyone. Not every employee has the home work environment, personality type, or work ethic to be a successful telecommuter. Working from home can provide just as many distractions as those found in the office so it’s important to have clear boundaries in place and be consistent in how you apply the policy within your team or organization.

What is your experience in working from home or managing those who do? Feel free to share your expertise by posting a comment.

Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

23 thoughts on “Six Tips for a Work-From-Home Policy That Works

  1. Both you and Marissa Mayer seem to be missing the point. Judging performance results based on the geography of where the employee works is an analytical waste of time. You either deliver or you dont. If you deliver then you are doing your job. If you dont deliver then you need help either addressing the obstacles or relased back to industry where you can find a job that fits. I work in a hybrid, global team where most of us work remote and we deliver, not just because we are not distracted by people walking up or wasting hours commuting but also because we want to succeed.

    • Hi Ryan. I agree with you, it is about delivering results. As long as the worker is performing well, their location is somewhat irrelevant (obviously it depends on the nature of the job and the needs of the business). Just because someone works from home doesn’t mean it isn’t wise to have some performance monitoring systems in place to keep tabs on how they’re doing – that’s just common sense.

      Thanks for your feedback and adding to the discussion!

      Randy

  2. Some great tips here. This could equally be applied to the entrepreneur who must work alone or from a home office but finds themselves easily distracted by “stuff”.

    By setting standards for your own performance, measured by yourself of course, and assuming you take 100% responsibility for you results, you can create an environment of productivity rather than just activity.

    Setting “Performance Expectations” will help you create clarity on what you want to achieve. “Dealing with Performance Issues” comes from “Evaluating Results” you actually create. It takes self-discipline and commitment but adopting the tips from this article can only help create more productive results when applied with consistency.

    • Great points Simon. Working from home by yourself can require a greater degree of self discipline and it’s important to be self-aware and create the support systems you need to help you succeed.

      Take care,

      Randy

  3. Surely great trips, but in practical Managers need to spend additional efforts in implementing these tips and the same should be planned. More over the critical factors to be considered are the Culture, Mindset and abilities of employees.
    Every employee feels he is master, but in reality it is not the same. To define the boundaries who can/should opt would be a challenging task for the Orgs

    • Good points Rama. Establishing an effective work-from-home system is not an easy task. There are many complicated factors involved, particularly understanding that not every person has the right personality, work style, or discipline to be a successful work from home employee.

      Best regards,

      Randy

  4. I am in the process of preparing a presentation for my supervisor, management and department director that I’m hoping will encourage them to allow me and others even two days out of five to work from home – or anywhere away from the “office”, for that matter. The interruptions I encounter every day make it impossible to perform the more complex tasks expected of me. I’m the only one in the whole administrative core that has no office, no door, and my work space is located where everyone enters and exits. I’m essentially sitting at a reception desk being expected to complete projects and tasks that require concentration and focus and are not in the least considered entry-level. Wish me luck! And thank you for this article – it will be cited in my presentation.

  5. Good luck, Valerie. I hope it is taken in the way you mean it.Interruptions during the times you need clear thinking is always a problem in most offices. Focus is needed on complex projects, not constant interference of co-workers or others. Working from home can be disruptive as well unless you can make it clear to everyone that you are working there instead of at the office. Good luck with your presentation!

  6. Good one… and thanks to Simon for bringing up the point related to entrepreneurs who work alone or work from home! It’s a mixed bag! On one hand, since you are working for yourself and on something you’re passionate about, you would be more productive. On the other hand, an entrepreneur’s role necessary involves some amount of tedious, administrative stuff too where productivity (especially mine) falls :) Also, I guess, in some cases, family is more understanding when you are accountable to someone else but may expect you to juggle your schedule to fit in their demands when it’s yourself you are answerable too!! :)

    I also find the opposite happening where sometimes you are tougher on yourself when working alone and pushing yourself to crazy hours! I find scheduling everything helps. Not just work related stuff but literally everything including me time. :)

    Also thought I’d share information regarding an interesting experiment shared by HBR which found Telecommuters Are More Productive on Creative Tasks, Less on Dull Ones! A telecommuting experiment involving university students shows that working remotely reduces productivity by 6% to 10% if the task involves typing randomly generated characters but boosts productivity 11% to 20% for the job of imagining unusual uses for a tin can, says E. Glenn Dutcher of the University of Innsbruck in Austria. So if a task is tedious, an employer should make sure it’s done in the office, but when it comes to creative work, a manager might do best to allow employees to work remotely, Dutcher says!

    • Thank you for adding so much to this discussion. I can relate to the family demands of working from home. I’ve had several discussions with my wife when she has left me a “to-do” list when I’m working from home!

      Randy

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