Marissa 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.