March 01, 2013

Work from home? Apparently that doesn't work...

Everyone has been all a twitter about Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer's recent memo telling all Yahoo employees that as of June they have to stop working at home and come into the office.  There have been all kinds of debate both for and against this move.  I am not going to get into all that - there are plenty of people weighing in on the issue.

What I am asked all the time though, is how to make working from home successful, even if just for a day or two.  Small organizations rely on people being at work to get the job done. And some jobs, well, they just aren't conducive to working from home. 

Here is a quick list of things to ask yourself when employees say "I'm going to work from home today."

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What are they working on?  Sometimes a heads-down, concentrated block of time to work on a project can make all the difference in getting something completed.  Many interruptions in a day can make it difficult to do work that requires an attention to detail, or a focused, concentrated effort.  Sometimes however the work that needs to be done is serving clients, attending in-person meetings and being at the office.  It is important to distinguish what work is the priority.  If getting that project done is a priority, then working on it at home might just be the answer. 

What results are expected?  Set a clear deliverable for what work is going to be accomplished in the time that they are working from home. This is best achieved when there is follow up afterwards that provides opportunity to see the results.  Check in with the employee on what was achieved - not from a control freak point of way - but from a "how are things going?" perspective.  For the employee, it shows that you were paying attention to the work they did accomplish and if they are not getting results, it is an opportunity to ask for assistance.

Are they going to be missed?  Make sure that co-workers are not going to be hampered in achieving their work deliverables because this employee is not going to be around.  Working from home can be good for one person but may cause challenges for others on the team.  Have a clear expectation that others aren't going to be inconvenienced by the employee's absence.

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Are they going to be accessible?  When employee's work from home the fear is that they are actually doing other things during the day and might actually be working on the work project at night.  Does this matter?  Flexible schedules are an excellent retention tool, and the opportunity to go on a field trip with a child's class might work out if the work is still completed that night.  Clarify expectations if you expect the person working from home to be available on email and phone throughout the day.  Here's a tip for employees - if working at home in the evening is the actual plan, be open and transparent about it.  It builds trust and let's you be away with a clear mind and conscience !

Asking these questions can make life a whole lot easier when an employee asks to work from home.  And if you are already getting emails from employees that are making the assumption that they can work from home, spending time with them on these questions may cause them to think twice about whether it is an appropriate choice to make.

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