An employee knocks on your door and asks, “Can I work from home?” “Oh gosh,” you think to yourself. Another one?
Yeah, another one. Everyone wants to work from home nowadays.
But she’s a good employee. You like her. She’s worked long and hard at the company. She wants to work from home because she has a two-year-old and finding daycare has been tough. But the reason doesn’t really matter. Everyone has reasons why they want to work from home – too long of a commute, a sick relative, a better timetable, an open plan workplace where it’s tough to concentrate, a love of “The Ellen Show” – and no one person’s reasons are any less important than another’s. Working from home is very common nowadays. And you can make this happen for her, and others who make the same request. So say YES to the young lady who wants to work from home! But take heed of these do’s and don’ts for managing work-from-home employees…
1. DO allow people to work from home. Most of my clients allow some type of work-from-home option for their employees. So, get with the times – you have to do this too. It’s a benefit. It makes your company competitive. It’s another way to attract good talent. It enables you to take advantage of smart people who live far away or otherwise couldn’t work for you if they were forced to come into your office every single day. Working from home is a common expectation of today’s employees, particularly Millennials and others who grew up in a mobile environment.
2. DON’T immediately agree. That said, you don’t have to go all-in right away. Have a trial period. Allow an employee to work from home for a mutually agreed number of days per week over the next 30-60 days and see how it goes before committing to a permanent relationship. Let them pay for your lunch a couple of times and tell you what a great boss you are because hey, everyone deserves a little buttering up now and then.
Even so, be wary.
No matter what’s said or promised, not everyone can be productive working from home and let’s face it, you don’t really know if that person is cut out for the arrangement. Agree with the employee, at the start, that this could end.
3. DO allow flexibility. Decide together on how many days an employee can work from home but still require a minimum number of days in the office.
Like life in general, it’s all about balance.
Establish a maximum number of days out of the office that you can apply to everyone in order to be fair and consistent. Once decided, let the employee be flexible, without exceeding the maximum number of days out of the office. If some weeks she wants to be in the office more than others that’s up to her. Which brings me to…
4. DON’T micromanage. The whole point of letting someone work from home is that you’re inherently telling that person that she has your trust to act independently, responsibly and professionally without you breathing down her neck. Don’t drive yourself (or her) crazy calling her “just to check” that she’s at her desk or requiring her to fill in time logs or activity reports. You’ll spend too much time micromanaging her actions rather than doing your own job. Rise above this. Give her respect and trust that she’s a professional and she’ll do the job. Agree on specific, measurable things that she should be doing and delivering every week and as long as you’re getting the results you need, don’t need to worry about when, where and how she’s getting it done.
5. However, DO be demanding. If you’re working then you can expect your employees to be working too, wherever they are. If you’re giving someone the freedom to work independently from home, then it’s not unreasonable to agree together that whenever you need to speak to her she’s available for you. Within reason, you should be able to call, chat, text or email her when something needs to be discussed and she should be available and ready, wherever she is or whatever she’s doing. Again – within reason.
6. DO invest in technology. You can’t manage a remote employee without technology. Technology’s the whole reason why so many companies are able to let their employees work away from the office. Your remote employee must have a smartphone and portable work device, like a tablet or laptop. She must have access to your network. She must be using many of the collaboration, communication, CRM, project management and file sharing tools that are available today.
She must have access to tech support because if you’re like me, your technology fails on you frequently. But when it’s working, your company’s technology will contribute as much to the worker’s productivity as the worker. She must be given the right tools to do her job effectively.
7. Most importantly, DON’T think that this is right for everyone. I’m proud (or should I say ashamed?) to say that I am super-productive when I work from home. I can zone in on what I do and I have no desire to turn on “Ellen” (except for the time when she had Sophia Grace and Rosie on, but can you blame me?). That said, I know smart, productive, valuable, excellent people who lose their mojo once they’re out of the office. Working from home is not for everyone and it’s your job to match the right person with the right environment. This is not easy, of course. But then again, you’re the manager. And that’s why you’re getting paid the big bucks, right?
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