Thursday, August 18, 2011

Telecommuting: is it a good idea

As a consultant, employee, and manager I have often struggled with the topic of Telecommuting. Working from home was one of the "perks" of going independent for me years ago, the result was mixed: days and weeks cut off from humanity, with a dash of inefficiency, mingled with guilt and resentment on the part of my colleagues. 
Credit: via
In my own experience I had one job where the office was 4 hours drive from home, and I was the only employee who lived outside the city, state/province, country boundaries. Typically my job involved me calling on our customers on-site, performing training on-site, and supporting sales on-site. This was mostly a 3-4 day per week activity, with general administrative labor and follow-up being done from a "home-office"-the basement in my suburban rental home.
Other office staff resented the fact that I worked from home rather than and "office". The Solution? The Self-proclaimed-die-expert and Techni-ho was asked to drive from home to the office on the off days. Not just AN office, but THE office. So the policy was that if I had an off day, i would rent a car, drive to the office and "work" and leave when time allowed me to complete by drive before the end of the work day.

Correct. If I had one day off, I would rent the car, drive-in, walk-in eat lunch (on expenses) and leave for home (it made for just over a nine-hour day. Efficient? No, did it put an end to the debate over home-offices? Not really. It did put an end to my willingness to stay at that company, but created my first consultancy, once I was a consultant they no longer cared what I did on off days.

As we weigh the possibilities of allowing our staff to work from home one could unilaterally make an edict (usually not constructive) or just roll with it. In either case we might pay a price later. The Infographic below sums it up all very nicely (a little bit snarky but for the most part on the mark).
Credit: Mindflash
When you make the decision to either work from home or not, or to create an open policy for Home office hours. Be sure to have rational reasoning behind the policy. It can succeed, but only if you create the environment for it to work.

Treat your employees like grown-ups and they might prove worthy; treat them like children who can't be trusted you most definitely get what you expected. 

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