Working remotely is an issue that has many schools of thought around it, older generations simply not believing in it and maintaining that everyone should be in the office every day for peak productivity. Younger generations yearn for a more flexible workplace, which has produced a drastic shift in companies nationwide and worldwide.
There is no doubt that working from home has come to a head in the last year or so, with massive companies like IBM requiring remote workers to either find an office to go into or move to within an hour of an existing IBM office. Some studies have also shown that working from home doesn’t prove to be as productive as many were led to believe.
It is certainly the new normal, as 70% of the global workforce now spends at least one day per week working remotely.
Working from home means many different things to different people and I think it’s important to always get as specific as possible with what it is that you want and what you think is the most fair and productive.
I don’t advocate for anyone to work from home EVERY day. Yes, there are positions where that can be perfectly acceptable (like a webmaster/IT position). However, for most people this doesn’t equate to peak productivity.
Rather, there are a few factors that should be looked into. What will be gained by certain workers coming into the office? What kind of work does your company do and how much of it can be done from home/how much can only be done in the office?
Once you get past these factors that are more company-wide and give you a better sense of the working from home picture, start personalizing and customizing your approach to fit your individual employees. Do any of your employees have very long commutes? What about kids or other needs that require constant attention? Do they have any sick family members that may require more visits than average?
You could also take some of these factors back to the company-wide level. Do MOST of your employees have very long commutes or complicated home lives (from what you know)? Then you may want to consider using that information to refine your working from home or sick time policy.
I work at a company where MOST workers have an hour or more commute both ways, however working from home is simply not an option. Something that has to be considered is the employees’ daily life. How much worse is their day and stress level compounded by not being able to work from home?
In companies where most workers have short commutes (if it’s a job in the city and most workers live in the city, etc) then there is no need to worry. However, you have to be wary (when it’s the reverse) of how this is affecting your employees.
Measure the burn-out rate. If you work at a small company, and new employees leave after an average of 4-6 months, something needs to be rectified.
Also, consider the full benefit picture in addition to working from home. If you give 30 days of vacation, you may not have to be as lenient with remote working. But if your vacation and sick time is subpar or just average, and workers have long commutes, something has to give.
Flexibility is really the goal. Even if you don’t allow working remotely, or simply don’t have an established policy (you should), making efforts to work with your employees goes a long way. When a worker needs to leave early to visit a sick family member, let them take off and don’t ask them to reciprocate with staying late another day or working on a weekend.
If they respect you, they will work extra hard that day before leaving, and maybe take-home work after the work day is over in an effort to catch up. Telling them to make up work can send the message that you don’t think they work efficiently enough and/or don’t trust them.
Which gets me back to working from home as a general policy. Not allowing working from home for anyone sends the message that you do not trust your employees. This was the thought process in the baby boomer generation, but it isn’t anymore.
People hire people because they think they are competent and learn to trust them over time by being reliable and responsible. If you can’t learn to trust your workers, you shouldn’t hire them.