Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer unleashed a firestorm of commentary throughout the business world with her recent announcement that remote working was off the table for the tech company’s staffers, who will now be expected to show up in the office every day.
The move goes against the grain at a time when everybody from the federal government to tech startups is embracing the flexibility and cost savings of working remotely.
As someone who initiated working remotely for my team back when I was an employee, I’ve got a lot of experience with what works – and what doesn’t.
At bottom, the work-at-home issue all comes down to trust. In a recent Regus poll of more than 24,000 global workers, a whopping 88 percent say that managers need to be more accepting of flexible work arrangements, and 85 percent feel their bosses need to show more trust in remote employees.
Of course, Regus, which provides flexible workspaces, has a vested interest in the growth of remote work. But its survey points out a disconnect between how managers and employees view remote work. While managers are more likely (79 percent) to view employees who get to the office early and stay late as “hardworking,” employees don’t feel the same. Just 54 percent believe these individuals are hardworking.
If you’ve worked in an office for more than a day, you know there are just as many ways to goof off when you’re at your desk as there are when you’re at home. Face time doesn’t equal productivity, and the focus and concentration boost from working remotely can allow people (at least some people) to get more done.
Regus also found that younger employees have made flexible work more mainstream, which should serve as a warning that if your business plans to be around for more than the next five or 10 years – you’d better meet the younger generation halfway as to how they want to work.
If you’ve still got a nagging feeling that letting employees work at home means paying them to watch Cartoon Network in their jammies all day, how can you get over it?
Here are some trust building tactics that worked for me when it came to working remotely.
Trust Building Tactics: Working Remotely
Make Them Earn It
I always let my team know that working remotely is a privilege, not a right. While everyone had the same right to try working from home, not everyone earned the privilege to keep doing it. Employees needed to show results. Set goals, quotas or whatever measurements work for your business, and make sure staffers are meeting them.
I’m not saying your whole team has to go virtual and begin working remotely. You set the rules, so if you want to limit work-at-home to Tuesdays or every other Friday, go ahead and do it. That way, you know everyone will be in the office on certain days, making it easier to plan meetings and events.
Test it out
Working remotely may not be a fit in your business, so set a trial period to see how it works out. I’m guessing your team will be highly motivated to prove it can work, so you may see huge spurts in productivity.
Do you want all remote employees checking in via Google Hangouts for a 10-minute morning meeting? How quickly do you expect them to answer their phones or IMs? How detailed do they have to be in letting you know where they are at any given moment (do they need to IM you when they head to the restroom)? Set control levels that make you comfortable.
Listen to Your Team
When people are out of the office, it’s more important than ever for you to be plugged in. Pay attention to the buzz among your employees. If some people feel the program isn’t working out, ask why – then deal with the problem. Perceived unfairness can poison your business’s morale.
It’s my experience that slackers will be slackers whether they’re in the office or not. Hard workers will do their best no matter whether they’re on the couch at home or perched at an Aeron chair in your office.
Show your team a little trust, and they’ll pay you back in spades.
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