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Generation Y

Manage Work From Home: Make It Work For Everyone

Did you hear about the guy who outsourced his job to China so he could spend time at his desk watching cat videos and keeping up with Facebook? There are a lot of things to say about this, but my first thought is, “Now there’s a guy who could be working from home.” If the work could be done, and done well, from China, the only reason to be at an office is because he liked the social interaction. But that office could save money by not buying him a chair.

Did you hear about the guy who outsourced his job to China so he could spend time at his desk watching cat videos and keeping up with Facebook? There are a lot of things to say about this, but my first thought is, “Now there’s a guy who could be working from home.” If the work could be done, and done well, from China, the only reason to be at an office is because he liked the social interaction. But that office could save money by not buying him a chair.

Work from home policies have been taking some heat lately. Some big name companies have publicly discontinued programs. I find it all a little confusing. I work from home. I know other people who work from home. We’re all productive and happier for it. Gen Y, the employees everyone wants to understand so they can hire and keep, wants to work from home.

So, why all this negativity surrounding remote worker programs?

In the cases of both Best Buy and Yahoo, the end of work from home comes when the companies are failing and working towards a turn around. If work from home has to be discontinued to get a company back on its feet, it strikes me that the home work probably wasn’t being managed properly in the first place.

Gen Y wants to work from home

A late 2011 PwC survey shows that the Millennial workforce expects  good work/life balance, already 28% of them are disillusioned. They expect the use of technology to make their jobs easier and 41% prefer electronic communication at work to face to face communication. What does this all mean? Gen Y wants to work from home.

Discontinuing your work from home program is not a good way to attract young talent. It might be your best way to lose talent. Do not insist Millennials sit at desks when it’s clear to them that the work could be done off site; they will not continue to work from that desk or for you.

If you don’t know how to manage work from home so it works for your employees while also working for your company, then it’s time to figure it out.

Notes to managers

If your organization wants to recruit and retain Millennial employees, you need to manage your program so it works for both employees and the organization.

When the CEO of Yahoo discontinued their work from home program stating it was in response to needing better productivity, she was criticised by Sara Sutten Fell, CEO of Flexjobs, for canceling an entire program across the board. Perhaps work from home wasn’t right for all Yahoo employees who were working from home, but to cancel the entire program seems rash.

Of course, it’s easy to blame the CEO, but who was managing those under producing teams?

Managers, I know you want to be advocates for your employees, and good for you on that. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone gets to work from home. If you can’t deliver on productivity with employees out of the office, someone over your head whose main focus is business resources and return on investment will shut down your work from home program. And that’s not good for anyone.

Tips for managing work from home

We all want you to get this right. You want productive companies with happy employees. You want to be able to attract and keep the Millennials while improving the bottom line. So, here are a few tips for managing remote workers:

  • Hire the right employees: Not everyone has the self discipline to work from home; make sure you have the right person for the job.
  • Make it secure: Be sure you have the systems and networks in place to make sharing remotely safe and legal.
  • Communicate: Keep in touch regularly, make yourself available for questions and feedback. Understand what’s working and what could be improved for remote employees to succeed.
  • Provide web-based collaboration tools: Working remotely doesn’t mean employees are in a silo; provide them tools to interact with the team.
  • Schedule face to face time: Get together in person for kick-off meetings or staff development. Strengthening connections with face to face meetings will help to keep your employees engaged and understanding where they fit on the larger team.

When you are managing a team, you need to recognize when it makes sense for employees to work from home and when it doesn’t  Some jobs can be done away from the office, others can’t. Some employees can be productive if given an assignment with a deadline and left to their own devices. Some employees are most productive in a more structured environment.

Bottom line, it isn’t a one size fits all, even within the same department. Not allowing employees to work from home because it doesn’t work for everyone is asinine; it will hurt your bottom line, which means managers need to make it work for their organization and their employees.

Working from home is about more than making it easy for your employees and saving Millennials from buying a professional wardrobe; it’s about managing company resources properly. Happy employees are more productive and loyal; managing work from home so it works is win win.

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