I’ve read with interest the recent debate about the Yahoo-ha about homeworking. I was going to write a blog on it, but everyone else got their first, so instead I got to thinking about my own attitude to and experience of homeworking.
I’ll start by sharing a great example of it. A few years ago one of my team had twin boys, meaning she had three children under three (brings me out in fear rash just thinking of it). Childcare costs meant returning to the 9-5, office environment was simply not feasible. So I just told her to work whenever she wanted. She works about 16 hours a week from home. I say ‘about’ as I have never checked. I know she details the hours she works in her calendar, but I can’t say I have ever looked at it. If I really wanted to, I guess I could ask IT to check the hours she is logged on, but I think that would say more about me than it would her. The only time I ever saw this particular member of the team was at the twice yearly performance appraisal. Other than that, we largely kept in touch by email. She often worked late in the evenings or on weekends; a complete and total flexible working arrangement. There is one key thing that made this arrangement work: trust.
Now I know many jobs need a physical presence and this example just wouldn’t work. But sweeping generalisations about what people do or don’t do when in an office or at home doesn’t work either.
The thinking about the future of work suggests that a number of trends such as globalisation, the desire to reduce carbon emissions combined with energy challenges, increasing technology, the cloud, emerging economies (I could go on) will lead to increased homeworking over the next few decades. Just saying you want everyone in the office won’t be an option if you want to engage and retain the best talent. On a practical level, the office environment just doesn’t work for some people; people need white space (term shamelessly stolen from Perry Timms) in which to think and create.
You need to trust the people you work with, unless you have a very good reason not to.
My natural tendency is to trust. I don’t need to be asked if you want to leave early because you are off to the dentist. I don’t need to know when you are off to lunch or when you will be back. You don’t need to rush into my office to explain why you are five minutes late and if you are not at your desk I’m going to assume you are doing something useful, interesting or work related. If I spot you in a coffee shop I’ll assume you needed to get out of the office to think. Want to work from home for the day? JFDI. Because I trust you. If this trust turns out to be misplaced, then I’ll deal with that.
All you need is trust. Give it a try.