- It works.
- They like it. It’s motivating.
- They can be more productive without the
distractions of the office.
- They have more time and energy for work,
without the drain of the commute.
- It provides a different, comfortable setting
which can benefit creativity.
- It takes cars off the road
But managers ask me all the time about dealing with problems that arise.
The big/basic problem is that individuals can be more productive
working at home, but TEAMS can’t.
Teams are always LESS productive when people are not together.
You can be left wandering the halls of an empty office when you actually need people to be there.
Or worse, your boss is looking for someone, you are traveling, and no one is there.
If not managed effectively, productivity can suffer, and some people will start to abuse the privilege. (Cue the fuzzy pig slippers.)
Plan for both individual and team productivity
Think it through and set desired outcomes, schedules, and priorities specifically for both the individuals and the team.
Here are some ideas that work well for me:
1. What does the team need?
Have your team work together to define clear outcomes for the team vs. individual goals. What things does the team need to work on together as a team? How often? What does the team need to learn as a team?
Structure in-person meetings and office days around those outcomes.
Also use team time to create discussion about what people are worried about, answer questions, and calm uncertainty. This really helps. Particularly in this economy.
2. Approve Specific Days
Designate specific work at home days of the week for specific people to:
- Maximize the right people being in the office together at the right times.
- Make sure that there is always a senior person in the office
Require your approval for specific work at home days vs. people developing the expectation that they can just not show up on any given day, then send an email saying “I’m working at home today”.
3. Productivity comes from clearly defined outcomes.
If you define clear desired outcomes for content, schedule and quality, and employees deliver, it should not matter where they do the work, or if they finish it early.
If you’ve given them clear direction on required outcomes and defined stretch goals, it is their choice to then “do more”, or walk the dog. You don’t suffer.
But if you are vague on expectations, productivity will decline.
4. Avoid Fridays
The point here is that work at home Fridays, even for most good intentioned humans, really do degenerate pretty easily into long weekends.
If people are getting the work done, you shouldn’t care, but if they are not, or if team performance is suffering, you might want to consider treating Fridays as a “presence” day. Do team stuff on Fridays.
I am imagining all of you who are reading this at home on Friday grumbling at me… 🙂
You can always separately offer to your star performers to go home early on a Friday.
Don’t confuse achieving business outcomes, with giving perks. Do each on purpose.
5. Consider Mondays
Monday can be a great day for people to take advantage of thinking and planning time away from the office instead of just getting swept into activities of the week.
If you have a staff phone call first thing on Monday mornings, you can kick off the week, reiterate strategic priorities and specific expectations, and then people both at home and in the office can get a less chaotic and more purposeful start to the week.
5. Team never in the same building to begin with?
You can’t let lack of physical presence keep you from establishing team presence, and building team performance. There are some specific ideas for you here.
How have you optimized working from home in your organization? Leave your ideas and comments below.
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