Thanks to improvements in technology,
working from home is certainly possible and is
easier than ever before.
Some employees ask to do it every so often; others want to
make a permanent change. As a manager, you need to
decide whether it’s the right move for the organisation,
for you and for the employee.
It’s a basic fact that some jobs can’t be done outside the office.
An obvious example would be a position that requires the
employee to engage with on-premise equipment. Another
example would be a manager who needs to supervise direct
working and stay in touch with senior managers. If everyone
(or nearly everyone) is working out of the same office, it
makes no sense to let the leader of the group work elsewhere.
On the other hand, many jobs can be performed just as well
from home as they can from the office building. If the worker spends the day at a
computer terminal or on the phone, it probably doesn’t matter if he’s doing it from
a company-provided office or in his home office.
Remote Working Pros and Cons
There can be tremendous benefits to both the company and the employee. Companies that are
flexible about location are more likely to keep top talent and, if enough employees work outside
the office, can save tremendously on overhead expenses. From the employee’s perspective,
remote work means less time (and expense) commuting and helps improve the work-life balance.
If you’re not careful, however, remote-working arrangements can be disasters. Just as some jobs
can’t be done remotely, some people aren’t well-suited for remote work. Some employees may
need the extra supervision, camaraderie and focus provided by an office environment, or they
may have too many distractions at home to perform effectively.
In fact, experts have identified several characteristics of people who usually do well at home.
Here are some guidelines to consider when you’re assessing an employee’s request to work remotely:
Remote employees need to be self-motivated. They will not have a boss standing over them with
either carrots or sticks. Instead, the employees need to know what they want to accomplish each
day and understand, with minimal direction, how to achieve it. Motivation, however, isn’t limited
to the daily duties. Highly motivated employees usually know where they want to take their
careers and what’s necessary to achieve their goals. Such employees can be expected to
over-perform whether they’re working at the office or working at home.
Beware of employees whose motivation is dependent on being supervised.
Their performance will not improve with less oversight.
Organization: An employee who is well-organized in the office can be expected to be organized when
working at home. It’s generally safe to allow remote work when the worker is task-oriented and doesn’t show a lack of resolve when faced with a mound of boring or tedious work. Organized employees also tend to be excellent at time management – an important trait for those trusted to work outside the office.
They are far less likely to be distracted by what’s happening on TV, in their locality or their Facebook
newsfeed. Beware of workers who are poorly organised at the office. Most likely, the condition will
worsen and productivity will suffer when working remotely. Such situations do not magically
improve once an employee sets up shop at home.
If an employee communicates well at the office, there should be no problem doing so from home.
The best candidates are those who can clearly articulate an argument and aren’t afraid to ask questions. They also must be comfortable doing so in a variety of ways – whether it’s over the telephone, in an email, via instant message or in a video conference.
Beware of employees who have trouble expressing themselves in the office. If they can’t make themselves clear in person, they won’t be any better doing so over the phone or in an email.
Workers who are comfortable making decisions on their own are typically excellent candidates for
remote-work arrangements. Away from the office, they will be expected to call some shots without a
manager nearby to provide guidance. Along the same lines, make sure the remote employee knows
when it’s necessary to consult with a manager.
Beware of employees who are too timid to make any decisions on their own or mavericks who want to call all the shots without consulting anyone.
Employees who will be working at home with minimal supervision obviously need to be competent at
their jobs. However, they also need a special range of problem-solving skills. For instance, they may
encounter a problem with their computer or Internet connection. Can they troubleshoot it on their own? Or will they be tying up the support desk with questions they should be able to answer themselves?
Beware of workers who seem frustrated by minor computer glitches and other routine problems that
crop up at the office. If they’re at home and don’t have the IT staff with them, they’ll likely waste hours spinning their wheels or doing nothing.
Of course, employees do not fit cleanly into a slot. There may be grey areas where you’re not sure if the worker can be trusted to work remotely. In these cases, you can deny the request or propose a trial of a specific duration. If the test reveals problems, keep the employee in the office. If it works out, approve the request and enjoy the benefits of a remote workforce.