June: In support of comfy pants

By: Julie Shipman, Career Coach

Have a question or comment? Connect with me at Julie.shipman@jwsgroupllc.com

Remote work arrangements: good or bad?

Do you ever work from home? Do you get distracted or are you more focused? How about the optics on working from home? Does your company culture support it?

How often do you have an employee inquire about remote work? In a world that continues to expand globally, where facetime actually refers to a style of phone call, should we dictate the physical location where work is completed?

There are ongoing shifts in attitudes regarding remote work: when it’s acceptable and when it’s not. I often wonder if the research and statistics available are driven by the (subconscious?) bias of the social opinion of the day. In the early 2000s, Best Buy not only embraced the idea of working remotely, but also working 8 hours anytime in a 24 hour period. It was called Results Only Work Environment or ROWE. The data showed high levels or productivity, employee retention and team collaboration and yet the program was cancelled when Best Buy’s current CEO, Hubert Joly, started in 2013. Of course, his decision came on the heels of Marissa Mayer ending a similar program at Yahoo. Coincidence, executive bias or something else?

To read more on Jolly’s position on ROWE read https://www.businessinsider.com/best-buy-ceo-rowe-2013-3

When programs around permissiveness for remote work change it has a career coach wondering; do they change because managers don’t know how to manage for outcomes? Meaning, if you can’t see your employee working does it mean they aren’t actually working? This strikes me as the same question as: “If a tree falls in the forest…..” ok, perhaps that’s a question for another blog.

Is remote work really just a crazy exercise in trust? Certainly that’s a factor, you have to be able to trust your remote workers. But I also think it’s a question about people managers’ ability to manage for outcomes not time.

There is an internet-sized catalog of training courses for people managers, but I have yet to find a well-developed course around managing employees based purely on outcomes. It’s definitely a more complicated skill, especially for managers who are task driven.

So what’s a good manager to do?

Ensure you have thoughtful, well-developed answers to the following questions:

  • What is the company’s policy, if one exists, and appetite for remote work?
  • Does your company possess the technology to enable effective remote work such as stable connectivity, access to shared drives or applications, use of tools such as Skype for Business or similar products?
  • Is the long-term cost of setting up a remote employee more costly than the return you will get through productivity and retention?
  • Will the employee be interacting with an internal or external customer base?
  • Does the employee have a successful track record of completing work on time and at a high level of quality?
  • How effective are you and your employee at running meetings with customers or colleagues using virtual technology?
  • Are you able to give the option of remote work to more than one employee on your team? If not, beware of favoritism concerns.
  • Does the employee have a specific physical space in their home or remote location that is dedicated, quiet and private for the work they are doing for your company?
  • Will managing to outcomes be a paradigm shift for you? If so, what do you need to do to become a successful manager for a remote staff?

Bottom line:

Remote work is a privilege that the best managers know how to use to maximize productivity and employee retention.