March 03, 2013

Work From Home

Maybe you heard ... there's a controversy out there about working from home (click here), and (click here) for a counter-argument.

This is one of those arguments where 95% of people can align and sound "right".  On the surface, they are right.  People should be allowed workplace flexibility, and employees should not be held to a "one size fits all policy".  

And on the surface, the 5% of employees who represent Management and align with Yahoo are "right" as well ... it is perfectly reasonable to expect that work-from-home staffers perform at the same level as the poor souls who are forced to trudge into work each and every day.  I used to manage 24 people, most of whom worked from home some of the time.  There were countless examples of folks doing great work, and folks taking advantage of me. I should have been allowed to expect everybody to give a fair effort, right?

This makes for great debate, it drives page views in trade journals and media outlets.  It's fantastic for Facebook and Twitter.

There isn't a right or wrong answer to this topic, just strongly worded opinions that do not make a difference.  We don't work at Yahoo, do we?  How could we possibly know if their choice is right or wrong for their unique circumstance with their unique employee base?  Imagine somebody from Yahoo waltzing into your office and beating up your corporate culture?  Who are they to know what's right for you and your company and your employees?

Have you ever listened to members of sport teams that win championships?  There are phrases that come up repeatedly.
  • "We have great team chemistry."
  • "We love each other."
How many of you feel this way about your co-workers?  Your boss?  Your CEO?  If you're in Management, do you feel this way about your team?

The issue isn't whether somebody is able to work from home or not.  The real issue is, of course, whether you can trust your employees/co-workers, and vice versa.  Because when people trust each other, there's the potential for team chemistry.  And when you have great team chemistry, all sorts of positive things can happen.

In a digital, sound-byte driven world where everybody gets to have an opinion, few people know how to foster great team chemistry, me included.

But if you do foster great team chemistry, you don't have to worry as much about policies and procedures.  Employees become accountable, they support each other.  The work, then, is more likely to be excellent, and the company more likely to thrive.

That's really what we're talking about ... how best to create a great culture, one where everybody trusts each other and performs at a high level, an accountable level.  Hard to solve that problem, no doubt.  But it is at the core of the work-from-home "conversation", and in an increasingly digital and less analog world, we seem uncomfortable to talk about it.