Did Yahoo! Make the Right Decision Banning Work-From-Home Arrangements? (Pt 5)

Yahoo Home WorkerWhen talking about setting down the “right” policies for a remote working arrangement, it’s important to keep two points in mind.

  1. Not every employee will perform well outside of the office, no matter how well they’re remotely managed.
  2. Not every employee will want to work outside of the office.

Not All Employees Operate the Same

Usually the failures of work-from-home employees is a management failure, but some people just can’t perform well remotely, no matter how much tracking and oversight you build into your agreements.

So how can you know which employees will work well remotely and which won’t?

You roll out your remote working arrangements gradually and preferentially. You can start by allowing employees to work remotely one day a week, and then you can expand these benefits to those employees who prove their ability to get their work done with a little freedom infused into their schedule. There’s no reason why your remote work arrangements need to be universal and uniform from employee to employee, and there’s just no reason why every employee should be able to work remotely as much as they’d like just because a few of your employee’s work better from home according to their own schedule.

You can’t tell which employees will work well remotely and which won’t until you test them out. These sorts of tendencies cross all sorts of demographic lines. There are plenty of older people who will work great remotely just as there are plenty of young, supposedly tech-savvy individuals who won’t be able to handle their assignments outside of the office. Instead of assuming you know who will work well remotely and who won’t, give everyone the chance to prove themselves, track performance, and make your decisions according to this data and not your personal presuppositions.

However, there is one general rule you can keep in mind- if an employee isn’t capable of performing responsibly in the office then they probably aren’t going to be able to perform responsibly remotely.

The Benefits of Closed-Quarters

When you hear about the fact IP telephony and virtual network solutions provide the capacity for offering employees work from home arrangements a couple of thoughts will go through your head. You’ll probably think all your employees are chomping at the bit to work remotely, and you’ll probably think of the cost-savings associated with managing a workforce you don’t need to house in an office.

Here’s the thing- both of those benefits are wonderful, but they aren’t appropriate for every individual or every organization. There are plenty of employees perfectly capable of working remotely who will prefer working from the office, and there are plenty of organizations that you can transform into a remotely-operated network of employees, but which work better when everyone’s housed under the same roof. There are plenty of reasons for this, but many of them rest in what Google’s CEO previously referred to as the “magic” of close-quarters collaboration.

Making the Right Choices

So how should you think about work-from-home policies, as illuminated by the discussion kicked up by Yahoo!’s recent decision and the examples of successful systems practiced by other, better run companies?

Work-from-home arrangements offer an incredible opportunity to add some flexibility to your workforce, but they can’t be entered into cavalierly, without oversight and without a clear plan about how you will manage your workforce and whether or not your organization, and some of your employees, might work better sharing physical space during their 9-5, no matter how much freedom modern technology allows. Work-from-home agreements need to be entered into gradually, with lots of tracking implemented at the same time to determine the actual effects offering this perk creates within your organization.

If you implement remote work arrangements intelligently you’ll model the business structures of some of the world’s most successful and innovative companies, but if you implement them poorly…well… you’ll end up in the difficult position Yahoo! now finds itself in.