Working from home is a hot topic. Just because some companies are asking their employees to switch from being a remote worker to onsite, all of a sudden working from home is not good for business anymore.
I remember when I first worked from home. It was when I was pregnant with my second child. I told my manager that I would like to work from home even during the maternity leave period and he accepted. I remember getting labor pains, and emailing him and my colleagues that this is it, I will be off work for a few days. This was in 1987. When my maternity leave ended, I asked to work from home part time, then 75% from home, and then went back to work onsite full time. All during this time, my manager was extremely supportive. He made it work. Of course, it helped that I was super productive, more so at home without any other demands on my time.
It doesn’t work in all situations. Doesn’t work for everybody. But by and large, it is a leadership problem. It can be solved.
I have seen individuals who work onsite spend a bulk of their time surfing the net. I have seen mothers who divide their work days into family time, and work time and excel in what they do, sometimes working well into the night.
We talk about not enough women in tech. Women get their careers interrupted multiple times if they choose to have kids. Often they are the care givers to their elderly parents. Having the flexibility to work from home allows women to continue their career and be equal contributors to the economy.
These guidelines can help those working from home:
- If you have a baby or an elderly parent at home, be sure to have help during your working hours.
- Be willing to attend meetings as needed. Get your manager’s help in scheduling these as much as possible keeping in mind the demands on your time otherwise.
- Go into the office periodically for face to face to keep the communication strong.
- Remind your manager what you accomplish with periodic status reports.
- Don’t be shy about sharing your work arrangement with your colleagues. You don’t need them guessing what happened to you.
- Work onsite a few days of the week, or go into the office a few hours a day
- Be sure to stay on top of what is happening at work.
These guidelines can help the manager:
- For new employees who want to work from home, establish a period of trust by having them work onsite for a few weeks.
- Be sure to set a policy for working from home. It is better to be very clear about what you expect, and what the employee can expect from this arrangement. For example, if your policy is that you want them in the office at least 2 days a week, or you want everyone to be in the office between 10 am to 2 pm, don’t hesitate to say it, stick to it, and be consistent about it across all employees.
- Be proactive about communication. While nothing beats face to face interactions, technology can help you stay connected in so many other ways.
- Working from home is great for individual contributors. It is a little dicey when it comes to someone who has a team to lead. Use your judgment on how flexible you want the working from home arrangement to be.
Working from home is not feasible for some occupations. Such is life.
Let me close this with the shout out to the manager I mentioned earlier. Here’s to you, Dallan Clancy, I think about all the management lessons I learned from you from time to time.
I focused this article on women. As a friend pointed out, there are many men who work from a home office with excellent results and who are the primary caregivers. I didn’t mean to exclude you. I applaud you.