There’s a lot of pressure these days to be the coolest kid on the block from a culture perspective. After all, if you’re vying for the best talent you’ve got to compete against the big dogs who are going to great lengths to attract employees with their fancy kitchens, crazy perks, margarita machines…and flexible-work-from-anywhere attitudes.
It’s enough to make any leader feel like they should adopt a relaxed attitude about when and where employees work. But don’t go jumping on the bandwagon just yet.
First, you might be happy to know that there are a LOT of amazing companies to work for who do not have employees meandering in and out at all hours of the day/night. They have set office hours. This is especially true in the (software as a) service space where employees need to be available for customers. However, these companies tend to make it really easy for employees to find coverage or leave the office to do ‘life’ stuff.
Second, and more importantly, if you have a deep rooted feeling that employees who say they are working from home aren’t actually working as hard/efficiently as they would be in the office then BACK AWAY FROM THIS IDEA.
You telling employees they can work wherever/whenever but always being a skeptic will absolutely crush your culture. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen. Kevin says he’s working from home, you don’t believe him. You get annoyed because you think he’s actually watching TV but you have no real process in place to tell if he’s actually working or what he’s working on so you just stew. Other people see you stewing over Kevin and his TV-watching-lack-of-working and they start to question if you’re doing the same thing when they stay at home to meet the repair man. Now everyone is confused and they start to resent you for your stupid policy. At that point you’re worse off then you would have been if you’d just skipped the change in the first place.
I’m a huge fan of letting people work remotely but only if you’re the kind of leader who is truly okay with it. There are processes you can set up to casually track what people are getting done and ways to use it as a privilege for employees who deserve it. If done properly it can be a great perk but it’s just as okay to have set hours and places for work to be done.
Marisa is a leadership coach, management trainer, and motivational speaker on all things Culture and Engagement. She has helped lead the culture and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. Today Marisa consults, coaches, and leads seminars for organizations looking to increase productivity by focusing on management training and employee engagement.