5 Essential Things To Consider Before Letting Employees Work From Home

| March 21, 2014 | Uncategorized

As far as philosophies for effective work go, I am on the side of freedom. I work from home often, and hated working under a dress code that banned wearing jeans when I had a full time day job. When people have more autonomy, they work better. So when Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer declared that working from home would no longer be allowed at Yahoo, it created a predictable controversy. How could a company in the center of the tech industry ban such an entrenched tech employee benefit as coding in your pajamas?

Despite the hand wringing, this may actually be the smartest thing Mayer could have done for Yahoo. However, before you use that fact as permission to implement the same policy, you might want to think twice. Here’s why the move made sense for Yahoo:

  1. Yahoo! is in a turnaround culture. Bold moves will be required to change Yahoo’s culture and this fits that description.
  2. Yahoo! desperately needs collaboration AND serendipity. There is still no substitute for face-to-face interaction to inspire unexpected ideas.
  3. Yahoo needs to weed out less motivated employees. It is easy to imagine there are people at Yahoo who have become complacent. In fact, recent news surfacing about Yahoo checking their VPN logs seems to confirm this.

Forcing workers back to the office may be the only way to evaluate their commitment and skillset evenly, and address the issues above. Yet, some believe that Yahoo’s ban on working from home will be temporary. And, when Mayer lifts it, a new policy will most likely emerge where the right to work from home will be earned by a select few.
So, if this move by Yahoo has inspired your organization to think about (or rethink) its own policy for letting people working from home, here are five things you should consider:

  1.  Make Them Earn It. Working from home should be a privilege, not a right. Yes, this means you need to treat employees differently. No one would argue that every employee should have an office, or that every employee needs access to a corporate credit card. Working from home doesn’t need to be a right, or banned altogether. However, you do need clear non-biased guidelines on who is eligible to work from home and how you will approve (or deny) that privilege.
  2. Find The Ideal Mix. Working from home doesn’t have to be an absolute choice. You can combine it with office time. A flexible work schedule, with time in the office on certain days, and time working from home on others may be the best way to allow your employees flexibility while still having time in office on a regular basis.
  3. Calculate The Commute Cost. For some employees, living arrangements may cause significant hardship for coming into the office every day. If, for example, an employee lives three hours away from the office – asking them to commute 6 hours every day may be unreasonable. Ideally, this would be a topic negotiated during the interview process – but it needs to be a consideration when deciding if working from home is a good option.
  4. Prioritize Cultural Understanding. In some cases, an employee’s culture or religion may require working from home at certain times of month or year. This should certainly be treated as a special circumstance.
  5. Do Not Make It A Gender Issue. Aside from being illegal, the final guideline is that there can’t be a double standard within organizations, and this goes in both directions. It cannot be harder for working mothers to get flexible work schedules, but also fathers should not be penalized for wanting to work from home in order to handle their own share of childcare.
  6. After careful consideration, surely you’ll be able to decide what is best for your company’s goals and vision. If that means that some employees will work from home, put guidelines in place to support your position so that there is no question.