The option to allow employees to telework (working remotely, typically at home) has received a lot of attention in recent days. I believe I have found the key to making the process work. And, it’s pretty simple.
The practice of telework has gained headlines over the last couple weeks after leaders of both Yahoo and Best Buy decided to reverse existing rules allowing telework for employees at their respective companies. I hope these two bans will serve as a starting point for business leaders to learn about and discuss the telework movement. Despite the media attention, many Americans don’t have first-hand experience with teleworking. A recent article reveals only about 5% of the American workforce currently take part in telework. Before you give teleworking the green light, consider what I feel is most important to its success.
A company’s telework policy is only as good as its employees. Read that again before moving on.
Telework is a unique opportunity to allow dependable, motivated people an opportunity to work from anywhere if necessary. With opportunity comes responsibility. If you have employees (or a culture) who can’t handle the responsibility of the opportunity, either end the telework discussion or replace the employees. It’s all about people. Technology makes telework happen seamlessly as possible, but people make or break the system. A recent report found that Yahoo’s internal tracking system indicated a sharp gap between the number of users who should be logged in remotely and those who actually were. So, in Yahoo’s case, could the telework reversal be a case of “use it or lose it”?
Let’s disprove the myth that it serves as a way for slackers to get out of work. In fact, a recent survey found many teleworkers put in significantly more hours than if they were in a traditional office setting. I believe it. I, on many occasions, have logged into work from home with the intent of working a short time, but ended up working for 2 or 3 hours. Motivated young professionals can use telework as an opportunity to learn new things while sitting on their couch or at a coffee shop. The option also allows parents to have some schedule flexibility to accommodate family matters. The most important word there is some. Taking advantage of telework should not mean one is playing both roles of office employee and babysitter.
Some folks use the Best Buy and Yahoo announcements to solidify opposition to the process, I view it as a chance to start a conversation. But remember, it is all about the people. If you give them the opportunity, they must be able to handle the responsibility.