“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.” This is taken from a recent blog post from Twitter.
When I talk about why I think all companies should embrace WFH (work from home) I’m referring to the companies where it’s a possibility. For tech companies, like Twitter and like Auka, this new work location situation isn’t a huge deal.
We’re far from the only distributed workforce either now or in the past. We’re at an advantage in that the transition to “work from home” was “easy”. Most of us were used to doing at least a day at home once or twice a fortnight. We’re equipped with the technology tools to work from wherever we are.
Disclaimer: I acknowledge from personal experience – I’m a mother of one-year old twins – that right now is not an ordinary time. When you add in the psychological impact of the state of the world, not to mention schools and daycares etc. not being open, work – from anywhere – is impacted by this.
But why does “work from home” still strike fear into the hearts of so many, both now and prior to the current pandemic forcing many companies to make that a reality for their workforces? Is it that employers and managers fear that unless employees are being physically monitored and watched over, they’ll cease to produce? If you find yourself in a company operating like this, particularly a tech company, without any good reason, I’d encourage you to start looking for another job, if and when you’re able. Employees who work in high-trust organisations are more productive and happier.
We’ve operated flexibly since the beginning at Auka. Prior to the current pandemic dictating otherwise, we liked our employees to come to the office regularly from a community building perspective. But, we also understand that some people just work better from outside the office. Or, they’re based in another country to the primary HQ.
Auka’s head office is in downtown Oslo. Currently, we have staff members distributed around the globe in nine different countries – from neighbouring Sweden to Croatia to the US to New Zealand. Some of these staff members are ordinarily based in these locations, others (like me) are “stuck” and logging on in another timezone.
Pandemic aside, we trust people to get on with their work from wherever they are. Some critics of working from home say that it’s much easier to get pulled into a “procrastination rabbit hole” as discussed in this BBC think piece from a week ago. The same piece also discusses how people can build their “frustration tolerance” to become more conscientious workers.
I believe that if you’re a good manager who cares about your team, you’re invested in ensuring those around you deliver good work. If someone’s struggling to perform, you notice and you provide counsel and help – if they’re in the office or on the other side of the world.
I think that working from home a day here and there may see some people underperforming on those days but as it becomes the status quo, there’s a certain motivation in keeping one’s job. If staff are consistently underperforming – in an office environment or whilst working from home – someone’s gonna notice (if not, there’s something fundamentally wrong!)
This is essentially it. This is the primary reason I think employers and managers need to let go of their hang ups about WFH and think about how they can best equip their staff and themselves to achieve great stuff wherever they are. The worst that can happen is your staff member decides to opt out of work and binge-watch the latest Netflix series instead. If this happens, you’ve saved yourself a lot of time in being able to pretty quickly recognise a bad hire and take steps to address this. This is a process which could have taken months or even years in a traditional office setting.
Jokes aside, it’s not just the increased productivity that comes as a result of trusting your staff more. A CNBC article from earlier this week spoke about the benefits companies who’ve embraced and invested in enabling their staff to work from home. The article quoted research from Global Workplace Analytics which found employers can save $11,000 a year for every employee who works remotely half the time. Spokespeople from other tech giants like Google and Facebook made it clear that they’ll continue to allow employees to work from home well into the future – even after government sanctions allow them to instruct their workforce back into the office.
So, if you’re a skeptical manager or employer, instead of wringing your hands about the lack of employee facetime, use this time to put in place new systems and models which see you engaging virtually with employees. Schedule check-ins, create collaborative team communication channels using tools like Slack, think about your current work in progress reporting methods and whether they can be improved. Sit down and assess how you can help your employees to feel secure, protected and productive during this crisis. I guarantee taking these steps will help you to feel more comfortable with staff working from home – now and in the future.
Make the change to a flexible workplace. See a list of careers currently available at Auka here.