What’s the Real Reason You’re Against Telecommuting?

Posted on July 17, 2013.

You know the world is upside down when tech giants like Yahoo ban telecommuting and federal agencies like GSA are encouraging it. The agency that manages over 375 million square feet of office space for the federal government has saved over $24 million in rent by redesigning their own space to support a work from home culture.

Daniel Tangherlini, the head of GSA, has taken down walls, created “teaming rooms” and encourages people to work from home as much as possible. I applaud Mr. Tangherlini for his innovation and because he got rid of his own office as well. He’s among his co-workers in the open floor plan he designed.

If you read my blogs, you know I’m a big proponent of telecommuting. My support likely stems from living in the DC area, which was recently ranked as having the worst traffic in the country. For years I worked along side people who thought nothing of driving over an hour a day (one-way) to work. Think of all that lost productivity!

So why aren’t more companies moving along the GSA lines? According to the article, ““By far the biggest issue is that managers do not trust their employees,” said Kate Lister, president of the California-based firm, which is helping the Food and Drug Administration transform one department along the lines of the GSA model.”

Really? You have to see your direct reports to know they’re working.  Which gets me to my point.  You may have to work a little harder, be more creative, communicate more often, but you do not need to see your employees to know if they’re producing. Try doing something like this:

·      Set some short-term measurable goals.  Instead of a goal that’s measured once a year, create 2 or 3 goals that can be measured monthly or quarterly.   It could be anything from sales calls to lines of code written.  Of course, if you don’t have a tracking system, you’ll have to create one, but frankly, you should be doing this anyway.

·      Use multiple types of communication.  If you’re honest, you know that your primary form of communication now is email. The recipient of your email could be anywhere.  Try using things like ichat, Google+ hangouts or Skype to communicate your messages. Having people work remotely means you have to take the initiative to reach out to them on a regular basis. Maybe set up monthly 30-45 minute calls to discuss anything that’s on their mind.

·      Purchase or develop an online social network.  That’s what Atos did when they banned their emails and created bluekiwi, a cloud based, enterprise wide social media site where people can connect and collaborate.

Yes, I know all these ideas take time and effort on your part. And yes, I know how busy managers already are. But if the only reason you’re not allowing people to work from home (at least some of the time) is because you don’t trust them- think again. Remember, trust works both ways.