Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Of easy wind and downy flake

I love Robert Frost and his poem came to mind today as I work from home on this snowy northern Virginia day. It has been snowing off and on since late last night. The various city governments in the area have declared liberal leave or closed entirely. The schools are closed and the metro is running on its emergency schedule which means very limited service to the suburbs. And so there are thousands and thousands of people who are either taking a personal leave or are 'working from home' today as opposed to heading into an office.

This is where my frustration with the lack of telecommuting opportunities really kicks into high gear. If your workforce can work from home in a weather emergency, why can't they work from home when they want to?
If you feel they are productive enough to force them to work from home without any preparation, can't you imagine their productivity when they are situated in a proper home office with some training, direction and resources before they begin? And why is your management unable to envision your business from a productivity standpoint instead of just a face-time one? What needs to happen to allow more teleworking and how could these forced snow emergencies be used as examples and cautionary tales to encourage more workplaces to become more telework focused, or at least friendly?

I believe the problems are centered around an antiquated view of the role of management. A manager/supervisor/director/etc has a job that should center around making sure that the work they are responsible for is completed on schedule, on budget, and in ways that meet or exceed the minimum expectation. Too many in management feel that this can only happen if they are carefully monitoring their employees. If they watch them work. Because honestly, nothing else they do can't be done within the teleworking environment.  Questions can be answered on the phone, on video chat, via email or IM. Collaboration happens in the same ways. Are there things that can be accomplished by having everyone in one place at the same time?? Of course and those times should be required on a regular basis.  But not everyday. 

I also think that every workplace should at the very least provide some training, resources, 'tips' for those who are expected to work from home during certain situations. Have a telework professional work with employees once a year on the best practices on home offices and working from home. At least maximize your productivity when they do work from home.

The snow here is beautiful and I am so thankful that my work doesn't require me to leave an office built just for me, waste gas, contribute to pollution, and spend 3 unproductive hours on transportation every single day. But these days also illustrate the ability that many have to work from home if their policies allowed it. And they re-energize my commitment to advocate for telework.