A debate was sparked when Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer banned the search portal giant’s employees from working at home. Why? Mayer’s goal was to boost collaboration between employees. And she also had some data to back up her decision – she consulted the company’s network logs and found its at-home employees weren’t working enough.
And she may be on to something. Major studies, including research done by Harvard Medical School, suggests being physically close to coworkers is a main factor in innovation, with proximity leading to synergy and new ideas.
However, studies also suggest that employees chipping away at their work from home are more productive than their counterparts back in the office. Meanwhile, major corporations as well as small business have discovered that letting employees telecommute can be a win-win proposition, with more productive and loyal staff. This works especially well with part-time employees.
Telecommuting has many benefits but you have to set up your program for success from the start. Getting at-home employees working productively means they have to have the necessary equipment. That can range from basic telephones and Internet access, all the way to video-conferencing software and hardware, and file and document-sharing programs.
Don’t decide who works from home based on the job, says clinical psychologist Aubrey Daniels. Instead, the decision should be made based on whether the employee has earned the privilege to work at home. Daniels says that if an employee comes up short at work, they’ll also perform poorly at home.
A better way is to offer working from home as an option. New and younger employees may be eager to work at home, so don’t hesitate to let potential employees know it’s a possibility. And remember, don’t be surprised if not everyone jumps at it, since some people still work best in the office.
Keep tabs on remote workers
If you do make the leap to letting your employees telecommute, make sure they’re actually working and holding up their end of the bargain. One way is to have remote staff file weekly updates so you can tracktheir at-home progress.
Another option is to use a cloud-based service to track their daily assignments. Using project management tools, employees can check off what they did that day, giving supervisors a window into how productive they are.
Don’t forget that just because an employee is working remotely, they’re still reachable. Nowadays, video chat services through Skype or Google are just clicks away. This makes it easy to have a quick 15-minute meeting each morning to talk about what’s being worked on and what needs to be done. Though email is also an option, face-to-face meetings can be an effective way to touch base.