There has been a lot of chatter lately about work flexibility, the ability to work from home, etc. It’s a great conversation, and figuring this out is critical for most organizations. Each company has to sort out what works, and then develop and maintain a policy that will attract top talent.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for a while… I started The Latimer Group in my living room in 2002, and ran the company from our attic until 2008, all the while serving a growing client list of Fortune 500 companies. Clearly, I understand the power of not working in a traditional office environment. In fact, I hate the typical office environment.
In October 2008, I hired my first full-time employee and we moved into full-time office space outside of my home. We generally work in the office, but occasionally, all our teammates — and even I — do work from home several days per month.
I’m a big fan of work flexibility, and providing whatever environment that will put my teammates in their best position to perform over the long haul. But I believe that work flexibility is a gift, a benefit, not a birthright or an entitlement. Most people work well from home and still put in a good day’s work. And those who do, those who bring real value, should be trusted to work flexibly.
But not everyone does. In a prior life, I witnessed, first hand, colleagues using the “working from home today” tag as a way to start working later, disappear for longer periods, and wrap up the day sooner. We all know the tricks… signing into your instant messenger so it looks like you are there… putting the “I’m on a conference call and unavailable right now” on your Out of Office message… returning one or two emails early or late in the day, so you create that “proof” that you were working additional hours. Yeah… we’ve all seen those tricks, and many more.
I’m a big believer in the ability to work flexibly. But that benefit has to be earned, continually. Lots of people want to be trusted by their organization. But not nearly as many people, in my experience, seem as focused on earning that trust and rewarding that trust with effort and commitment.
In other words, if you want your organization to trust you by letting you work from home, then you should spend a lot of time thinking about how you will earn (and keep) that trust.
Working from home is great… as long as people are truly working. Otherwise the whole thing is an exercise in work-avoidance.
Trust is a two-way street. Lots of people seem to forget that when they are thinking about their employer.
Have a great day.