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Let Employees Work From Home, Increase Productivity

Recently someone asked if I had a sample of a policy about working from home. My answer was:

“Do your work from wherever you want. Just be sure to meet deadlines and do top notch work.

They laughed, but I wasn’t joking. Does it really matter where your employees work as long as they finish the task at hand? I think we often go wrong trying to formalize policies around things that aren’t that important.

Work is something you do, not a place to go.

I understand if you work retail where you have to serve customers or have to use a special piece of equipment, you don’t have the luxury of working from home. But if my work is done on a computer, where all of the files can be transferred via the cloud, why can’t I work from home, Starbucks, or in another state? What if we just said “get your work done” and let people figure out where and when they can do it best? As long as they get the job done on time, does it really matter where we work from?

The productivity lie

Time spent at work has been a measure of productivity for the longest time, and that doesn’t make any sense. Managers tend to think others aren’t working unless they can see them, but let’s be real… Just because your employees are sitting at their computer doesn’t mean they’re getting work done. We are all guilty of spending hours watching YouTube videos, texting or looking at Facebook during the work day.

Focusing on how much time you spend in your seat at work as a measure of productivity is the ultimate sign of hustling backwards. Not only are we measuring the wrong thing, we actually spend more time being unproductive ourselves. The amount of time and energy it takes for bosses to make sure employees are coming into work on time, leaving early or taking long breaks is crippling. I know a few employees who have been disciplined for taking longer breaks or arriving late. When I asked the person who disciplined them if that person got their work done, they said yes. My thought at the time was “Why does it matter if this person was taking extended breaks and came in a little late”? They are here to finish an objective, not fill a seat for eight hours a day.

Most of us have jobs that can be done over the internet. That means that our work can be done remote. We all have smartphones, tablets, laptops and can get our work done where ever there is an internet connection.

Where do you get your best work done?

Ask yourself this:

Where do I have my most creative thoughts? Where am I when I get my best ideas?

I doubt your answer is sitting in a cubicle. Some people find being in an office helpful. Being able to collaborate with others and find working at home distracting. But for me, I know that I often get more work done in an hour at home than I could in a full afternoon in an office environment. There are other times that I find going to a cafe with my girlfriend while she does homework helpful for some types of work. Being able to go to the gym before work helps get my day started. But there are times that I have to rush my workout or not go at all because I have to worry about driving in LA traffic to get to the office. So what’s the point in forcing people to come to work from 9–5, when they may get more and better work done from elsewhere?

The hard part

Now I know it working remote isn’t as easy as I’m making it out to be. In order to work from anywhere, you have to be able to communicate clearly on what the goals and objectives are. Time spent on the objective shouldn’t be the main concern. Being able to have clear communication on what the objective is far more important. This is the entire basis of the Results-Only Work Environment, developed by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler several years ago.

In a Results-Only Work Environment, people manage their own time as well as where and how they work, as long as they get results. This stops all the gossip about people being non-productive, people leaving early, taking breaks or getting time off because of things outside of work. In a Results-Only Work Environment, there’s no need for a “work from home” policy, because it doesn’t matter where you work. Managers spend their time as a coach and developing their people, rather than managing the time people spend in their seats.

The more I speak with managers about the problems they have with their employees, the more I hear about how much time is wasted managing things that don’t matter — number of sick days, people leaving work early on Fridays, long lunches, too many breaks, and even how people dress. Think about how much time you’ve spent stressing these things and discussing it with fellow employees. Of you’re a boss, how many hours you’ve wasted trying to micromanage this things when you could be doing something more important like bringing in clients. How much better could this time have been spent if you were more concerned about the outcome of the work?

I think it’s time to stop worrying about where and when people work and focus on what they accomplish. Who decided that 9–5 was the correct time for work, anyway? Let’s start to question the archaic ways of working and take advantage of the tools that have came out in the past 20 years. The work world and our lives could be much happier and engaging.

What do you think? Are we wasting too much time worrying about the wrong things? Should everyone be allowed to work from home? Do you still believe that working onsite is the way to go? Let me know. I’d like to discuss it further.

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