Let me start with a personal experience. In a former job, I worked for someone one might call a "micromanager." This person was very nice, but would ask why I came in at 8:03 a.m. (instead of 8). Mind you, I was not an hourly, non-exempt employee. I didn't work in a call center nor was I a shift worker who needed to relieve a tired colleague. I managed my workflow independent of others. Frequently, I worked past 5 p.m. and on most days, I ate lunch at my desk. So, why did I come in at 8:03? Traffic was heavier than normal that day. I left my home at the same time every day -- some days I would arrive at work at 7:45 a.m. and others at 9 a.m.
Sadly, I was never able to work from home due to a lack of trust from management, who always seemed to wonder whether I was doing laundry or what would happen if someone couldn't get ahold of me. Needless to say, this situation, combined with the commute, motivated me to find a job where I would feel valued and trusted.
Jump ahead a few years and I am managing a team of 11. My main goal is for them to be happy and productive. How do I optimize that experience for them? By not micromanaging and allowing them to work where they work best. That may be the office. That may be a cafe. Or it may be their home. I care about the output and their work towards their clearly communicated goals. I care about our clients getting excellent service and about client satisfaction and employee happiness.
This winter has shown employers in many cities on the East Coast opportunities for flexible work arrangements. If you know the weather is going to be questionable, why not take the stress out and keep your employees safe by having them work from home? Furthermore, as detailed in TriNet's January SMBeat, research showed that DC Metro area residents have the longest commute times across the TriNet worksite employee population averaging 31.2 minutes each way, while the Atlanta, San Francisco Bay and Chicago metro areas have about the same average commute time as the TriNet worksite employee population average of 28.7 minutes. Why not give those employees that time back in productivity? I understand that not every job can be done from home and some jobs are not suited to telecommuting, so use some discretion.
So without any further ado, here are my top five tips for successfully allowing flexibility and reclaiming hours of productivity as a result of cutting out the commute time:
1. Evaluate by position (not person) whether the role can be performed remotely.
If you have multiple people in the same role, treat them the same (unless there is a reason not to -- for example, if you have a policy prohibiting people from working from home and someone requires a reasonable accommodation for a disability or a flexible work arrangement as mandated by some local laws, you may need to allow that person to work from home, but not others). If you do allow employees to work remotely, a telecommuting policy/agreement is a good idea to give employees a clear understanding of issues relating to costs, equipment, insurance, safety and security.
2. Set S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals.
These can be measured and provide a framework for success. Check in regularly on progress towards the goals and course-correct where needed.
3. Clearly communicate your expectations.
If you want your team members to meet with you in the office for a team meeting or one on one discussion, set that expectation up front.
4. Do not assume that because someone is not physically present, he or she is not working.
Unless deadlines are being missed or customers are complaining, allow your team the freedom to do their best work. I have known plenty of people who come into the office and barely work. Presence doesn't equal productivity.
5. Evaluate whether work needs to be done during traditional business hours.
There are a variety of jobs that can allow for flexibility in work hours, but full work hour flexibility is not appropriate for all roles, particularly ones that require employees to be available to clients or customers during traditional business hours.
I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to allowing flexibility for your teams. Ask individuals how they best work. Try it out, I bet you will not be disappointed in the results and it's a great way to show trust and keep your employees happy.