Why Your “Work From Home” Policy Sucks

And How You Can Make It Work

Offices with doors and walls.

Assigned cubicles with your name on the partition and your crap spread out all over “your” desk.

Your space and your habits and your “domain.”

Those things are going away.

Fast.

Welcome to 2018.

It’s no longer the norm to have your own assigned workspace where you sit near the exact same person day after day and gradually fill your desk drawers with random old candy wrappers, soup mix, and dried out deodorant.

Nope.

Flexible work is the way of the future baby, and that means hotelling stations, shared office space, open space, and yes, working from home.

Or should I say, “the dreaded” working from home, because so many organizations really struggle with making that policy work.

It should be easy.

Do organizations make the common mistake of launching when over excited by a new idea? “Hey everybody, we’re being flexible! Work from home! Yippee!” And then a month later when deadlines are missed and it’s impossible to find Employee X for an important call, is it instantly revoked?

Do they manage remote teams by having a conference call once in a while to go through action lists? Are they surprised later when individuals feel disengaged and isolated?

Probably yes to both those scenarios, and more!

That got the process geek in me thinking.

It’s Not Rocket Science, But It Is A Science

At Whiteboard our flexible work arrangements don’t cause any problems with our productivity, meeting goals, staying connected with each other and with clients, and we have the flexibility to hit the gym in the middle of the day (or have a nap, if I’m being honest) if we want.

The reason for our success in this area is that we have a process in place.

If we didn’t, we’d be in trouble and we’d probably have to move to a formal office structure, which is not what we want to do right now.

Manage to outcomes and then let your people work where and when they want — as long as employees aren’t required to be physically client-facing, this shouldn’t be rocket science.

But guess what?

While it’s not rocket science, there is, still, a science to making it work.

As with so many things in a work space, there’s a process in there, and it needs to be defined and efficient.

It’s A Process, It’s A Process, It’s A Process

A while back we wrote a post on how processes don’t have to be big and showy, but you do have to have them!

And if you look at some of the things that are bugging you at work (like unsuccessful flexible work arrangements) as processes, you’ll most likely be able to turn them around and make them work for you.

For instance.

If you are thinking of setting up an alternative work arrangement policy, or if you’re in the middle of one and it’s not going very well, ask yourself what your processes are:

  1. Have you clearly defined who is eligible for flexible work arrangements and under what circumstances?
  2. Have you outlined the goals (which may be unique to each employee) expected out of each arrangement?
  3. Do you care about core working hours? If so, do you have a check-in process? (Once a day? Twice a day? Twice a week?)
  4. Do you have a way to personalize your communications process? Do you use FaceTime or GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts or another similar program that allows virtual face-to-face interaction?
  5. Do you review the success of the arrangement on a regular basis? (more than annually) Do you have a way to modify if things aren’t working perfectly right away?

Below is a highly over-simplified image of what your process might look like. (And ps you totally don’t need to map this out, I just like process maps. Instead, you can just write it out on a whiteboard or use post it notes and write out the policy questions and stick them to the wall.)

I know it sucks to think about processes especially if you’re in a Startup or some other organization that is basically anti-corporate.

Bad news for you — it’s necessary.

Good news for you — it’s not hard!

The key is to have a process, discuss it with impacted people, communicate it, and stick to it.

If you do, even complex situations like alternative work arrangements can work for your organization!


Ruth Henderson is Editor of Medium Publication “At The Whiteboard,” and a top writer in Leadership and Productivity.

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