1. In The Know

Video: Why Working From Home Doesn’t Always Work

  • April 26, 2018
  • Oz Rashid
  • CEO

If you’ve been in the talent business for any length of time, you’ve been inundated by facts, figures, and articles extolling the virtues of… Working From Home. How it makes every employee and every business more productive, and therefore more profitable.

AND, if you don’t allow it, you’re hurting your business, and you’re not a progressive employer, and you’re not a very good business leader.

That’s an amazingly simplistic view of a very complex issue. And yet seems to be a widely-held belief. The benefits of a working from home policy aren’t a given. It’s not some magic elixir that just makes everything better for everybody. But, that’s not what you read in industry publications and blogs or hear at networking events right now. 

Can working from home be effective in some situations? Yes. Can it be detrimental in other situations? Absolutely. In some cases, allowing employees to work from home can actually lead to employee isolation, decreased production, and good people getting passed up for promotions. 

And that opinion is not only informed by my personal experience but is also backed by science and psychology.

That same study highlights that productivity can be extremely subjective from person to person, business to business, and situation to situation. Tasks that require a lot of interdependence across an organization have correlated to lower productivity when a working from home policy was in place.

But very rarely do you see these points called out anywhere. It’s always about how much more productive working from home makes everything. 

My point is, in no way should working from home be a hard and fast rule that every company needs to adopt immediately. Not offering this perk won’t necessarily put businesses at risk for becoming outdated and irrelevant. But, if you’re going to implement some type of working from home policy, you need to think through the potential issues on the following things.

Work Environment

You need to think about the impact that a working from home policy will have on your overall work environment. If face-to-face collaboration is important to your organizational and business goals, taking that interpersonal and direct contact away can pose a pretty significant hurdle to reaching those goals. 

Interestingly enough, that aforementioned scientific study notes, “organizations such as Google and Apple that create products and platforms that make virtual work easier refrain from encouraging telecommuting, preferring instead to develop workplace cultures in which there is maximal social interaction.”

 How’s that for irony?

Leadership & Management Strategy

You should also consider how a working from home policy can impact your leadership and management strategy. Management, in terms of being an effective leader, is one of the hardest things to do. You can manage remotely, technically speaking, but because it is so critical to success, why would you want to add any degree of difficulty to it?

Again, I have science on my side. More specifically, it’s a noted fact that any kind of physical or spatial distance can dramatically impact the rate and clarity of feedback, as well as the quality of informational exchanges between managers and employees. One longer term study, in fact, pointed out that work experiences and their related outcomes were “less positive” for employees when a manger worked from home.

 Anyone else see a pattern developing here?

Employee Learning & Development

There’s also the impacts a working from home policy can have on employee learning and development. Learning and growing is as much seeing and hearing, as it is research and reading. If everyone’s at home all or most of the time, it can certainly slow down the pace of development.

Most times, successful knowledge transfer is built upon a foundation of trust. You can't learn from someone you don’t trust, right?  And trust is built face-to-face, certainly more so than over the telephone or video chat.

Relationship Building

And, of course, there are the impacts working from home can have on relationship building. In a lot of cases, there’s a strong correlation between teams with strong camaraderie, and high-performance teams. But it’s hard to build true camaraderie over Skype.

What does science have to say about this? I’m glad you asked. My favorite report states that "professional isolation is inextricably linked" to development activities like informal networking and mentoring. And like I mentioned above, all of that plays a part in the trust factor. When people are often away from an organization, they may "have limited opportunities to network” and develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Conclusion

A blanket working from home policy doesn’t always work all the time for every employee and every business everywhere.

Working from home is a perk, not a privilege. And companies that are implementing working from home policies need to be sure that they’re taking into consideration the factors listed above in order to create a perk that is truly a benefit (and not a hindrance) for both employees and the organization.

To learn more about how MSH Talent Solutions can help your company solve talent management needs, contact us today at info@talentmsh.com.

MSH is an industry-leading talent solutions firm, providing strategic talent acquisition and consulting services to organizations around the world. Established in 2011, MSH aligns people, processes, and technology with overall business objectives.

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