Articles

Work from Home? No.

In Random daily events on March 31, 2010 by atom

Conversations outside the cubicle, the rumor is afoot that we are about to lose our second (and last) work from home day.  If the communication is as good as the first “stricken” day off the list, then I will never know why.  This type of across the board “chain saw for heart surgery” technique has always fascinated me.  The studies, satisfaction reports, and in house research tend to point to this as a win win (telecommuting that is, not disbanding the process.).  You give anyone who commutes to work back part of their day simply by not making them drive.  You reduce your employees’ food costs, dry cleaning costs, gas costs, and environmental footprint.  In turn you get happier employees, better work/life balance and non-traditional coverage, along with lower employee turnover, less sick days, and in many cases higher performance and productivity.  Non-exempt means you get paid overtime, these people *amazingly* tend to work 40 hour weeks.  Exempt employees in 24/7 jobs are expected to be available at a moment’s notice.  “Coverage” is key, employees who work a newly (suddenly more stick, less carrot)defined 8 -5 “at work” job are still expected to be available for the outage that happens at 2:00 am on a Sunday morning.  They are expected to be available 24/7 for after hours change tickets, pages, questions, etc.  The business case for rewarding people in this situation with some work/life balance you are staring at.  The business case to “punish” a group of workers who work the 24/7 shift by making them both toe the line with the inflexibility of the standard no telecommuting work week, and then expect the flexibility of a non-standard job type is questionable.  Studies show this technique to result in what I like to call “warm body syndrome” where your employees indeed show up at the requested time, make sure everyone knows they are there, and don’t depart before required (some manager reading this right now is patting themselves on the back), the downside is thrice.  You have reduced your employee happiness, decreased their comfort in their job (what was I doing wrong that this happened?), and most importantly decreased productivity.  When your employee is sitting at their desk pissed and wondering if their job is less safe, they are less productive.  Take away their work from home days and you may find they are less willing to work when they are at home.

To put it in perspective, if I was the reason that the work from home day was being removed, but no one told me, and instead management removed the privilege from all.  The reaction I am going to have is that some other jerk caused this problem.  In the short term you may have scared me into “being there” more often and making sure I am always the first to arrive or last to leave.  Long term you have shown me that leadership won’t define the problem, but instead punishes everyone.  This type of focus less “clamp down” will result in me being more likely to look for a job with a company that punishes those that deserve it, and rewards those that deserve it.  Unfocused retribution from management breeds discontent.  Any action from management without logical explanation decreases my feeling of stability as an employee, thus increasing my need to find a more stable environment to work in.  When one has co-workers that are entirely “remote” this further exacerbates the situation.  Basically the company has said the new policy for some of you is no telecommuting.  Ignore the others who do it all the time, and disregard the other teams you work with who have a two day standard policy.  This does not effectively put me in a place where I feel secure in my job, as I seem to be sitting in the corner, bewildered, with the “I won’t work from home” dunce cap on.

So, is any of this blathering backed up with real data?  A couple searches garners me a USA today article, results of ATA studies, and a “Telework Savings Calculator” (yeah there is a wiki covering telecommuting, but there are those who nitpick at wiki as a valid source and I had 2o minutes of work/life imbalance time to waste anyway.)  Undress4sucess.com (the above mentioned purveyors of the telework calculator) has the following quote :

“If those employees who could work from home (and wanted to) did so just half of the time (roughly the average for those who do), as a nation we’d save over $650 billion a year, reduce greenhouse gases by the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road…”

On the other hand, the name of the site indicates it may be run by free spirited (possibly naked) hippies…  On to a blog from the Harvard Business review where

 the silver lining to being connected 24/7 is that it not only enables me to get my work done from anywhere–it allows me to avoid buying $4-a-gallon gasoline…”

Caught my eye, again a blog from some loony toon at Harvard doth not a foundation make.  The NSF has a cheer leading article extolling the virtues.  And so do AT&T, IBM, and Sun Microsystems case studies, but I have grown weary of the hunt and copy needed for hyperlinks.  Since this is not “billable” time for my newly defined job my last thought is that a company that just outsourced half of its IT department to foreign lands seems to have no qualms with the “working remote” idea, except in situations where the remote workers are within driving distance, which really seems asinine in the context noted above.

Work from Home? No.

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