Work From Home

In our work with companies, there is perhaps no element of the employee experience that is more hotly debated than the concept of “work from home.” Why is this?

The rise of technology, and particularly the accessibility of technology in the last 10 years, has made working from virtually anywhere a distinct possibility. And so, employees are, in many cases, looking for a lot of flexibility and a lot of opportunities to work from home that were never afforded before because it was never really possible before. Because of the relative newness of this particular benefit, there is not a lot of cohesiveness or agreement in the marketplace regarding the best way of implementing this benefit, or if it should be implemented it all.

Some employers that we work with consider themselves to be “old-school,” and believe that people should come into the office to do work and that the value of them being present and accounted for in among their peers is immeasurable and essential. The other side of the coin is the employees, who feel like they can work from anywhere, and want to be afforded the same flexibility that they see their friends being afforded in different situations. “If I’m a professional, don’t I deserve the opportunity to work from wherever I want to?”

It’s a huge challenge. Employers have every right to build policies that match their values and what they think will work. By the same token, employees have the right to have their voices heard and have their working schedules fit with their lives. At Holistic, we are working on this, and so we’ve come up with some best practices for companies that are looking to establish a work from home policy.

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Set guidelines

One of the quickest ways to have a work from home policy fail is to not have clear guidelines about how often the days from home can be taken, in which circumstances days can be taken, what the reporting requirements are, and these sorts of things. It is critical that companies are clear with their employees about the nature of their policies. We recommend limiting work from home to a maximum of one day a week, although many companies are better suited with one day every two weeks or one day a month. We also recommend that companies have clear guidelines about being available for communication.

Separate work from home and being sick

One of the real problems with work from home is that people use work from home days when they aren’t feeling well. Maybe they’re not fully sick, but they don’t feel great, so they decide to work from home. (This used to be called a “hangover”). The result is just a general lack of productivity. One of our recommendations is that employees should state that they are going to take a day from home in advance, at least the business day before. This eliminates scenarios where on Thursday morning, and employee lets you know that they’re not feeling great and they want to work from home, or it eliminates a Sunday night text saying “I won’t be in tomorrow, I’m going to work from home.” This is not an overly onerous standard and it helps everyone navigate the situation immensely.

Measure it

The question around work from home is actually very straightforward. Is any lack of productivity or effectiveness on the part of employees overcome by increased happiness, increased flexibility, and longer employee retention? If a work from home environment is not having a negative impact on productivity or effectiveness, then why not? Each company can decide what is comfortable within the equation, but the only way that you can decide that is to measure it. You want to avoid it he-said, she-said type of scenario where the boss feels like the employee is taking advantage of the situation and the employee feels like the boss is not allowing them to take advantage of the benefits afforded to them.

Work from home is a privilege

Finally, it’s important that everybody remembers that work from home is a privilege. Work from home is not an inalienable right, like the pursuit of happiness. Work from home is something that companies offer to employees to increase the employees’ convenience, flexibility, and ability to live their lives, in exchange for the studious and sedulous abiding of the policies. That’s it. It’s a transaction. It’s something that a company can use or take away as it sees fit.

We feel like that by following these four rules, companies can responsibly implement this important policy and have it be a success for everyone.


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Tom Alexander