Marc, my husband, and I both work from home. Yesterday, while standing in a line to buy shoes for my daughter’s wedding, we were talking about it—working from home that is; we had already talked about the shoes. It was a long, long line and at some point the woman in front of us turned around and asked, “Do you like working from home?”
And I had to say yes…yes I do. Marc said that he, too, liked working from home.
The woman went on to say that she liked working from home a day or two a week, but she really enjoyed the interaction with her colleagues and would miss the teamwork and camaraderie if she were working by herself at home. She mentioned her husband, who works at home, describing how he starts at 9am and finishes at 9pm and that she’s pretty fed up with it. She asked if we had trouble getting to or stopping work and, because I’m the more social of Marc and I, I answered saying that neither of us has any problem with either.
I really don’t have trouble getting to work, or stopping working during the day. I’m hugely self-motivated and in reality I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am riddled with anxiety (I didn’t tell her that piece…I have some boundaries…but I’m putting it in a blog so maybe not so much…) and even though I might use the phrase “I can’t sit still” to describe myself, that’s not really true; I can sit still as long as I’m doing something. Blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn posts count. So does the book I’m working on. I would feel lost if I were not directed in some way, and over the years I believe I’ve channeled that anxiety into something positive. Having a career. Having a daughter. Getting a PhD. Refurbishing and paint houses. Learning how to play the recorder/knit/crochet/blow glass/make jewelry/etc. Laying a flagstone patio. Building gardens. Thank god all this energy is directed (hopefully) as a force for good because otherwise who knows what shenanigans I might have pulled.
Knowing the Needs
This is my long way of saying that working from home is great, if you are cut out for it. Not everyone is; there are incredibly smart, successful people who are helped by the structure of going into a workplace each day, relating to coworkers in person, sharing ideas, challenges, etc. As a manager, knowing who on your staff is comfortable working from home and who likes to be in an office is really important in getting to the mission.
For four years, I led a team that worked remotely; at one point they were in five countries in many time zones, and most worked either at home or in an office where they were the only person from our organization. We met face-to-face at least twice a year and, along with weekly calls and a weekly team meeting, this was enough for everyone to do their jobs quite successfully. Remote managing could be challenging, but for the most part we had excellent working relationships and a lot of trust in one another. It would not have been an ideal situation for everyone, but we hired people who knew the logistics and were able to work within the somewhat isolating parameters.
On-Site, Remote or Combination?
In a world where there is more and more opportunity for people to work from home, as managers we need to do the following within ourselves and with our teams:
1. Identify and interrogate our own ideas regarding staff working from home or in an office setting;
2. Determine whether our work lends itself to an in-person environment, or whether work can be done independently;
3. Determine whether staff like/want the structure of an office;
And whether your team is on- or off-site:
4. Figure out a system of interaction and monitoring that helps staff feel connected;
5. Help them draw boundaries around their work hours.
The next weeks’ blogs and resources will focus on nonprofits, managing and the workplace so tune in!