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Hi all,

I've been promoted to a management position recently, just as a front-line manager; actually I was the previous Lead of the very same people (5 directs).

In general I'm progressing well (thanks to your amazing podcasts) but I have some issue I'm not sure how to approach.

My directs (especially 2 of them) are working from home more often than I would like to. The real problem is the company has no a official guideline when it comes to remote work.. so until now we're been using just the common sense.

Sometimes those directs are working from home, but, honestly speaking I know they're (no always, but from time to time) abusing about the good environment we got within the team.

How can I approach this situation? I was thinking just in giving to them a negative feedback about.  Obviously I'm working with my boss in a new guideline to be use as a general "rule" framework reference.

Thanks in advance!

svibanez's picture

Everyone on both of my teams work from home.  They come to the office when there's a reason to do so, but all their "real" work is done at remote sites anyway so we allow them to work from home when they're not on the road.  Are they working non-stop from 8 to 5?  Of course not, but neither do the people who do work in the office (smoke breaks, socializing, etc. can eat up a lot of productivity).  At the end of the day, they produce the desired results - and then some.

If your team is producing the results you want, then maybe nothing is broken.  If working from home on occasion is acceptable, then you need to establish clear guidelines regarding when or why they can do so.  That will provide them structure and communicate your expectations so they know the boundaries.

Best of luck to you in your new position!

Steve

DiSC 7114

GlennR's picture

I agree completely with Steve.

In 1976 or 77, I saw an interview with then New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson, already a legend. The interview was conducted at Spring training in Florida and Reggie was with two Boston Red Sox players. For those of you who are not baseball fans, the Red Sox and Yankees are sworn enemies.

The two Red Sox players took turns razzing Reggie about how badly the Sox would beat the Yankees in the coming season and go on to the World Series at the Yankees' expense. Reggie grinned and smiled all through the good natured ribbing without saying a word.

The sportscaster doing the interviewing then turned to Reggie and asked, "Don't you have anything to say?"

Reggie held up his bat, laughed, and replied, "I'll let my bat do the talking."

That year the Yankees would go on to eliminate Boston and win the World Series with Reggie hitting three home runs in game six.

Reggie's bat produced results. Your directs can produce results also. Let their results do the talking. If they're slacking off, it'll show up sooner or later. But if you jump in now without concrete evidence you risk damaging your relationship with them and their overall morale.

I'm not sure what you mean by "from time to time) abusing about the good environment we got within the team." Be sure you're correct before you start providing them with feedback. There may be a false causal relationship there.

My COO has worked for my organization for 35+ years. He has no problem with people taking a few minutes out to run errands as long as they produce their results when expected. He's on record as saying that he receives emails from remote workers around the clock. Some stop to take a few minutes to greet the kids when they get off the bus. But they make it up before or after hours or by being able to work during the time it would take them to commute. They are effective.

Finally, the ability to have a flexible work arrangement like this has been shown to be a key driver in employee engagement. Before you talk with them about this, consider the bigger picture.

Good luck in your new position. Had I had access to MT when I was first starting out, today I'd rule the known galaxy.-)

Glenn

 

jespasac's picture

 Thanks for your answers. I appreciate!

An yes: I've been so so lucky to discover MT when I got my new position.

 

 

 

 

uninet22's picture

This may seem a little disjointed, but I recommend the podcast about dealing with social media abuse.  Among other things, it says that if your people have time to slack off, then they haven't been assigned enough work to do.  So rather than telling them to stop playing on FaceBook, just assign or delegate more work and they will no longer have time to be off task.  That way the problem will naturally solve itself and you don't have to be the mean boss who leads a crusade against relatively minor behaviors. 

naraa's picture

 Jespasac, I agree with the comments above.  I also want to recommend you listen to the first 90 days on the job podcast as that applies for assuming a new role on the job as well.  The first 90 days rule is: "Do not change anything."  If I recall correctly the only think you can really change if not in place is start one-one-ones, but one-one-ones are the essence of management in MT.  If you have recently assumed the new position, it is not advisable that you try to change now the current working home arrangement.

Congratulations on your assignment and all the best!

Nara

dmb41carter36's picture

Steve,

What are the symptoms you are experiencing that caused you to write this post? I generally agree with the others that it's no biggie as long as they produce results. I'd lke to hear more about your side in case I fall into the same issue at some point in the future.

 

Kind Regards,

Tim

svibanez's picture

I responded to their initial post.  And I agree that examining the symptoms really should be the first step in diagnosing the problem.

Steve

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Gareth's picture

How about having a webcam turned on a ready for use when working from home?

 

Regards, 

Gareth

hashbrown's picture

 Gareth- I've considered two way webcam as a solution as I think it would help people to be more part of the whole team environment but I was met with criticisms from some of my colleagues as being 'Big Brother' like, wouldn't be sustainable (as it relies on people turning their camera and the office camera on) and it would cost too much in bandwidth. Has anyone implemented a two way webcam before? If so what are your results?

---------

www.sarahhaigbrown.com

maura's picture

One of the huge benefits to a work from home day is not having to worry about dress code/appearance.  I'm not going to speak for all women here, but for me, it saves maybe an hour a day to not have to deal with hair and makeup, and if I'm working from home, I'm probably in my pajamas until lunch.  I can start working earlier and I'll get more done because of it.  But I will not be attending a video conference.  Call me at any time during the workday, instant message me to check in every hour or two if you need to - I'll be there, I'll be responsive, and I'll be working.  But please, no webcams!  Nobody needs to see that! (grin)

acao162's picture

Working from home has been nothing but a headache in my org.  It might have been wonderful for the employee, but for the rest of us, co-workers, clients and bosses, it was a nightmare. 

We found the employee to be far less effective than the current employee who is "in" every day.  Clients can pop in for a visit where before they had to be tightly scheduled.  Projects get completed more quickly because all the resources are here.  Maybe with better tech, it could have been done? 

I am sure we didn't adapt as much as we could have, for instance, many things can be done via telephone instead of a face-to-face.  However, I found I often phoned and the employee was "out" - taking a kid to daycare or dance class or who knows what. It appeared to the co-workers that working from home meant putting in the time whenever the employee could work, instead of a more traditional schedule.  Maybe the work was getting done but what about when WE needed employee's input?  That always seemed to wait until the "office" days.  OK, end whining.

My point is, I'm not a fan of work at home arrangements.  I find them to be less effective when everyone else is "in" the office.  So, I'd assign more work, more reporting and more random check-ins (if that is needed).  When I find things that are not effective, give feedback.  In order to do that, you need facts not feelings as in the following (real) examples:

On Monday at 10:15 I called and you did not answer.  I tried again at 10:45 no answer. 

You were late with project X and told me it was because you didn't have all the materials you needed at home. 

Client A stopped in to see you on Tuesday, which is your published office day, and you decided not to come in.

We had an emergency status meeting yesterday that you did not attend because it was a home day.  We were unable to get you on the phone for the meeting and did not have your input into the project.

 

If it is just a bit of misplaced jealousy - you'd rather work in your pj's too - then no need for feedback.  If it affecting the team, get some examples & illustrate the problem.

GlennR's picture

Our organization went through a thorough thoughtful process to create a policy for remote workers. Employees must apply to their supervisors for the privilege and it can be revoked with poor performance. The employee must be accessible during business hours in their location. Supervisors can provide feedback through their 03's and at performance review times.

That said, you may be in a culture or environment that doesn't lend itself to remote working. For example where customers can pop in at any time. But I would look first at how effective the policy is, how easy it is for supervisors to enforce it, and whether or not they do so first.

derosier's picture

This is interesting. As someone who actually does work from home, I'm going to pitch in my comments:

  • A manager that has a blanket policy against telecommuting is likely not a very good manager. In other-words: if you have a problem with everyone who telecommutes, look for the commonality between all those people->you. When I interview at a place and the manager says that working from home is not an option in his/her group, that's a huge red flag to me and might make me not take that job. 
  • I get tons more work done when I'm remote than in the office. As pointed out, socializing, coffee breaks, etc take a huge toll on productivity.
  • As I am a programmer, a single interruption can screw up my productivity for the entire day... working from home gives me tighter control over it.
  • Not having to spend 3+ hours on the road each day both increases the time I can spend working, and increases the time I can spend on personal stuff AND it doesn't take me an hour to relax from my commute after I get into the office in the morning.
  • AND: my productivity numbers and results speak for themselves. For anyone who cares to take an objective look, it's obvious that telecommuting is effective for me.

Now, that's my specifics. Not everyone is suited for telecommuting. Some people abuse it, some are just ineffective. Personally, I find the best mix for me is being in the office 2 days per week and home the rest, with as set a schedule as possible.  I always publish my schedule and if I make changes, it gets reflected in the public calendar. Being in the office gives me a chance to be seen, catch up with people socially, catch up on technical discussions, have meetings, pick up/drop off equipment and so on. When I'm working at home, everyone knows they can get me on IM or via phone at anytime. And I'm 100% transparent of when I'm not going to be at my desk during my normal working hours. Going to pick up the kid from school is perfectly OK, and I put on my IM status that I'm out and when I'll be expected to return. When I worked for Polycom, we had things setup so that when my phone extension was rung, it rung both at my home office as well as my desk at work... thus I could give out my office number and it never mattered where I was, people could aways get me. With most modern SIP systems, this really is easy to do, ask your phone IT guy.

I don't know what it is that makes you feel that the people you have that are telecommuting aren't pulling their weight. Do you really have a productivity gap with them, or are you simply seeing a problem because you're uncomfortable with the situation.  You're a new manager... do you maybe feel that by working from home that undermines your authority? Just some thoughts.

Re: your comments "My directs ... more often than I would like to. ... I know they're (no always, but from time to time) abusing about the good environment we got within the team."  I'm seeing a lot about YOU in those comments not anything about them. Big red flag to me.

As for an always-on video link, wow. I'd rather be fired.  I always dress professionally and am always ready for a video conference, but having an always on video is the same to me as being in the office with you standing behind me watching me for the entire 8 hours. If you do that, I hope you're prepared to be standing looking over each one of your direct's shoulders all day each day. Or just put a video camera in everyone's cube pointed at their desk.

Here's my recommendations:

  • Have a clear and flexible company-wide telecommute policy in place. Part of that needs to include the managers discretion, and that discretion needs to be based on job duties, expectations and performance of the individual in question.
  • Actually pay attention to the actual performance and expectations of the individuals in question. Are they meeting their productivity expectations? Are they more or less productive in or out of the office?
  • When you discuss these things in feedback or one on ones, start simply with the behaviors in question and fix those. Maybe their last manager didn't need them to do X, but you do. Fix that, don't just say, you can't telecommute.
  • And of course, for the first 90 days, get to know your people and monitor things before changing anything.
  • If the person doesn't have a dedicated work space at home, full-speed net access, is generally accessible during working hours, and so on, then they really can't be working at home. And by dedicated work space I mean a room with a door! They need to be able to keep distractions out when they need to.

Look, if they're getting everything done when it needs to be done, then all is well. And if it's taking them 20 hours and they're screwing around with the other 20, then that's awesome, you've got more bandwidth to use that you can assign stuff to.

And if they really aren't suited to telecommuting, then bring them back in house. And odds are, any productivity problems or screwing off problems they have at home, they'll have the same behaviors in the office.  I've never seen someone who acts 100% professional in the office stop being professional just because they work from home. But I have seen managers treat people who are in the office professionally yet ignore or badly treat the telecommuters.

BTW, before bringing them back in-house, you need to find out why they're telecommuting in the first place. It's possible that there's some barriers in the office that make them MORE productive telecommuting. And you better be prepared to change that stuff if you're going to ask them to stay in the office.

I've found that the biggest problem with managers managing telecommuters is that the telecommuters get short changed, not the other way around. Listen to the podcasts about managing remote workers, it applies to telecommuters too.

Just my opinion of course and based on my specific circumstances, your situation may be different.

 

 

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