Debate about Work-at-Home or Telework: Banning or Not

Work-at-home or telecommuting is not new. The initiative was launched in the US Federal government for nearly two decades ago. Not everyone will like telework and not every position is suited for telework or work-at-home. Some cannot stand working in isolation. Some do want to be in the office as they want to have a chance to interact with managers and others for their career development and advancement opportunities. Some may feel staying away from the office by working from home will help them meet their performance goals or targets.

I do think once an organization adopted telework as part of the benefits package, leave it in. As more and more employees value quality of work and life or a balance approach to work and family life, the organization is less attractive if telework or work-at-home is missing from the benefits packet. Whether being in the office or working from home, employee daily habit will be the same. It just costs both employees and the organization more when all are required to be in the same office location. Sometimes the organization may find out that putting all employees together may in fact create more interpersonal conflicts and less action items will be accomplished. Research can be done on this topic, in my view. Again, it all depends on the nature of positions, the personality of employees, work ethics of employees, and what management wanted to accomplish or to achieve. Is it a social focus or results-focus for management? Each employee is different so let’s empower employees to decide what the best way for them to meet the agency’s mission while organization demonstrates to employees that work and family life flexibility is the agency or company value. Managers should change their work habit by managing employees differently. They must adapt to technology as part of their management practices.

If physical presence is crucial for team building, instead of cancelling out or banning the work-at-home or telework policy, management should make a mandatory requirement that requires ALL (in office and work-at-home) employees to be present in the office. Depending on the nature of the positions or jobs, management can decide how often the “all must be present in the office” policy should be. For example, management can try out by making Thursdays a monthly mandatory office day for all employees or any days where most people will be present in the office. It should be done in a way that is non-discriminatory, and will minimize personal and financial hardship and unneccessary administrative burden for both employees and the organization.

Managers must not be lazy but must focus more on performance management and be specific about what it is that employees will be measured on. Work location is not a problem. Managers and their attitudes are the problem. Where employees should report to work, e.g., office or home or a satelite location, should not be the concern. Performance measurement and performance results are what managers should and must focus on. With advanced technology and the birth of the Telework Act, teleworking or working-from-home program should be strongly encouraged, not be banned. Performance results matter but not physical presence. God bless America!

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