A couple of weeks ago, a leaked memo revealed that tech giant Yahoo had decided to end its remote working policy. The move has certainly rattled the cages of employees and commentators alike. Forbes called it an ‘epic fail’ – even Richard Branson waded into the kerfuffle.
And the debate rumbles on. For in the greatest age of flexible working, powered by conveniences like the cloud, why expect people to be tied to an office?
Sure, an office environment can’t be beaten for building a culture and driving innovation; so much benefit comes from those ‘water cooler moments’, some of which can turn into great ideas – but being in an office can also dramatically reduce productivity. If you write, code, design, analyse, invent or create, then you need focus and to get into a deep state of thought.
You know the scene. You're in ‘The Zone’, the flow of incredible thoughts are coming and a brilliant idea is about to bubble to the surface... then all of a sudden a colleague recalls a classic moment from last night’s EastEnders which is shared emphatically with the whole office. And… the idea has gone! In fact I’ve read that the typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes, and that it takes 15 minutes to recover from each interruption.
Giving your employees the freedom to work from home when needed will give them the ability to think without these disruptions and produce their best work.
It can also broaden your recruitment prospects, enabling you to appoint someone based on their talent alone and not their geographic location. A two hour commute might be out of the question five days a week, but for two or three days, it’s possible.
Some managers shy away from home working thinking it’s a licence for staff to lie around in a onesie watching Jeremy Kyle all day. But most people really do want to add value to the business they work for, and would never consider spending long afternoons in the pub under the auspices of having a broadband engineer round to fix a troubling fault. And does it stop creativity if you’re wearing your PJs?
You have to trust your employees, and if you don’t think they’re doing much at home, what makes you think their enthusiastic tapping away in the office isn’t just another heated round of Angry Birds?
Fortunately for contact centre staff, a true cloud solution happens to exist today that gives homeworking agents exactly the same access to systems as on-site employees receive. As long as they have a phone and internet connection, they can be taking customer service enquiries from anywhere.
If you really don’t trust your staff, then technology like ContactWorld gives you the ability to report on how productive employees are – looking at logged in times, percentage of time spent on calls, and sales or customer satisfaction statistics. It’s easy to bring any poor performers back into the office full-time and treat the opportunity to home work as an incentive.
As for Yahoo, whether a ban on home working is the right move is yet to be seen. As a whole, the industry is moving more towards flexible working, and those who can benefit from a productive remote workforce, will have the advantage – particularly when attracting the top talent.
As a philosopher once said, ‘work is a state of mind, not a place’.