Recently IBM announced that it was cracking down on its work-from-home program, which for decades had allowed thousands of employees to work from the comfort of their homes. This crackdown now forces many employees from the IBM Marketing, IT, Procurement and Watson departments to either relocate closer to their new on-site offices, or simply find new jobs. And it’s a powerful decision that all business owners should take note of.
For the past several years, as technology has made working remotely more accessible, many businesses have considered the cost savings of shrinking their physical footprint, by allowing staff to work from home. Though there are some advantages to this decision, I would argue that work-from-home organizations will always struggle with productivity and effectiveness issues.
People have a hard enough time keeping focused during an eight or nine hour day at the office, much less being surrounded by the distractions of being elsewhere. Think about the last time you worked from home. How productive were you? How productive were you really?
Consider the number of times you got up to get something from the fridge, flipped on the TV for a few minutes, or stopped work to play with the kids. Perhaps you decided to work out of your local coffee shop to avoid these distractions, only to find likeminded professionals who should be working, but like you, are distracted with people watching and fooling around on the Internet.
Larry Alton, a Forbes Contributor, set out to answer the question “Are Remote Workers More Productive Than In-Office Workers?” Alton concluded “The bottom line is that working from home can make a worker more productive, but that isn’t a guarantee,” and suggested that people can be productive so long as they are held accountable to policies put in place by their employer. I don’t buy this, ever!
Though his article brought up some good points about remote workers taking fewer sick days, less vacation time, having improved morale, retention and collaboration, he does reference a study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science, that determined that the effectiveness of a work-from-home program is not a given. It’s tied directly into the “Specific needs of the organization, the individual, and the circumstances.”
Ask yourself: Name one CEO of a Fortune Company that came up through the ranks by way of his or her kitchen table??
When I’ve been approached by an employee, who wants to work from home, I challenge them to prove their effectiveness in the office for 6 months, before I’d consider their request. As you might summarize, I am not a work from home fan! In my career, I’ve only ever met two people whom I’d say worked hard enough to warrant a work-from-home situation, and even they admitted to me that they were only running at 50% efficiency.
The key to a successful business is managing a staff that has a laser focus on driving results. You can’t kick someone in the fanny when they’ve lost focus, if they’re working from home.