What people are misunderstanding about the work-from-home debate

It wasn’t long ago that Workopolis was at the forefront of a national movement. National Work from Home Day began in the offices of Workopolis and evolved into a movement, even making its way into parliament. A couple of years later, the subject is gathering even more press than ever before thanks to Marisa Mayer at Yahoo, who in a bold move banned all working from home.

The decision was greatly criticized in the press and on HR websites (such as in this Forbes article, or this blog from TLNT) as being backwards. Particularly in the tech industry, flexibility is a revered work-perk, and a justifiable one.

So what’s up with the unexpected policy from Yahoo? I don’t think encouraging people to come to the office is a bad idea. It’s just been grossly misinterpreted on their part. People are misunderstanding what ‘working from home’ means. There are not a lot of companies that offer true telecommuting 100% of the time. What we’re really talking about here is just being a little bit flexible sometimes. And that’s something totally different.

Flexibility makes a big difference for retention rates and employee engagement. So here are a few quick things to keep in mind if you’re considering making it a policy (or moving to ban it) in your office.

1. Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean always. I’m in the fortunate position of working somewhere that allows me to work from home on occasion. If I have an appointment mid-day, if the weather is particularly bad, or I have some other valid reason, I’m able to do so. I can’t tell you how many times this has made my life easier—and kept me loyal to my employer.

2. Take it on a case-by-case basis. It would be great if there were a one-size-fits-all solution to working from home, but the reality is, different jobs have different requirements. There are lots of positions that really do require an actual physical presence. If you feel someone`s job duties can be better served in person, explain why and stand your ground.

3. Encourage employees to enjoy coming into the office. Going to work is actually enjoyable when you’ve got a good team that work well together. Personally, I love actually going into work, and find those meetings and interactions to be super motivating and inspiring. I’ve worked on contracts that are strictly home-based and they take a heck of a lot of dedication. If you make your office a great place to be, employees will want to come in to work too.
Hiring someone who might work from home? Here are 5 tips to get it right.


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