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Four reasons why your work from home policy isn’t working for you

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Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

If you were being completely honest with yourself, you’d admit that you hate your company’s work from home policy.

Half the time you can’t access people or information when you need to, and you have a terrible feeling that employees spend more time doing their household chores than working on company projects. You can think of several employees who’ve requested, and been granted, exceptions to the policy, and some of the arrangements don’t make sense for your business. In fact, you’ve created work arounds to accommodate the policy (the monthly Marketing meeting should ideally be held on the Friday immediately after the monthly sales reports are generated, but instead it’s held on Tuesday, because on Friday Matt and Sally aren’t here, and on Monday Jack isn’t here, and you’d ask your IT department about the feasibility of setting up meetings remotely, but every time you think to contact Rosalie in IT she’s not here… ) and this work from home thing is becoming a big, fat problem.

You want to be the “employer of choice” who stays on top of workplace trends, or at the very least, intelligently responds to employee requests. Instead, you’ve got a bit of a mess on your hands. What went wrong?

Good question. Here are four answers that explain why your work from home policy didn't actually work, as well as tips to make it right.

  1. You deviated from the plan (or never had a plan)
    Just like any other policy, your work from home policy needs a business reason to exist. If you instituted the policy reactively, without thinking about the business benefits (and sorry, making some employees happy is not a business benefit), then no wonder you’re ready to tear your hair out.

    Alternatively, perhaps you had clear objectives but then deviated from those by being too darn accommodating and approving (or allowing your managers to approve) every work from home request without checking it against your goals. Either could be a reason for the current state of affairs.

    What now?
    Get back to basics and determine exactly what a work from home policy is supposed to do for you, and don’t allow any exceptions that won’t help you meet those objectives.

  2. You neglected to communicate to your employees that work from home is a two-way street
    However the policy is implemented, it needs to profit both employer and employee or trouble is bound to ensue. This means that your employees need to be accessible during the workday and should not expect their schedules to dictate when and how business is conducted.

    What now?
    Let employees (and your managers) know that work from home is not a right. If may be true that Matt and Sally negotiated Friday as their work from home day, but if you need them in the office once a month on Friday, then both should be in the office once a month on Friday. This is a give-and-take proposition.

  3. You didn’t centralize the process
    Rather than putting a neutral party (like HR) in charge of the process, you allowed each manager to make decisions for her department without regard to the effect on other departments. This process also opened the door to complaints of inconsistency and unfairness.

    What now?
    As soon as possible, get your HR professional involved. He or she will ensure that the policy is followed and that any exceptions make sense for your business and are worthy of setting a precedent.

  4. You didn’t train your managers to effectively manage telecommuting employees
    As a result, managers aren’t properly setting expectations or monitoring how well the arrangement is working. Managers also aren’t dealing with any problems that might signal it’s time for a renegotiation.

    What now?
    It’s never too late to train your managers. Not sure where to start? Then start backwards, working with the managers to develop solutions to each problem you’ve identified. Get HR involved, too, please!

A work from home policy is meant to address concerns, not create them. If your policy has become a sore spot, take a step back and resolve to get it working again for you today.

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