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Workers and Managers Share Responsibility for Making the Home Office Option Successful

When news broke of Yahoo!’s decision to require its employees to work at a Yahoo! office instead of from home, bloggers immediately weighed in. (See my own contribution—“Did ‘Yahoo!’ Just Become a Verb?”—at the Community Voices section of Boston.com.)

Comments came in fast and furious about the Yahoo! decision, and broadly speaking, most fell into one of two camps. Those in support of the decision argued that 1) people do not work as efficiently at home, and/or 2) face-time is an integral and important part of the office and work-world experience. People who disparaged the decision argued equally vociferously that 1) more work gets done at home without the annoying and often unnecessary office distractions and 2) axing the commute is better for the environment.

Who’s right? They both are. Success for the people working at-home only comes if they take the responsibility that goes with the privilege seriously. That means:

  • Treat the home office as if you are actually at the corporate office.
  • Each day mentally, if not physically, transition from home to office.
  • Dress for work. (While some may scoff at this piece of advice, you’ll be more mentally prepared to “work” if you also dress for work, at least in casual clothes rather than in pajamas.)
  • When at “the office” focus on work and don’t let “home” interruptions distract you. That could mean limiting interactions with kids or neighbors who may think you’re more accessible because you’re at home.
  • Clock in your full, contracted work hours.
  • Proactively stay in touch with your colleagues and teammates, through email and phone calls as well as virtual meetings such as Skype, iChat, or FaceTime. And actually visiting the office is a great way to reconnect and keep relationships with colleagues positive.

On the other side of the equation, managers of people working at home need to actively supervise the work of their at-home employees just as they supervise employees in the office. Good managers will focus on a productivity issue with an employee regardless of where the employee works. A number of commenters pointed out that an employee who isn’t being productive working at home is not likely to be productive just because he or she is brought into the office environment. So, simply banning all at-home work and bringing all employees into the office may not fix the underlying productivity problem. The key here is that managers shoulder the burden for being a manager for at-home employees as well as for employees who work at the office.

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