Work from Home: Encouraging vs. Enabling

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Can your IT systems accommodate your people working from home?  Can your team be productive if they are on a mobile device in a coffee shop somewhere?  On a big snow day, this is a big advantage.  There is a lot of discussion in our industry lately about whether people should be encouraged to shift their “perspective” on the workplace.  For some organizations, there may be reasons to encourage more “flex hours” and the ability for people to work from their homes.  I’ve heard arguments that companies can control costs (and so, presumably, enhance profitability) by reducing their office sizes, getting people to share desks (flex spaces), and encouraging people to work remotely.  To be sure, that kind of flexibility is really attractive to certain people looking to balance their career and personal priorities.  ITW and so many of our clients have made tremendous investments to enable people to work from anywhere. The question is this: should we?

I worry about the consequences if this ‘trend” catches on.  I don’t like the idea of fragmenting a team.  I am concerned about the negative attitude toward “work” that can develop if people begin to see ‘the office’ as some vestige of a bygone era.  I sympathize with Yahoo’s decision last year to curb their own work from home activity because they saw innovation dying in the company.

I don’t encourage people to work from home.  I like seeing our team in the office; collaborating, sharing ideas and enthusiasm and energy.  Humans are social creatures; it’s healthy and productive to spend time together, learn from one another, and to feel ‘part of the team.’  Our office and the people in it matter a great deal.  We love bringing clients to our office so they can get the Weapons Grade experience for themselves.  Having a vibrant team working together and welcoming people to spend time with us is a big part of what we do.

Don’t get me wrong, I work from home occasionally.  The privacy, peace, and quiet can be helpful.  Sometimes I do it because the weather sucks.  I am extremely proud that we have the systems in place to enable our people to ‘work from home.’   But enabling and encouraging are very different things.  What’s your perspective?

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