MYTH: Teleworkers Aren’t Working

This topic has been on my mind for a while. I’m a huge fan of teleworking. HUGE. Or rather of giving employees the option to telework. It’s not for everyone and it doesn’t work for everyone- some people need more structure & guidance or don’t work well in isolation. It also won’t work for every job. However, I believe there are few office-based jobs that can’t be done from an alternate work site (AWS) at least some of the time with the right equipment. I have a hard time understanding why more employers aren’t on board with telework as a flexible work option. I’ve noticed some employers, even though they offer a telework option, place expectations on teleworkers that they don’t place on workers who are in the office.

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Every person I’ve spoken with (aka a slightly less than scientific study) who has at least one regular telework day tells me they are much more productive on those days, primarily due to not having to commute and there being fewer distractions. I also think teleworkers have a tendency to “overwork” so people in the office don’t think they’re slacking. This has always bothered me.ย Just because you may or may not be wearing pajamas doesn’t mean you’re slacking.

Why is there a perception that just because you aren’t at a desk in an office space your employer owns, you aren’t working as hard or as much? Heaven forbid you miss a call or don’t respond to an email immediately. Guess what – people miss calls and don’t respond to emails immediately when they’re in the office too. People play video games and login to Facebook and shop on Amazon and all kinds of other things IN THE OFFICE. I won’t even go into the amount of time wasted on meetings and random chitchat. Yet there’s this perception by many employers that in the office = working and not in the office = probably not working.

I always say the proof is in the pudding. Well, I don’t actually say that. Who says that? My point is, if a person is not performing or is under-performing, it doesn’t matter where they’re located. The proof will be in that they aren’t getting results or meeting their goals. People who aren’t motivated to work from an AWS probably aren’t that motivated to work when they’re in the office either. THAT is the real problem that needs to be addressed.

This is another one of those things that comes down to trust. Trust your people. If you don’t trust your people, think about why that is and what can be done to change it. Allow your people flexibility to the extent that it doesn’t pose a hardship to the business. If someone isn’t performing well outside of the office but performs well in the office, maybe teleworking isn’t for them. That’s OK. At least they were given the option. If someone isn’t performing in or out of the office, a conversation needs to be had surrounding that issue. Just please don’t assume that a person who is teleworking is not really working. Last, but certainly not least, please understand that teleworkers also need bathroom breaks, eat lunch, step away from the desk for a moment, might miss a call or not immediately respond to an email. Just like when they’re in the office. Don’t worry; they’ll get back to you. Just like when they’re in the office.

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