July 30, 2013

I trust my employees.........really?

It is a beautiful day in New England. I am sitting on my back deck, with my laptop, working. Since I work for myself, this is acceptable. I check in with my boss (me) and ask if today is a good day for working outside.  My boss answers, "Why yes, Betty, its a beautiful day, you have lots of emails to get through, a blog to write and some other important computer-related work, so go for it."

Of course, most people work in companies in which working at home, sitting on the back deck,  is not an option. Though I submit that it could be much more of an option, if companies trusted their employees more.

Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, made a big stink when she asked all employees to come back into the office. No more telecommuting. Her argument was that people needed to see each other--be in close proximity so that they could collaborate, create a more cohesive team environment.  I know that argument. One hears it a lot.  And I think it has merit.  Virtual teams have many challenges and it simply is not the same as being able to walk down the hall and see a colleague for a spontaneous chat about a project; or have face to face meetings where everyone is in the room and you don't have to struggle with wondering who is really paying attention and who is secretly checking emails or  Facebook posts. 

But does it have to be an either/or situation---office vs. home? Might there be other options?  How about 3 days in the office and 2 days at home?  How about telecommuting for certain jobs that really don't require significant face time? And how about teams who are scattered all over the globe--does it really matter if I am on a conference call sitting in my office in Company X vs. on my back deck, if I am communicating with people who are not in the same location anyway?

I think a big issue here is trust.  I honestly think most companies just don't believe their employees will work hard when out of sight. Maybe they are right. Maybe we won't. But, on the other hand, maybe we will.

Telecommuting may be a unique situation, but it is probably worth seriously considering whether you trust your employees. I mean, do you REALLY trust your employees? If so, do your policies and practices reflect this trust? And if you can't honestly say that you do trust your employees, it might be worth trying to figure out why.