With consultation around amendments to flexible working request legislation on the table and recent articles focusing on big corporates wanting people back in the office, it's clear that the 'WFH' debate continues to rumble on - and both sides ain't budging on their views!
When I read various blog comments on the subject, one thing seems to get repeated a lot when it comes to traditional 'office' roles: "If I get the job done, it shouldn't matter where I am doing the work". No problem with this when it comes to really tangible, visible roles like sales but what if I'm in a job where results expected aren't so clear?
No manager has sat down in reality and counted up every activity in someone's role to ensure that there is 35-40 hours of weekly work. Which is why we read in the US that some tech employees have two or three jobs with different employers that they do from home without any of the employers realising that their person is moonlighting. Some staff have obviously worked out that they can bang out the activity in their jobs in just 15 hours a week when undistracted at home! But if they were in the office then perhaps they may have been assigned extra tasks to make them more productive and useful because it is more visibly obvious that they have less on. But this is all just about activity, and making sure I get the required number of hours of work from my direct report.
So lets switch to results: If the sales person makes £1m a year (and achieves target) doing 20 hours a week then the boss probably doesn't care that they aren't working full-time to hit that £1m goal or that they aren't in the office four days a week. So this 'why does anyone care where I work if I get the job done' only works if the manager is getting the results expected. But what are the results expected from non-sales professions like IT Helpdesk, or HR Admin or Content Marketeer??!! How are these quantifiably and tangibly calculated?
IT Helpdesk: Close/resolve all helpdesk calls is great but what if there are only a few a day and each one roughly takes 10 mins? Perhaps we can add more of a quality indicator and say; close calls without the same query reoccurring within 30 days? That may take more of the helpdesk person's time to be sure that there won't be a reoccurrence - its a more challenging result to achieve. But now I know we only get a few a day I can perhaps assign a few more responsibilities to get my money's worth.
Developer: Completing a coding assignment is a number of hours of activity but then the result expectation/prize of zero bugs may be a better objective that will probably take more time/focus: and if my coder is repeatedly achieving this great result then I'm probably less hung up on how many hours they are doing or where they work doing it.
The point is, if a challenging result that is the bigger prize/the bigger 'well-done' can be identified rather than just talking in/assigning activities and tasks then there is less chance that the manager will obsess over why they aren't in the office, how many hours they are doing and 'are they busy enough?' or even 'do they have a second job?'!!