I think I've been too long in the remote space; in the “virtual team/telework/remote” space.
I'm beginning to have difficulty understanding the main barrier that people face before they are happy to enable employees to work from home. (Please note that I’ve deliberately picked “enable”, over “allow”, language matters.)
I hear of managers fearing that, if people work from home, how will they know the work is getting done?
The only answer to this, is another question:
How do you know when the work is being done in the office?
At the end of the month, do you add up all the hours that people spent with their bums on their seats and evaluate your work in that way?
Or do you look at your spreadsheets, at your figures, at the number of successful proposals, the quality of the projects completed, the feedback from clients and customers, the _________ (insert here what your team is meant to be delivering/doing)?
Chances are that, if your team is made up of knowledge workers, the answers to the above will be location independent. You're unlikely to be confirming that the work is getting done by observing people at their desk.
So now what?
Once you have identified how you know that team members are performing in the office, think about how you find out about those results.
If they’re already being reported/shared digitally, great, you should have no problem knowing whether people are actually doing their work at home. You're set up for remote work.
However, if you are currently picking up on these results informally, by overhearing someone's conversation on the phone, or by someone going, “Yes!” at the desk because they’ve closed a deal, you might want to get together with your team and find ways in which similar clues can be picked up in the online space.
It’s not uncommon for remote team members to share what they’re working on by “working out loud”, or to report weekly on what they have achieved through online platforms or meetings. This might seem like extra work, but it’s a small price to pay for you and your team members to be able to choose where you work from, even when you work and if you’re really lucky, how you work.
There are many valid reasons why managers resist employees working from home, but “not knowing whether they’re doing the work” shouldn’t be one of them.