Which Employees Can and Should Work from Home?

Unless you are monitoring repetitive work such as continuous data entry or assembly line manufacturing, most employee metrics mean little to nothing because you can’t clock wetware. If you are using such metrics, you’re measuring the least valuable part of an employee’s contribution. Here’s how to decide who to let work from home and how to measure their actual productivity….

It appears that some big employers — even, if not especially, the tech-savvy types — have come down with a bad case of metrics flu lately. Take Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s latest teleworker recall for example. Certainly that’s a clear case of letting the wrong metrics force a bad call.

Her reasoning for ordering everyone back to the office according to a Forbes report was because she “consulted logs from Yahoo!’s Virtual Private Network (VPN), which employees use to remotely access the company’s network” and “since workers weren’t logging in from home often enough for Mayer’s liking, they will now do so from the office.”

Yeah, that fixed everything. Because we all know that employees working in an office environment do not goof off. They don’t go to the restroom, hang out at the water cooler, chat with co-workers in the copy room, dilly dally in the hallways, or otherwise drag their feet.  Presumably there are well-paid overlords in the office who are dedicated to watching the staffers every move, either physically or digitally or perhaps both, to make sure their heads stay down and the work flows continuously.

Of course, there are no dedicated overlords doing any such thing. Managers are far too busy balancing multiple hats upon their heads to look out over a sea of cubicles and note who is scratching their nose, who left their desk, or who is even in the building.

Yes, Yahoo! Can require all those employees to show up in the office on-time and dutifully log onto the network. But the company can’t make them any more productive by doing so.

You see, unless you are monitoring repetitive work such as continuous data entry or assembly line manufacturing, the metrics mean little to nothing because you can’t clock wetware. That is, workers have to think, perhaps even create, and there are no metrics for how much work their brains are doing. There are only metrics for how much they input from their brains into a machine.

So, basically, you’re measuring the least valuable part of their contribution.

In essence, the tendency is to measure employee input as opposed to employee output. And that leads to rewarding and punishing employees based on busy work rather than productivity. On what planet does that make sense?

Further, if you have an employee who doesn’t perform, you have an HR issue not a teleworker policy issue. Fire the deadweight employees and replace them with folks that actually want to work.

As to which employees you should allow to work from home, that too is based on how well they work unsupervised. If their productivity is high (not their busy levels, mind you), then odds are that worker will be productive anywhere – in the office, at home, or while traveling.

And if you want and expect creative work from employees, the absolute last thing you need to do is lock them down in any restrictive, structured, metric-mommying environment – anywhere!

Instead, develop metrics that measure the value of employees’ contributions rather than the volume. You, your company, and your employees will all prosper if you do!

pam bakerPam Baker is the author of eight books and hundreds of technology articles published daily in leading online and print publications. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC) and the Internet Press Guild (IPG). You can reach her or follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

Pam Baker

Pam Baker

Contributor at Tech Page One
Pam Baker is the author of eight books and hundreds of technology articles published daily in leading online and print publications. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC) and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).
Pam Baker
Pam Baker
Tags: Business,Business Management