Had a 1:1 recently with my boss. I again, brought up the request to work from home one day per week. He again, told me that it is difficult or near impossible to get something like that approved for the long term. The current policy as it stands is:
Working from home is available upon request for any colleague and is at the discretion of next level management. Work from home criteria and objectives should be set between the colleague and his/her manager to set appropriate expectations.
The annoying thing here is that “next level management” in my case is actually two levels above me and their discretion is hopelessly set at an “as needed or required” level without the hope of any type of regular approval for a weekly work from home day. My director in this case has been working for the company for over two decades and is very much stuck in the realm of old-school thinking where working from home is horrible and anyone doing it is just skipping on work. Here are the reasons I think this man is a dinosaur stuck in the middle of a modern workplace:
- Everyone is using a laptop, there are *no* desktops
- Internal phone system is VoIP through Skype for Business
- Completely an Office 365 shop (Outlook, SharePoint, Office are all hosted)
- 80 offices world-wide, on average, 80% of my communication is electronic or on phone
- Mandatory methods to track and verify productivity
I will often give the benefit of the doubt with resistance like I’ve received at the onset of convincing someone to give an approval for something they’re initially opposed to. However, in this case, a direct conversation with said Director resulted in “I don’t approve work from home.” I was promptly asked to leave his office if there wasn’t anything else I needed to talk to him about. Not one to back down from a challenge, I took a different approach at first. I started looking up research on the benefits of working from home for both the employee and the employer and found quite a lot of positive information. The other side of the coin unfortunately had just as much negative information that contradicted the positive. There was information to support either point of view rather convincingly.
As I think I may pay a personal price for the next action I’ve taken (not played out yet), I went to HR to talk to a few people about the origins of the policy and where and when it was set. In my logical mind I had a plan to work behind the scenes to get the policy updated by whatever committee set it in the first place. The committee in this case, was made up of several people….. that also included my Director. My posture must have changed as the HR person asked if there was a problem. I asked her when the policy was set and it, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been updated or changed since 2005. 11 years ago!! I went on to explain what I was after and if it was, in her opinion, something that had a snowballs chance of being changed. She didn’t need to answer, he face said it all. I got up and thanked her for her time.
For the last 5 or so years, I’ve pushed very hard with my current and previous companies to get a permanent arrangement to work from home setup and approved. What I was asking for was a single day to work from home that wasn’t a Monday or Friday; rather Wednesday was my preferred day. It provided a break in the middle of the week that helped greatly on both the front and back end of the week with an estimated 20% increase in productivity. A very non-scientific study conducted by me, subjectively, where I had a feeling of greater efficiency and effectiveness. Well, the few weeks I was able to do so that is.
Here is my current push, with highlighted justifications and benefits below:
- Online no later than 6:30am / Offline no earlier than 4:30pm (company gets the hour I’d be commuting, at a minimum)
- Activity time tracked through Skype for Business and correlated with VPN logs
- First complaint related to remote work would end the agreement (puts skin in the game)
- Important meetings or training would override a scheduled work from home day
- Short weeks would override work from home day (holidays)
- Any measured drop in effectiveness or efficiency would require a review of the agreement
Personally, I think this gives the advantage to my company. They’re getting more work out of me, a potential 52 extra hours, just for allowing me to work from home one day per week. My estimation has that closer to 40 when you take out short weeks and the occasional 1-2 meetings per quarter that would require my physical presence. I’m certainly not a 9 to 5’er, often getting to work by 7am and leaving around 4pm, so around 9 hours per day as I typically don’t take a lunch away from my desk, most times. I’m getting close to that mindset where I will stop overproducing for a company that isn’t willing to approve a simple request that is more than justified based on previous performance. I’ve been here before and I ended up looking for and getting a new job eventually. I’ve not worked for a company in my career that I actually enjoyed coming to work for everyday though, so I’m in a tough spot.
It feels like I’m fighting a losing battle. Why can’t more companies embrace modern and progressive ideas?