When Yahoo announced this week that it was banning all remote working, the media response was divided:  Critics, including Sir Richard Branson, were quick to label it as an outdated move, considering business has the technology to link us anywhere to anyone, whenever we want. 

 Yahoo apparently stated that not only did working from home “..compromise speed and quality..” but that, “…some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”


Flexi-working is about managing differently

 Many successful, flexi-working cultures are proof that performance does not need to be compromised just because some employees choose to, or have to, work in a different way to their office-based colleagues. Managing homeworkers is all about doing things differently: For example, re-creating those all-important ‘water-cooler’ and ‘corridor’ moments (which indeed do spark great decisions and productive conversations).  


Home-based working can be fast, effective and high-performing for many (but not all) employees but only if it is managed correctly and supported by leadership. Leadership have a duty to set the cultural tone and expectation for what ‘flexible’ means for their own organisation and to ensure every employee, no matter how and when and where they work, is supported by a manager committed to helping them achieve their best performance – and who trusts them to do it.


Make time for the right conversations

 By having open and honest conversations with employees, managers can gain richer understanding of how and why flexible working may – or may not – be right for individuals and for the business. But these types of conversations rarely happen if managers only have the time or inclination for transactional discussions that focus on to-do lists and deadlines.  Making time for effective and proactive developmental discussions is what sets good companies apart from bad: employees want and need to be invested in as people. 


Re-create the water-cooler moments

 As Yahoo pointed out, the myriad of small, personal interactions in corridors and canteens creates the very fabric of office life that not only gleans good discussions but also bonds employees. In fact, I often coach leaders to commit to small but very impactful ways to be more visible and help build stronger relationships aside of formal meetings. (You would probably be surprised by how leaders find this quite difficult and uncomfortable, initially). 


Homeworking, by its nature, means employees miss out on these little interactions but the reality for most managers is that managing remotely is likely to play a big part in their future.  Recreating these small and personal interactions virtually is just as important and relevant when it comes to keeping their employees thriving and performing.


For example, picking up the phone to check in with someone and see how they are enjoying a piece of work, instead of calling when you have to or because you need something, are just some of the little ways managers can actually have a big impact. Likewise, asking what someone did at the weekend, as opposed to asking how their weekend was, can open up a much more insightful conversation and demonstrate your interest in them. 


Flexible working is not a black and white, right or wrong decision.  I have always personally thrived on a mix of home working and office time.  I know others that are the same, including many of our team.  Ultimately, like most things in life, it’s about balance and I believe a good manager will know if flexiworking is right for their employee, or not, because they don’t just work with their employees, they know them, too.