These days, the whole work/life balance is pretty important. People want to spend more time with their families, which is kinda surprising. Have you talked to kids lately? They’re pretty annoying. The young ones crap their pants regularly, the older ones talk back and the ones in the middle still have to be clothed and fed. Why you would leave work regularly to spend time with such parasites is beyond me.
All sorts of you do it though, and even more of you long desperately for it to happen. Even those of us without kids long for the days where we don’t have to shower, commute or even put on pants to be productive at work. Working at home is all the rage these days, even employers are on record that they don’t want yo’ ass in the office. It all seems great, right? Well, not so much. By doing so, you might just be shooting your career in the foot. Here’s why you should stop telecommuting.
Let’s start out with something somewhat obvious. Everybody assumes the people who work from home slack off. Sure, you can argue that people are every bit as productive from home, (there’s even an argument to be made that they’re more productive, since there’s no office stuff to distract them) but the problem is nobody actually knows what the employee is doing all day. They might be busting their ass all morning and then watching baseball in the afternoon. They might be especially lazy and are just outsourcing their job to someone in India, paying the new guy peanuts and pocketing the difference. Sure, that’s not very likely, but that still won’t stop everyone in the office from thinking you’re doing some sort of slacking off at home.
But wait, shouldn’t results be the only thing that matters? If you get all your work done, why should the company care that it only takes you 6 hours instead of 8? If you talked to the management of companies that allow telecommuting, they’ll probably say the same thing. There’s just one problem.
Their actions say the exact opposite.
According to research done by Daniel Cable, who happens to be the Professor of Organisational Behavior for the London Business School, (excuse the British spelling of organizational, it seemed appropriate) it turns out that supervisors value employees that they see more often more favorably. If they see employees coming in late, or early, or on the weekend, those employees are valued even more. It doesn’t matter so much what those employees actually produce. It just matters how often they show up.
The thing is, as far as Dr. Cable can tell, is supervisors often don’t even realize they’re discriminating against workers who telecommute. We place a large emphasis on how much time someone spends at the office, and less of an emphasis on how much they actually do while there. We automatically think someone who has the initiative to show up early and stay late is a harder worker, actual results be damned.
When it comes time to give out performance evaluations, most companies still have all sorts of subjective categories in which they grade. They look at things like attitude, cooperation and the amount of time at work, (surprise, surprise) all while barely glossing over the really important stuff – like just how productive you are.
People have already figured this out. How often have you seen somebody start to put in a few extra hours just before review time? Or how many people do you know who work 50 or 60 hours a week, yet spend altogether too much time at the water cooler? Do offices even still have water coolers? These are pressing questions people.
By spending even a day a week at home, you’re taking away valuable interaction time with your supervisors. Not only will you be somewhat perceived as a slacker, you’ll also lose that opportunity to show your boss that you’re working late.
Telecommuters have figured all this out, and are trying innovative solutions. One is to send emails to their bosses during non-office hours, thereby creating the impression that they’re burning the midnight oil. While I’m sure all that helps, there’s no substitute to actually showing up.
In the chip business, I can be done before noon on Fridays if I play my cards right throughout the week. If my boss calls after lunch on Friday, do you think I’m going to volunteer that I’m already playing video games with my pants off? Actually, my hatred of pants is well known. They probably always assume I’m pantsless.
Anyway, what’s the point? Showing up matters. And in most companies, it actually matters more than the amount of work you do. It’s a little sad, but it’s the truth. So stop telecommuting, you slacker. Somebody needs to flirt with the secretary.