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So…Yahoo recently told staff NOT to work at home…http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/feb/25/yahoo-chief-bans-working-home

and then the BBC make a comment or two…http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21588760

The interesting thing is that Yahoo aren’t wrong, and neither are those companies who do allow it. (An interesting sentence of a twist or two of negatives…)  The BBC article says 59% of companies (in 2011 – surely more in 2013) allow home-working in some capacity – which feels about right to me – I’ve experienced a fair few companies in recent years, and all allow home working to some degree. Some actively pursue it.

If you’re wondering if it’s a success in your organisation, or worried that it’s not – then I’d like to put forwards a proposition. The reason it’s not as effective as it could be is probably down to two things:

  1. Full understanding of what home-working means for your organisation and
  2. A full and appropriate Change Management programme to embed the positive behaviors you’d expect.

It’s all about what I’ll call the irresponsible creation of some IT tools and provision for home-working without proper thought to how it works. You give people laptops,  create a VPN connection, make some on-line storage possible – but essentially, the ways of working and doing things aren’t changed. Rather than go for some cutting edge collaboration applications designed by people with usability in mind, any largish organisation (and some small ones) go for something like SharePoint. That is to say, something which is pretty poorly implemented, and frankly designed by techies.  No one sits down to think about home-working and collaboration from the ground up and how things change.  Don’t even get me started on MS Office. Some organisations think ‘track changes’ is the height of collaboration. I’m not saying these technologies work when in the office either, but being able to sit in front of someone to edit a document together and review changes is much easier.

Home-working seems to be a set of processes and behaviors which are almost always left to the IT team to ‘implement’ – releasing them to the wild organisation, and maybe creating a help document is probably as far as it goes? Why? I’d argue it’s as complex a new ‘system’ as a new Finance System or a Human Resources one, which come with defined programmes of managing the changes.

So, if you want home working to work…. do it properly and don’t always start and finish with the IT tools and systems needed, with no thoughts on working practices, culture and importantly distance based collaboration.