12 Best Practices For Employees To Keep Company Trust In Work-From-Home Scenarios

So the issue of working from home continues to gain traction here in media.

I was recently asked to provide some insights into this issue – especially from my own work experience. Some of my responses have been published in Digital News Asia‘s article, “Working from home: A case-by-case consideration“.

I still maintain that working from home remains an issue of trust.

So, what I wanted to elaborate on were some of the best practices of employees in companies with Work From Home (or in our case, thanks to cloud-based productivity, collaboration and communication technology, “Work from ANYWHERE”) policies, all of which are premised on trust, empowerment and responsibility.

  1. Discuss working styles upfront – a discussion that especially needs to be held between managers and work group team members.
  2. Keep good communication – whether through online chats, phone calls or email, the key to successful flexible working is good communication. 
  3. Be open and transparent about your whereabouts; about what you are doing and where you will be.
  4. Make sure you have physical meetings regularly and co-ordinate when they will spend time at the office together.
  5. Check in; take time to check in with each other regularly so you can keep improving your working relationships with colleagues.
  6. Make appointments. You set aside time to meet with someone in person, so why not make appointments for important telephone calls? By booking time, you can be sure that your coworkers will be prepared and focused.
  7. Stay focused when on conference calls. It’s easy to stray when meetings go long, but keep multitasking to a minimum during phone conferences. The other party can almost certainly hear your keyboard clicking while you respond to someone else’s e-mail message.
  8. Stay online as much as possible. If you are not online, it is likely that people may think you are not working – even if you are. Respond quickly to e-mail and your colleagues will know you are being productive.
  9. Establish a schedule. Keep home work hours similar to those you would keep at an office. Your manager, coworkers and customers appreciate knowing when you are available.
  10. Be present. Check in with your team regularly throughout the day and be responsive to their questions and comments.
  11. Focus on objectives. Work with your manager to define clear goals and objectives against which your performance can be measured.
  12. Tell your team and your boss when you work from home. Type in your calendar that you’re working from home, so that others do not book physical meetings with you that day.

Working From Home: An Issue Of Trust

File:Marissa Mayer at TechCrunch 2012 II (crop).jpg

So, everyone’s all over Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent decision to ban employees from working from home. Responses range from the (IMHO) unexpected (i.e. “Maybe she’s suffering from post-partum depression“) to hues and cries about how this is a step backward (and the “1980’s are calling for their work environment back”).

I, for one, am actually sympathetic to Yahoo!’s decision and think that the crux of the matter lies in their response (emphasis mine): “This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home — this is about what is right for Yahoo!, right now.” Citing unnamed employees, Mashable reports that,

“Work ethic at Yahoo has deteriorated over time, and the new policy allows management to better monitor and inspire people at the office, the employees revealed. What’s more, it’s seen as beneficial if less productive staff chose to leave because of the policy, they added. Indeed, some workers have abused the work-at-home option to the point that they’ve founded startups while being on Yahoo’s payroll.”

My company currently provides a work from home option, which my colleagues and I definitely appreciate (well, actually, it’s more of a “work from anywhere” option, rather than just “from home”). For many of us, the option to work from anywhere really frees up a lot of time from commuting to work and struggling through traffic. In fact, with cloud-based productivity suites, access to work files, communication and collaboration is actually quite unhindered as well.

That being said, I do personally believe that a “human touch” and face-to-face interactions are vital to forming a strong workplace culture and environment.

At the end of the day, the option to work from home or anywhere else is really a step towards employee empowerment. This, of course, involves trust – which can always be open to abuse. In the case of Yahoo!, I understand that they were looking to manage those who were abusing the “work from home” option and address issues surrounding performance and productivity. When that trust is broken, remedial steps must be taken.

I think the approach to achieving a balance lies with addressing how a company looks at employee empowerment. It could be less about managing “presence” in the office and more about ensuring employees are responsible for their time and end-results, giving employees reasons to meet face-to-face (again, having strong company culture is severely underrated and often overlooked), and releasing them to work from anywhere, as necessary.

I intimated something along those lines when I spoke to a reporter about this (“Malaysian employees perplexed with Yahoo!’s work from home ban“):

Never mind working from home – with today’s technology, you can work from anywhere. Leigh Wong, head of communications at Microsoft Malaysia, said cloud-based productivity suites allows workers to access work files even from a continent away.

“This way, communication and collaboration are quite unhindered,” he said.


If more companies now are in support of working from home, what could have compelled Mayer to make such a move?

Wong said while working from home is a step towards employee empowerment, it involves trust that is open to abuse.

It is less about measuring presence in the office and more about ensuring employees are responsible for their time and end-results, he said.