When you tell people you work from home 100% many of them respond with, “So that means you can work in your pajamas right.” I’ve often wondered whether pajamas is code for “Naked,” but that’s not really the point of they’re making… or is it? The biggest assumption people make about working from home is that it’s easy and a cake walk compared to being harnessed to a cubicle and thrown into the area of corporate office politics. The other reaction I’ve had, is disbelief. My father, for example, still doesn’t understand how the work-from-home arrangement works. He always asks, “But how do they know that you’re working?” I ask back, “How did they know I was working in the cube farm?” My real answer to his question is, “They know I’m working because I get my work done.” If I don’t deliver my projects on time and with good results, then I am not doing my job. It seems so simple, but there it is.
I remember having to fill task-tracking sheets and weekly status reports with multiple tables and stats that demonstrated what exactly I was doing with my time. If I wasn’t careful the stupid status reports and related metrics would take me at least 10% of my working time. I don’t think that that’s unusual in some office environments, and actually 10% is a conservative amount of time. I have encountered business groups or divisions that spent a good amount of their working hours tracking exactly what they did rather than ‘doing it.’ Sadly, in some corporate environments, this seemingly futile exercise is conducted for purely political and sometimes bureaucratic reasons.
Ugh… I feel myself shuddering with a form of PTSD just thinking about this… I digress. I meant to focus mainly on the mechanics of working from home, and how it’s possible to be incredibly efficient and productive as well as connect and collaborate with others virtually. In response to Cass Nevada’s request, I’m going to share a bit about the tools and methods I (and my colleagues) use to work effectively with each other. I’m going to divide this series of posts into the following categories
- Tools for communication and work – having good office collaboration tools really helps, and sometimes this means paying for them.
- Work expectations/behaviors of the ideal virtual employee – working from home is not for everyone. Though there are some behaviors that one can learn in order to be an effective virtual worker/contributor
- Drawbacks of working from home – believe it or not there are tons of drawbacks. After the first six months of 100% virtual work, I found myself joining social groups and clubs to balance not being able to go to lunch or engage in ‘water cooler talk’ with friends and workmates. In this section, I’ll touch upon some of the drawbacks and then discuss some of the possible options or remedies to these issues.
Cass, you’ll have to bear with me because I may take sometime to gather my thoughts together for each section.
Image from the Morguefile
Published May 14, 2008
Corporate Culture , Creativity , Training
Tags: Corporate Culture, Creativity, Innovation, Learning, New Employee Orientation, On the Job Training, Orientation, Training, Work
Written in response for Rupa’s Work and Learning Blog Carnival
I recently met someone who was just starting a new job. She lamented the fact that she had to sit through an entire week of orientation training.
“Wow, they still do that?” I responded.
She said she just finished the fourth day of the training and it was brutal, boring. To her point, most of that information would just be lost or forgotten trivia shortly after the training sessions. But I suppose this approach alleviates the training organization’s responsibility. Once you expose the students to it, it’s simply up to them to learn and absorb it.
It makes sense to have some orientation as a group for newbies, but to cram everything into one session at the beginning doesn’t make any sense. What about doing the following instead:
- Hit the main/and crucial points (anti-sexual harassment, benefits information, safety, brief rah-rah about company philosophy/policy) in a one day session. Give everyone their continental breakfast with bagels, croissants and fruit.
- During the session point out or give the students a reminder of where to get training and information about the different areas both online or in actual face to face sessions.
- Set up a training plan and schedule for individuals that covers both general company/organization information and specific job related information. The latter is the responsibility of the manager and immediate parent group. It’s a pain in the ass, managers, but it is your job.
- Most importantly set each new employee up with one or two buddies and mentors. Make mentorship an job responsibility expectation for all company employees. These mentors are responsible for meeting with the employee, more frequently at first, in order to gauge their progress. The mentors should have a checklist or progress plan for the new employees to check whether or not they’ve completed training or reviewed guidelines for their area or role. I think having a mentor specific your job role would be important as well. This is someone who a new employee can shadow to learn about specific group or job role training items. My first group at my old job did an excellent job of facilitating this buddy training.
- Finally, actively cultivate a culture of social learning through networking. Younger and newer employees who haven’t be indoctrinated by a culture of competition and hoarding information seem to take to this more naturally.
The best jobs I’ve ever had actually provided the above training/mentorship in some shape or form. I think that there’s the old Protestant Work Ethic assumption that learning is not work, and that you’re not supposed to do it on company time. It’s a stupid assumption, I know, but old habits in old dogs are hard to break. I think that some forward-thinking companies are now challenging this assumption. They now see learning/training as the vehicle that allows their employees to become more productive in a shorter period of time. They also view learning and sharing as a key element to fostering creativity and innovation amongst their employees, but wherever you have management who only cares about the appearances of productivity (not a bright bunch to begin with) and short term goals, you won’t find a culture of learning an growth.