Peter Csathy’s post on how SightSpeed runs things in the office is a great testament to how things CAN work if a company has the will. I started working exclusuively from home in 2003, but even before that point I remember having to negotiate hard to work even a few days out of the office–and that was as a contract tech writer. I mean if a contractor has trouble convincing management, an employee doesn’t have a hope. Since then, I’ve learned that it takes a certain kind of discipline to work effectively from home, and not everyone can do it well. However, with commute times for people edging up into the 4 hour range, companies have to start taking work-at-home scenarios more seriously. The impact of commuters on the environment is staggering as well. We need “to commute less and collaborate more — and more effectively — online”, as Peter puts it.
With tools like SightSpeed that are inexpensive and easy to deploy, there’s really no excuse for not entertaining a work-at-home policy. However, based on my experience, it hasn’t been the tools so much as the mindset. The biggest obstacle I see is a lack of skills or expertise in managing remote workers. It’s not the same as managing employees in the office. But there’s no training and no support, so managers operate the way they always have. It’s up to the remote worker to adapt and fit into the system. And guess what, there’s no support or training for employees to be fantasitc home-based workers either. In my view, you need both.