Employees as Grown Ups

I’ve got a secret for you.  Make sure you don’t tell anyone, because I think it may mean the sheer and utter collapse of the economy as we know it if this gets out, but...  

shhh - {employees like being treated as grown ups.}  

*GASP*

Look, folks.  Technology is changing.  The economy is changing.  Work is changing.  Expectations are changing.  And workers have already caught on and are beginning to expect more.

Valuable workers are smart enough to realize that with today’s technology, there’s really not much of a reason to be tied to an office.  If someone is expected to have her butt in a seat in an office from 8 am to 5 pm, she wants a valid reason why her butt can’t be in her home office that’s a heckuva lot closer to her child’s school if an emergency arises and keeps her out of rush hour traffic for two or three hours of wasted time each day.

This isn’t brain surgery.  Virtually everyone I know has experienced the desire to get work done from home at least from time to time.  And it's not because at home they aren't under the watchful eye of their employer.  It's usually because it's more convenient, they're closer to family, and they have less distractions at home than in the office. 

So here’s my question.  If everyone recognizes the employee’s advantages of working from home, why aren’t businesses scrambling to make this a benefit of working for their company?  Having a virtual office is good not only for the employee, but it cuts costs for the employer as well since they don’t have to pay for rent or storage.

Yes, I know change is hard, but change is happening all around you whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

We just went through our second round of hiring in the past two months, and there was one common theme we heard from virtually everyone whom we interviewed:  everyone was dying to have the flexibility provided by working from home in a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE).  They didn’t want to work from home so they could screw around and get paid for doing nothing; they wanted to work hard in exchange for having an improved quality of life.  Bar none.

We had about 60 people apply over the past week or so, including some people who were only tangentially familiar with accounting or technology, and in my opinion it was entirely because we offer a ROWE.  I spoke to person after person, and they all corroborated what I intuitively knew:  

People want to contribute to something they believe in and be treated as a grown up while doing it.

Our goal was to build a company that we'd like to work at if we were an employee.  So we let everyone know what needs to be done and by when.  It's up to them to figure out how to prioritize their time to make sure the work gets done.  Where, when, or how long it takes to do it is of no relevance to us.  It's the same expectation our customers have of us - they hire us to meet their expectations, and as long as the work gets done, they don't care if we're working at 2 am or 2 pm.  It just doesn't matter. 

And here's the thing... if you give your employees a time clock where they punch in and out, you are immediately telling them that they are not worthy of trust and that they should focus on showing you how many hours they're working instead of what they're accomplishing with their time.

But if you treat people like grown ups, you give them the opportunity to focus on their contributions to the company and rise beyond your expectations.