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Reblogged:A Reality Check on That Remote-Only Siren

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One of my favorite business writers, "Evil HR Lady" Suzanne Lucas, has long been one of my go-tos for advice on working from home. She has been doing so herself for years, and yet has the business knowledge that her pen name implies. This combination of experience and perspective practically makes her required reading on that subject, and that goes double now.

This is because she sees this situation from the eyes of both workers and managers at once. If many businessmen now at least better tolerate the idea of people working from home, some see dollar signs and have become a little too eager to go all in. This is where Lucas comes in, as we can see from two of her recent columns on the subject. As usual, she has things to say for employer and employee, but I think employers are more in need of advice by this time.

For example, in a piece at AIHR, Lucas notes that "It's okay to hate working from home," and reminds bosses that, "Not everyone lives in four bedroom houses." Working from home has gotten pretty old pretty fast for lots of people, and even for those of us who liked it before the pandemic, it's not so great now:

commuting_hazard.jpg
The in-home commute has its hazards, too. (Image by Markus Spiske, via Unsplash, license.)
All of this doesn't mean I'm not a champion for working at home. I am! I love it. Or at least, I did love it, and I'll love it again when my children go back to school, and my favorite caf├ęs re-open. But, if you have found that you hate working from home, there's not something wrong with you.

If you're a business owner that is tempted to go to a 100 percent remote model, think about how that move will impact your business and your employees. It may be fantastic. It may not be. Talk with people before you make final decisions. [bold added]
All I can add to that might be to do a thought experiment about what remote working would be like after we reach herd immunity. The upside of this being a way to avoid illness would obviously go. On top of that, while some would be able to thrive again, others might find that they lack the discipline to work away from an office.

Lucas underscores this point in another piece at Inc., where she helps bosses realize that every apparent new advantage of this situation comes with tradeoffs they may not be aware of:
I had a boss once for whom everything was an emergency. She would often call me at 4:30 and say, "[Super important executive] needs this report tonight!" At first, I stayed late and did the reports, and noticed that the emailed reports remained unopened for days. Then I got smart. She would tell me it was an emergency, and I would then call the executive's admin and say, "I understand Jane needs XYJ report. When does she need that?" The response was never tonight. Frequently, it was many days or even a week away.

I would then pack up my things and go home, and do it the next day.

But I had the advantage of a long tenure and a good relationship with tons of people within the company. Your employees may not have that. Don't use the word emergency unless it truly is one. And keep in mind what a real emergency is. That varies from business to business, but not everybody who says they want something immediately actually needs it immediately. A little pushback can be a good thing for maintaining healthy boundaries.
I like how Lucas reminds bosses about boundaries, while also giving employees of clueless or indifferent bosses an idea for how to work around them. (Elsewhere, she offers the following admonition: "Don't reward people who are constantly working -- they are going to burn out. Instead, tell them to take a break.")

If statewide closures were a blunt response to the pandemic, permanently making every office worker remote would be equally ham-handed. If there is anything the pandemic should have taught us by now, it's that one-size-fits-all, top-down initiatives are problems disguised as solutions.

-- CAV

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