Working from home doesn't have to mean watching TV

Valerie Morton hands out advice on whether to let employees work from home

Q: Some of my staff want the option to work from home. How do I make sure they still put in the hours?

A: Do I get the impression you are concerned they will be watching missed episodes of EastEnders rather than doing the job they are paid to do? With the common fixation on the number of hours we contract our staff to work - if I see another job advert saying 36.25 hours a week, I'll scream - the temptation is to monitor time (process), but you need to monitor what is really important: results (outcome).

Start with these questions: do your staff have clear objectives? Do they have action plans? Do they have monthly reviews with their manager? If the answer to all three is 'yes', there is no way they could get away with unproductive days working at home.

In fact, most people who work from home - myself included - will tell you that productivity shoots up. Without the interruptions ("does anyone know how to un-jam the photocopier?"), the gossip ("have you seen the salary for our new fundraising director?") and easy diversions ("I'm just popping up to finance"), it is astonishing what can be achieved in a day. I often have my most creative thoughts when I am putting the washing on the line, so I see the occasional domestic chore as a benefit, not a distraction.

Clearly, there are some boundaries to be agreed. It took only one instance of my son shouting "I need a wee" when I was on the phone to an important client for me to realise that, for most people, working at home with a child under 10 around is just not feasible.

On a practical note, if your question relates to people wanting to make their homes their official work bases, do bear in mind the consequences. Will there be travel expenses for visits to the charity office? Do you have the resources to address the health and safety and risk assessment requirements for home workers? Do you have the technology to allow people to carry out remote working effectively? Can you still offer the same level of care to donors and service users?

Get the parameters agreed, give it a go and set up a meeting - in the office, of course - to review how it's working. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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