Your Manager Wants You Back In The Office Too Often

September 20, 2011

Chapter 13 – Understanding and Resolving Problems

Almost all telecommuters need to go back to the home office some of the time. How often you go back depends on the needs of your team and how close you are. Most companies bring everyone back at least once per year. Mozilla has all of their engineers return to an office once per quarter for an event they call work week. Meeting face-to-face with the rest of your team is an essential part of making your team strong.

However, some companies take this way too far. The most extreme example of this I have seen was an employee who boarded a plane every two weeks to fly back to the main office. Returning back to the home office this often is not only unnecessary, it is detrimental. When you return to the office this often you are in danger of running into the half and half problem.

The half and half problem is common for workers who work from home two or three days a week. They are in the office often enough that they don’t feel the need to communicate remotely. They cut off all communication during the days they work from home. The person working remotely likes this setup because they feel productive during the days away from the office and connected with their team during the days in the office.

The problem with this approach is the way it affects the rest of the team. Managers are often left with the feeling that people don’t do work when they are at home since they aren’t communicating. This causes them to reserve the “perk” of working a couple of days a week from home for the top performers. They see it as letting them work a three day week because they do such great work.

Not communicating during the days at home also means the remote worker is not available to the rest of their team. They need to reschedule meetings and can’t ask questions when the you are working from home. A clear sign that working from home part-time is negatively impacting the team is hearing, “we can’t schedule the meeting for Thursday, Alice isn’t in the the office on Thursdays.”

So what does this all have to do with coming into the office twice a month? Coming back to the office every two weeks will cause the same behavior as working from home two days a week, but a lot worse. When you go to the office so often you will be tempted to wait until them to communicate. Even worse than that, the rest of your team will wait to communicate with you. Working remotely is much more likely to work if you stay away from the office. Returning back to the office more than four to five times a year is a real problem.

The solution to this problem is simple: stay away from the home office so you will communicate all the time and not just when you are in the office. However, it can be difficult to convince your manager. On the surface coming to the office more often sounds like a good thing. Tell them you don’t want to wait until you get back to the office to do good work and you don’t want your team to wait until they work with you. Try it out for two months, make working remotely work, and you will remove any reservations your manager has.

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