There is an extensive body of case studies on individual firms that have adopted WFH (Work From Home) programs, and they tend to show large positive impacts, both in terms of increased productivity and decreased absenteeism.
Despite the clear evidence from such studies, WFH programs scare many managers half to death: What if you end up with a bunch of slackers? Or, if you don’t end up with slackers, what if you end up with work that doesn’t get completed, or done well enough? Or a majority of slackers with a few dedicated workers carrying the load of the whole department? Workers who will soon get burnt out, dispirited, and quit! What if the mice really do play when the cat’s away?
These worries kill most WFH programs before they ever get started. However, there is a way to find out if these dire prognostications are fact, or if all those studies have some truth to them . . . start small.
By that I mean, run an in-house experiment. Offer to those employees who are interested a two or four week trial of working from home. Preferably not during your company’s crunch time! That’s it. No big deal, just a couple of weeks or a month at most. Accumulate data on what gets done. Or doesn’t.
Review the work results at the end of the trial–preferably with everyone involved as well as the requisite higher-ups. Also review with your WFH employees what they thought of the plan. Did they like it? Not like it? Why? Why not? What could make it work better? You might discover that a more flexible “some days WFH, some days at the office” is the best solution for your company.
Once you’ve thoroughly debriefed both the plan itself and your employees’ reactions, if you’re pleased with the results–go for a longer trial period. If not, dump it. No harm, no foul.
You’ll never know if your fears are founded or unfounded unless you give WFH a try. Go for it! You have little to lose and much to gain.