4

I'm currently working in a small software firm (~15 employees) as a leader of a two-person (including myself) algorithms team. I'm a big advocate of the "Deep Work" mindset in a workplace, especially when working on tasks requiring thorough research and meticulous development.

The problem is that all the employees sit together in one big open space. Most of the employees work in customer-relations and operations teams, answering a lot of phones during the day and collaborating together (often loudly) on immediate daily tasks.

All this activity in the office produces a lot of noise and distractions to the working flow of my team, since most of the daily tasks aren't our priority. And while there are times when we collaborate with other teams and participate in joint brain-storms, we spend most of the time trying to concentrate on more long-term tasks, using headphones to dissociate from all the fuss around us.

In, addition to that, the other person on my team spends 2+ hours on the daily commute to the office.

Now, adding all this together, a more flexible remote working policy would make a lot of sense in this situation. But all my negotiations concerning this matter were met with a lot of opposition and skepticism.

What would be the best way for me as a team leader to convince the higher management that allowing employees to work remotely some days wouldn't impact their productivity negatively? I am especially interested in the aspect of advocating this for the team members and not for me personally.

  • 4
    Have you demonstrated to management that your team's productivity is suffering in their current environment? – sf02 Mar 19 at 14:39
3

My first step would be trying to establish a baseline for productivity. This may be quite difficult given your work, but if you do somehow convince management to give it a shot they will probably be watching you like a hawk, so you do want some hard data to support you.

You basically have to get your foot in the door with this. Suggest a trial day, once a fortnight per person, or maybe have a roster where at most one person is working from home. If you're not getting any traction, you should ask your boss if they have any ideas to make it viable, or even alternative solutions to your problem.

You have to discuss with management what they are fearful of. You also have to try to build up the mindset that this will help productivity. You are already on the back-foot defending it when you should be on the front foot espousing how it can improve things.

Highlight to management that you are responsible for the team, and you have a responsibility to try to get the best out of your people (person). Point out that you would not do something that would make it more difficult for your team to deliver.

I would avoid the term "flexible work" unless this buzzword resonates with them. What you want is structure. Some people interpret "flexible work" to mean tardiness, laziness, and being hard to reach. If given the opportunity, you have to dispel this notion.

If you are not getting much traction, you should explore other ways that you can get what you need, such as moving your team to a quieter part of the office, getting sound buffering installed etc.

2

We all have to admit it: No one wants to buy an idea which only have the positive side, because it "sounds" too good to be true.

You advocated for the remote work, which will help increasing the productivity, sure, but did you also mentioned the downsides that comes with it and how do you plan to overcome the problems? Most likely not and that is why you had those "pushbacks".

While I don't necessarily disagree with you idea (heck, I support it), according to me, it needs a bit of polishing before you present it to the higher management to form a policy. Some points to consider:

  • Never advocate for some policy / rule which you'll be the first one to take benefit / advantage of it (or, so it wood seem). Make this general, and never use yourself as example at any stage.

  • Make sure you document the upsides as well as downsides, and have plans to counter the downsides.

  • "Show them, don't tell". Use facts and figures wherever possible. Use examples from your daily workspace scenario about

    • the troubles you faced
    • how if affected the productivity
    • how you tried solving it already and
    • how is it not working (or being not-so-effective).
  • Offer them to "try" this policy for a limited period of time, and then review the productivity.

  • If you face opposition, ask politely the reasons for opposing it and see if you can counter them with the data or information you have at hand. In case you feel you need to do some more homework, ask for time, get your homework done and get back. Do not start from scratch every time, try to pick up the trail - this helps establishing the fact that the case has merit and you are "invested" in it, not asking for something just for the sake of it.

One point to remember: Don't make this "personal" in any way (ex: "person X,Y,Z", or "my team" would be benefited), always show the business advantages and disadvantages of it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.