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I work for a smaller company that has had the option to telecommute since the inception of the company. There is a perception around the company that abuse of the policy by my team is the reason for ending it. There is one new hire on my team who has been taking advantage of the policy by working from home multiple times per week, which I think is too much, but is consistent with how frequently management takes advantage of it.

Because of the size of the company, there is no way to voice concerns without everyone knowing who did.

What I'm trying to figure out is what the company I work for is attempting to achieve by removing our option to work remotely. In addition, what is the best way to try to convince management to reverse their decision?

  • @WinnieNicklaus I've accepted your edits, I'm sorry if the original came off a bit smarmy, I'm just a little concerned about the direction the company is taking and the office atmosphere. – Mike Dec 5 '14 at 20:58
  • We can all speculate on why they took this away (The fact they think this considered a perk bothers me; is going to the office a punishment?), but there are other posts provding information on the benefits and how to try and convince a company to adopt it: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/446/… – user8365 Dec 5 '14 at 21:06
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It seems as though that because of the larger tech companies (Yahoo, AT&T, etc) have made a motion to remove their employees options to work remotely (aka Telecommuting), have caused other businesses to follow suit. Mine included.

Sadly, many (most?) companies don't think policies through for their own unique situations. Instead, they often just follow the trends/herd.

Many followed the herd toward telecommuting without thinking it through. And many are following the herd away from telecommuting now.

What I'm trying to figure out is what the company I work for is attempting to achieve by removing our option to work remotely.

The only way to get a real answer, is to ask your company. Anything else is speculation.

What is my best option to get a reversal on this, and how do I get the management and the company as a whole to value our team?

Talk to management. Explain in a professional manner your thoughtful reasoning for why the policy change should be reversed. Try to present it from the overall point of view, not just from a personal viewpoint (i.e., why reversing the policy change would be good for the entire company, not why the current policy is bad for you).

Then hope for the best.

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    Thank you for your comment, I will consider talking to management, but I'll need time to gather my thoughts and think of a way to explain it to them without any room for misunderstanding and without pointing any fingers. – Mike Dec 5 '14 at 18:45
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What I'm trying to figure out is what the company I work for is attempting to achieve by removing our option to work remotely.

Just ask them. It is a simple question and doesn't involve finger pointing and need not be rife with emotions. You have a right to know why they are revoking it for your team.

This also speaks to a larger problem within our company, the other divisions of our company are focused on projects that yield little to no revenue for the company, our division alone generates more than 90% of the profit for this company. I don't know why we are being treated as if we are lesser employees and I'm not sure what to do about it...

You are assuming that the companies reason is to punish you? You really should ask to find out their reason. You sound like you are in the what is known as the Cash-Cow division. It is a division or product in a company that generates the bulk of revenue consistently and helps fund other ventures throughout the company that might not be profitable right away.

Perhaps the other teams suck so hard or they were abusing it so they decided to do away with it altogether? Perhaps your division is so completely critical to the bank that they cannot afford to NOT have you in the office at all times.

the management is hardly ever in the office ... Management Has been abusing

You seem really hung up on managements absence. Perhaps you just don't understand all that they are doing outside the office. You mention it as a small company, and often times in small companies the management also tends to be in charge of sales and/or customer relations. These are two areas that involve constantly being on the road, meet and greets and generally spending a good deal of your time face to face with clients and vendors. They are probably needed outside of the office more than in.

You are extrapolating a lot of unnecessary information and assuming the worst. Ask for information and the reasoning behind it and then make a case for an exception for your team if it is not a fault thing. If they ignore you then vote with your feet if working from home is that important to you.

  • I appreciate your comments, perhaps you are correct with the Management remarks, although honestly I think I'm coming to realize I'd much rather be working in a larger company where the Management actually plays more of a management role. – Mike Dec 5 '14 at 18:59
  • @Mike Ha! Large companies have a completely different set of problems that will drive you crazy. I am not sure though why you think large companies have more attentive managers? What is your definition of what a manager should do for their team? – maple_shaft Dec 5 '14 at 19:01
  • Manage the team, be responsible and OWN the mistakes. If there is a failure of your team, and you're the manager, OWN UP TO IT. If there is an issue, don't place blame at your teams feet, accept it yourself and work with your team to overcome it. – Mike Dec 5 '14 at 19:02
  • @Mike Owning up to problems and dispensing blame only gets worse in larger companies because there is more of a career ladder to climb, more incentive to play politics games and look good at the expense of others. In a small company there is more of a "we are all in this together guys" kind of attitude – maple_shaft Dec 5 '14 at 19:04
  • Did you consider that maybe they are doing away with remote work because of money? VPN and remote connectivity software licensing is actually expensive, especially for a large team. They may just be doing this to cut costs. – maple_shaft Dec 5 '14 at 19:06
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One reason that employers often don't like telecommuting is that they answer the question "Are people working?" based more on appearances than on measurable results. This means that they're used to tracking things like when someone comes into the office, when they leave, or how much time they spend at their desk, rather than the quantity and quality of work produced. If they don't have a good way of tracking actual results, then they have no idea how to manage teleworkers, and they do things like monitor whether you're signed into IM as the virtual equivalent of checking to see if you're at your desk.

Unfortunately, getting this to change requires a major cultural shift, and it's not likely to be within your power individually.

The main thing I would do in your shoes would be to put together a list of ways your being able to telecommute has been beneficial to the company (not just to you personally). For example, did you wrap up an important project while home with the flu or while waiting for the cable guy? Have you been able to complete important tasks during inclement weather? It's especially useful if these tasks have a clear dollar value. If people are allowed to telecommute and get productive work done in situations where they'd otherwise be using vacation or sick time, that's a benefit to the company. Another benefit is the ability to work while sick--without getting other people sick. Unless your company has an amazingly generous leave policy, most people can't take sick time the whole time they're sick. But if they can take a day or two when they feel awful, then work from home for another day or two, that can limit the spread of illness and result in less lost time overall.

I'd also come up with clear metrics for your own productivity. For example, if you can point out that during the days you worked from home, you fulfilled 300 orders, wrote 100 pages of documentation, or completed some other clearly measurable tasks, it helps to verify that you're not taking advantage.

Similarly, since you're not allowed to work from home, don't work from home at all. That is, if you have to take a sick day or a vacation day, you're 100% unavailable to your employer during that time.

  • +1 for "Similarly, since you're not allowed to work from home, don't work from home at all. That is, if you have to take a sick day or a vacation day, you're 100% unavailable to your employer during that time." – evandentremont Dec 5 '14 at 19:14
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You have a few people who appear to senior management to have abused the system. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, the perception is there. Moreover, the perception is that your group is the one that did the abusing, so your group will be under more scrutiny for abosultely everything from now on.

It is hard to get a decision reversed when abuse is perceived. The proper steps would have been to deal directly with the abusers but your senior managers are cowards who chose to punish everyone who was not guilty as well. This is common in the corporate world, unfortunately. Everything is perceived a system problem that must be fixed by system changes rather than by dealing withe the few people who were causing the problem.

There is unlikely anything you ca say or do right this minute to get this privilege back. However, you can design a campaign to get it back in little steps.

First you have to fix the perception of your group as slackers who don't work hard and have to be more closely monitored. One of the things that makes people look like slackers is wroking less than a full 8 hour day, then going home and logging in and working for several more hours at night. People only see that you leave at 4:30 and don't realize that you actually worked until midnight. Same thing with working from home in general. If someone was working from home and someone tried to get an anaswer from him and he was not responsive, then the perception is that the person was not working. The more times that happens, the stronger the perception.

The first order of business is to gain visibility for your group with senior managers so that they understand how many hours you work and that you are responsive to their needs.

Now that you are all in the office, make sure to stay late and come in early (or at least be there for your entire offical working hours if you don't usually need to work more than 40 hours) and make sure that people see that you are doing so. (and by you I mean the team and the managers). Eamisl sent after hours are a wonderful way of showing that you are there and working.

Make sure to respond to requests in avery timely manner especially requests from people senior to you. This means that you cannot afford to turn off your phone, email and instant messenger to concentrate. Right now, the perception that you are working hard and are supportive of senior management needs is actually far more important than the actual work. I know that sounds silly, but until you turn around your senior management's view of your team as slackers there is little else you can accomplish effectively in terms of changing organizational policy.

Next be ruthless is weeding out the actual slackers, if any. It is interesting to me that this happened shortly after the new guy came in and started emulating the managers. (Sometimes managers have more unoffical privilege than workers.) So make sure this person is not the real cause by making sure he is producing. Same for everyone else of course, but since it came up right after this guy started doing it, he is the most important to make sure he is producing and toget rid of if he isn't.

If you are a manager of this group, you need to ahve a serious talk with them about workplace perceptions and visibility.

Once you have fixed the perception of your team being slackers you can work on getting the policy back bit by bit. First step, when you are sick, take leave, stay home and, most important of all, do not work in any way shape or form when you are sick. Do not work extra hours on other days to make up for sick time taken. This is cold season, so the impact on the work schedule should become fairly obvious fairly quickly. It is best if this casues a deadline to be missed. When there is a schedule impact, then you bring up that people stayed home because they were contagious and they could have worked except working from home is not allowed.

Then you suggest that limited working from home when someone has a contagious illness is to the company's advantage and ask for a policy exception for this reason only. If need be point out that it wasn't the people staying hoem and working while sick that caused the earlier problem. Point out that management can monitor these people to make sure they are working.

If they allow a limited trial of working from home when sick, make sure to produce some work that is visible while you are at ahome. Make sure to be available by phone, email and IM all day long and that if you need to lie down for a little while, that you tell your boss, that you will be offline for a few hours but will make up the time later in the day. In other words, if you get a limited priviledge back, make sure to show how responsibly your team is handling it.

Another thing to do is to document when potential great hires turn down the company offers because there is no telecommuting allowed. Make sure to say in management's hearing that great candiate John Smith decided against us because of the telecommuting issue. You want management to perceive that this is an important thing for the company to hire the best talent.

Once you show you can do small occasional things and show an impoact on ability to hire the candidates you want, then after some months, you can ask for full rights to work from home again. If the person who changed the policy leaves the company, you can ask after his or her replacement comes on board, explaining what you have done to make sure the previous problem doesn't occur again.

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Your best option is to quit.

Just two months ago, I quit a job because they unilaterally removed my telecommute option, which was part of my employment contract.

Edit: in your case it may have been a policy. That may change things.

Commuting is expensive and stressful. I only live 4km from the office, but it added two hours a day, $100 a month, and more if I drove.

I only took the job because of the telecommute. The company was a worse fit than another offer. In my case, I was able to qualify for unemployment and find another job quickly.

  • I guess the main point was that it costs time and money to commute. Is there a corresponding increase in salary? Adding X hours and Y dollars to someone job is effectively paying them less for the same work. – evandentremont Dec 5 '14 at 18:52
  • I work at the office routinely, this is not the issue I'm taking... The main issue I have with this is it seems like they're trying to pull a double standard. Not something I'd be serious enough to quit over, but if the company continues in this direction quitting will become more and more of a reality to me. – Mike Dec 5 '14 at 18:56
  • Ah. In that case, put it to them in terms of productivity and dollars lost. And if they're the kind of company that follows trends, and are just reversing because of yahoo, try to find out why. Yahoo had a legitimate reason. They had a VPN that people were required to log into that hadn't been enforced for years. they check the logs, and the usage was extremely low. (and therefore people couldn't access internal network or do their jobs) – evandentremont Dec 5 '14 at 18:59
  • @JoeStrazzere This change though, and the point I think you may have missed, costs the employee time and money. If it was "come to work at 8 instead of 9" the difference is negligible. It's "leave for work at 8 instead of 9, but get paid from 9" – evandentremont Dec 5 '14 at 19:01

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