How to end the remote work debate

Is a college degree worth it?

3 rules for producing a great team

  1. Hire the best people
  2. Empower them to do their best work
  3. Give them a vision for helping the customer

Simple right? When you look through the lens of “how can we build great stuff?” as opposed to “which work environment is best?” everything becomes clear.

This debate is about management

What people are missing in the “Yahoo work from home ban” is that this is a management issue. It’s not about “remote vs non-remote”; it’s about having the flexibility to create great work. The HR manager at Yahoo thinks the solution is black-and-white:

Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
– Jackie Reses, Head of HR, Yahoo

Do you hear what she’s saying? It’s the old management diatribe: “I don’t trust you, and I know the best way to make you work.” But awesome, creative people, who take responsibility for their work, don’t build great things in an environment like that. If this is Yahoo’s cure for innovation, I think they’re doomed.

This debate has exposed something significant about managers: many of them are insecure! They’re scared about losing (a perceived sense) of control. They want to stick with what’s comfortable and safe. They would rather “do it their way” than think outside the box and empower their team.

What good managers do

I’m a remote manager of a team of ten. We ship a lot of mission critical stuff.
– Laura Thomson, Engineering Manager at Mozilla

Good managers hire great people, and empower them to do great work. This means hiring people so good that you could leave for a 2 month holiday and not worry about the office. Managers should be talking to their team, and asking them: “How can I help you make your job better?” If the answer to that question is: “We need a better office” than do everything you can to make a kick-ass office. But if the answer to that question is: “I’d like to work from home on Thursdays” than make it happen! Yes, every job, product, and company will have certain constraints. The point is to create as much job flexibility as you can so your people can succeed.

The only time a manager should fear a flexible workplace is if they’ve hired the wrong people. If you’ve broken Rule #1, all bets are off. It doesn’t matter what kind of office you have; mediocre people create mediocre results. Unfortunately, great people with mediocre management also create mediocre results.

It’s all about management: hire the best, equip them to do the best work possible, and give them a vision for where you’re going.

So companies don’t have to get caught in a tug-of-war between letting their employees work remotely or forcing them to come to work and collaborate. Collaboration can happen even among in-house employees and teleworkers. It simply takes a different managerial skill set.
– E. Glenn Dutcher, New Research: What Yahoo Should Know About Good Managers and Remote Workers

There’s a discussion on this post at Hacker News here

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Published on February 28, 2013