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Tales from the trenches: Epic fail on telecommuting request

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

"I think working from home two days a week would be a really good move for me," Vicky told Fred after some not-quite-unnoticed nervous squirming in her seat. She really wanted this.

"Okay," Fred replied hesitantly. It was the third request he'd had from a subordinate for the telecommuting lifestyle this quarter. "So tell me, how would this help you? How would it help the company?"

"Well," Vicky said, "the couple of times I've telecommuted because of snow, I've gotten so much more done. It was great working without all the interruptions."

"Interruptions, right," Fred said. "People calling, walking in with problems ..."

"Exactly!" Whew, Vicky thought. He gets it!

Fred leaned back in his chair. "But those interruptions ... isn't that another word for 'co-workers needing answers from me'? Pretty much part of the job, right?"

"Sure, but ..." Vicky fumfered, " ... I'm talking more about, you know, interruptions that are kind of unproductive ..."

"Sounds like we really need to examine those then," Fred replied. "If you're being prevented from working—"

"They're not always so bad," Vicky corrected herself with an inner Eek! "It's nice sometimes to banter a little."

"I hear this a lot, though," Fred said. "Everyone says they get much more done at home. I just wonder, are we all an impedance to each other, then? When did our co-workers become such an obstacle? Has it gotten so bad that we need to flee to the security of our homes two days a week? If that's true, a meeting about the issue is way overdue, no?"

Vicky retreated four minutes later to regroup and maybe make her pitch again come spring, from a different angle. Fred secretly thought she would have been better off playing the "I hate my commute" card. He hated to deny his staff these special requests, but no one had yet proved to him how breaking away from co-workers could possibly help them all do their jobs better. And proof is what he wanted.

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