Everyone loves a success story. However, studying success can have its downsides. For one, success stories can cause readers to adopt certain cognitive biases. If you read someone succeeding in something, you might overestimate the likelihood that you will achieve the outcomes they have.
Choosing to work from home is a decision you should make after weighing various factors. Many articles have covered the advantages of going remote—today, we will look at instances where location independence didn’t quite work and what we can learn from them.
Best Buy’s ROWE
One of the most famous examples of remote work failing is Best Buy’s attempt at having a “Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE).” The program, which began in 2004, aimed to focus on productivity and accomplishments, not the number of hours or locations a person works. ROWE ended only nine years after its launch—then CEO Huber Joly said he wanted to restore accountability to Best Buy’s culture. According to him, having a results-oriented work environment gave employees “too much freedom.”
However, it’s good to keep in mind that Best Buy was already facing leadership and accountability issues that went deeper than ROWE. If there were a stronger commitment to improving employee morale, it would not have been too challenging to encourage people to stay productive even while working remotely.
Yahoo! ‘s Remote Work Policy
In 2013, Yahoo! withdrew its remote work policy, which caused upheavals for hundreds of employees working entirely from home. It caused such an uproar that management had to send an internal memo telling people to comply or quit. The memo mentioned how collaboration and creativity were often better when working with people in person, which isn’t always the case.
The top-down tone of the memo and the way it forced an ultimatum on employees shows erosion of trust. Whether working in an office or a distributed setup, companies need effective communication. The remote work policy was probably not the direct cause of this lack of trust, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Avoid facing the same problems Yahoo! did by investing in collaboration and communication tools.
StatusPage’s Remote Team
Remote work requires you to be adaptable or have the right personality for the long periods you will spend working alone. For StatusPage, this environment lacked the avenues for creativity or communication they needed to thrive. In a Reddit post by the company’s co-founder, Steven Klein, he talked about how working from home caused feelings of isolation in him.
He said, “[…] For people who are used to and need to be around people to be happy, this can be an enormous problem.” He also said, “When you’re thousands of miles away from the majority of the team, you lose out on that.”
Businesses need to evaluate hires for their suitability for working from home. You can train people to be remote work-ready and prepare them to have a mindset for it. Even if you are working remotely, a shared sense of purpose and skills can bind you.
RLM Public Relations’ Work From Home Setup
For PR company RLM, a remote environment became an excuse for employees to slack off. In an opinion piece penned by CEO Richard Laermer, he said that every weekend became a three-day holiday—employees treated their Friday WFH day as paid time off. He said it slowed down response times and caused people to be unavailable for emergency requests.
The company could have easily avoided these problems if they had a detailed WFH policy. Remote work needs clear rules for communication and collaboration. There should be structures in place for reporting tasks accomplished and communicating during office hours.
Reddit’s Distributed Work Policy
Ironically, the company that runs one of the most extensive collections of online forums in the world does not have a remote work policy. Reddit became a distributed organization in 2012 but decided to do away with remote work only two years after implementing it.
CEO Yishan Wong said that remote work kept them from coordinating well on large projects. Having bi-annual or even yearly company meetups for team building and work alignment should help distributed teams clarify where the company is and where it is going for the next few months.
Working remotely has its pros and cons. If you’re dead set on working from home, you need to know what challenges are in store for you. Besides reading about success stories, you should also hear other people’s difficulties in launching distributed teams, so you have a balanced view of what happens in remote work.
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