13 February 2012

Swedish Offices Empty During The Microsoft “Work From Home Day”

As I told you in an earlier post, Microsoft Sweden had proclaimed a “Work From Home Day” for last Wednesday. It has been interesting to follow the discussion on social media, in newspapers and in television, and here is a summary and some more of my own thoughts on the subject.

Nearly 50 organizations joined the event
According to Microsoft Sweden nearly fifty companies and organizations joined the “Work from home day”, and that is not bad for a small country like Sweden. Below you see an image from the Microsoft office that day. Note that the offices were still open. The only difference was that the employees worked from their homes. Many of the participants were in the IT business, of course, but also a big organization like The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation closed their office and asked the staff to work from home. For them the benefits of less pollution when less people commuted were decisive.
Office photo
Reactions on Facebook
Microsoft Sweden created a Facebook page for the event, and the comments were many and varied. In my opinion there was too much about unimportant things like how you dress when you work at home and too little about how to solve practical problems. Maybe the reason is that few of the visitors actually work from home on a regular basis? There were also comments from people who can never work from home, like teachers and nurses. And one visitor said “I would love to be able to weld from home!”

Mass media coverage
Many newspapers wrote about the Microsoft initiative, and it was also featured in several television channels. One of the news programs reported that people are not working more from home today than they did ten years ago, in spite of all the new technologies that make it easier. Many employers do not let their staff work from home even if it would be possible. Is it because of lack of confidence? Do they look more at time worked than at what is actually delivered?

Clear instructions make it easier
Sales Director Marie Ygge at Microsoft Sweden recommends clear instructions on what should be done when an employee works from home, so that both parties know what is expected. The SharePoint Task list is excellent for such instructions. We use a customized Task list for the staff, and it is easy to fill out and to check what has been done. And I know that at least one of our employees likes to look at the old, finished tasks also, for the encouragement that only a task well done can provide!

Working from home is not possible or even desirable for all, but for those who can and want to do it employers should cooperate. I firmly believe that happy people are more healthy and do a better job, and if working conditions can be improved to make employees more content it is in the end an advantage not only for the individual people but also for the company.

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