The Opportunity of Crisis

by Bruce O’Hara 

February 23.2023

A couple of incidents this week reminded me how reluctant we humans are to change.

The first was a chance encounter with an old acquaintance. Mary told me that everyone at her mid-sized non-profit society now works from home. She loves it.

Way back in 1984, I founded Work Well, a small non-profit that promoted family-friendly work schedules. Later, I wrote a 260-page self-help guide, Put Work In Its Place, to assist Work Well clients in other parts of Canada.

Quite a few of our clients were interested in working from home. We helped them to write telecommuting proposals to their employers. Sometimes we would visit their organizations to present what research data then existed on telecommuting, which fairly consistently showed higher productivity, higher job satisfaction, lower absenteeism, lower turnover and reduced overhead costs.

What was fascinating to me was how terrified most organizations were of the idea that their employees could work from home. They’d imagine all sorts of things that could go wrong.

Managers often expressed the need to physically see that their employees were working. We pointed out that lots of employees have learned to look busy at work while doing nothing of value, and that good managers typically monitor employee productivity via some form of output or deliverable.

We’d suggest they use our client in a small-scale six-month trial. If they didn’t like it they could go back to how it had been before. The ‘trial’ also helped deal with employer’s fears of ‘opening the floodgates’; the organization didn’t have to say ‘no’ to other wannabe telecommuters, they could simply say ‘not yet.’

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