Project teams working from home – the ground rules

In the Web 2.0 world, the traditional concepts of the workplace are changing. For some, jobs are still 9-5 but not for all. For many of us, connected via the blackberry and the IPhone , we carry work everywhere we go. A lot of thought process is going on recently if employees can be allowed working from home fully or partially.

Fro project management perspective, I would rephrase the question. It is to understand if a project can be run successfully with its team – fully or partially – working from home.

My view is – yes we can – provided we follow certain ground rules.

Not every one can work from home – It depends on what kind of role you are playing in the project. If you are solution architect and need to have lengthy discussions with the customer, that would be better done in the office than on the phone. Of course if the customer prefers to do it on the phone (because he/she is working from home 😉 or in a different location ) then it’s a different story. If you are a developer who gets a piece of code to write and all you need to do is finish that part in isolation, you are ideal candidate for work from home.

Not every time you can work from home – It also depends on what phase or situation of the project you are in. If it’s the early stages where much work is happening in isolation, work from home is probably okay. But if you are going to rollout tonight a major system, the customer ( and your management as well ) would be happier to see the right people in office. So deciding when its okay and when its not okay to work from home is crucial.

Focus and Commitment – This is all about personal commitment. You are working from home – working – its not vacation. I once had a colleague who sent me a mail she is working from home today because she is sick. I call her up at 11 am and all I hear is screams. She was at the local fish market. We have to be sensitive to the demands of work. In case if you really want flexible hours, it would be appropriate to agree them first with the relevant people.

Buy in from the entire team – It wont help if some members of the team believe in the concept of work from home and some don’t. Even if they don’t they need to respect the decisions of those who choose to work from home and not create problems for them by insisting on face-to-face discussions when its really not required.

Personal hours – This is for the managers. Working from home does not mean employee is available 24×7. There are still work times and personal times. Be sensitive to your people.

Use Web 2.0 collaboration tools – We are not living in the 70’s anymore. There are so many collaboration tools available to ease and make the location transparent. I have many times worked from home and if I would not tell anyone, no one would know. Exploit technology.

At the end of the day its for the project management team to decide what works best for their project. Though working from home provides an added incentive to having motivated employees.

Motivated employees can be a big contributing factor for project success – so give it a thought for your projects.

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..