6 Very Bad Reactions to Working from Home

Sep 17 / Jim Benson
Anti-collaborative practices tend to rise during uncertainty. People feel a need to sense control and will often default to seeking or causing Orwellian-level oversight. They will revert to some father figure providing reassuring guidance, and those with especially weak management styles will revert to giving it.

I am saddened, but not surprised to see these patterns quickly and efficiently emerge. Even sometimes from well-meaning managers or self-imposed by teams who feel lost.
These destructive patterns come from a place of fear, every single time. They are not good management, they are not collaborative, and they are self-replicating and perpetuating. They won’t go away and they will engender more anti-collaborative behavior in the future. They are parasites, sucking the professionalism from your organization.

Any high performing team is built of engaged professionals, everything on the list below undermines professionalism, infantilizes adults, and reduces the idea of “value” to time spent “actively working.” This builds a firm and unwavering foundation of disrespect and distrust upon which no effective structure can be built.

Treating Your People With Respect

Here are six ways I’m seeing this unfold, or bleed out as it were, as insecure and feckless management practices win-out over collaboration and strategic thinking.

So put these to rest quickly if the ideas are floated in your company or teams. These are anti-collaborative practices. If you treat people like crap, they will provide you with crappy product.

1. Daily Time Tracking

The core message here is, “previously we wanted your timesheet to bill for your time, but now we want to ensure that you are productive.” A few quick problems with this. (1) Value add is not the same as active work. (2) The underlying message is that we don’t trust you to behave professionally when we can’t keep an eye on you. In the end, overhead goes up, people end up in long conversations with management about how they spend their time, during which…they aren’t actually working.

2. Overmeeting

Oddly, when people moved farther apart from each other they suddenly wanted to be together all the time. Learn a few things quickly, people. (A) Schedule time during the day to collaborate (your meetings are just disorganized collaboration). (B) Watch when you are interrupting others (that’s a meeting) and schedule them responsibly. © Set up Office Hours for people to meet at predictable times and set other times to specifically focus on their work.

3. Hubstaff — Parental Controls and Spyware Meet the Workplace

The Second Coming of Pharaoh has arrived and its name is Hubstaff. Hubstaff is condescending wage-slavery anti-collaborative and infantilizing software with a strong desire to measure the wrong things in the wrong way, to overly focus on “productivity”, and to treat hostile working conditions as a desirable feature set. This system literally sets parental controls on adults, making sure they are “working” at all times and never, not for an instant, engage in being a thinking human being. If your bosses put this on your computers, seriously, just look for another job.

4. PTO for Paying Attention to Your Kids

From the same clueless brains that brought you daily time tracking and Hubstaff, we get PTO for taking a break or being part of your family. Bullets 2 and 5 show why this is nearly criminal. We are human beings working from home in the middle of a global crisis. We have other people in the house. We know what our company demands are, because we are professionals. Our families are making all sorts of adjustments for us working at home, work must do so as well. There are companies with their daily timesheets though, asking people to take PTO in 15 minute increments. Because apparently, they want to “save” money for their companies by making overhead go through the roof.

5. Overwork

Professionals work, they work hard, they work all the time. The biggest problem I’ve seen is people responding to emails and work requests all day and all night. There is no longer a division between work time and home time. People who have been working remotely for years have developed skills in scheduling their time, but for a lot of professionals there is no longer a “go to work and go home” it’s all just “Work from home.”

6. Lack of Respect

Now more than ever, we need to respect our professional colleagues’ judgement, time, and distractions. We have an opportunity to get through this while helping each other cope. Spying, adding time pressures, insinuating that paying attention to your family is a burden, constantly meeting, and never taking a break are not definitions of respect.