If I let my staff work from home, will they slack off?

Dear Aunty B,

One of my best hires has just asked to work from home one day a week (he lives on the other side of town).

I think it is an opportunity to slack off.

What are my options?





Dear Gary,

Promise me you won’t say the following to your best hires who ask to work from home:

  1. But if I let you, everyone will want it.
  2. I need you to be available all the time.
  3. You won’t work as hard.
  4. What about clients.


Good, now that’s out of the way, remember it costs an average of 1.5 times an average annual salary to replace a good hire (through loss productivity, recruitment and training costs).


The reality is that almost a quarter of the Australian workforce do some work from home. It reduces absenteeism, can boost morale, increases retention rates and can boost productivity.

If you are worried about a staff slacking off at home watching Oprah, chances are they need serious performance management anyway. For your star performers, you should be more worried about them overworking with all this technology that allows people to work constantly – ever had a bluetooth bath?


So take work-from-home requests on a case-by-case basis and before turning a request down, tread carefully, check with the HR department if you have one, your lawyer or your state’s workplace relations act. A blank refusal can land you in hot water particularly for working parents, or staff with dependent relatives.


Start out with a trial and set clear expectations, productivity targets and discuss any technology requirements.

Put everything in writing. If the work gets done, why does it matter where it is done? If there are clients involved that you are worried will lose “face time”, make sure that the day working from home is structured around client needs.

It is not rocket science. And have you ever heard of mobile phones and broadband. From my experience, most staff know how to send emails and make phonecalls to colleagues when they need to discuss something.

The worst case scenario is that after the trial run you decide not to continue with the deal. Make these requests work for you and the business instead of feeling trapped in a corner.

As a manager, you need a serious upgrade, your software is out of date. This is 2007.


What are you waiting for? Email your questions, problems and issues to [email protected] right now!



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