Q. In today’s world, do people need to ask permission about where they work ? A member of my team informed me that he will be working from another country for the next few months. He says he will still be working the same hours, despite a significant time difference, and that everything will remain the same. Do I have a say in this matter?
-Founder of a startup
It is an anxious and interesting time—in some ways the craziest time ever. There is so much uncertainty. A lot of employers thought people would be coming back to the office, and now they are not. A lot of employees were preparing to go back and are now continuing to work remotely. If they don’t have to go into an office, do they have to be sitting at home?
I’ve always been a fan of working from anywhere, and work in the era of Covid has proven that it is possible. There are some situations in which you must perform work in states where you are licensed, but if that is not the case, this comes down to your setting clear expectations and your team member achieving outcomes—not antiquated ideas about geography.
So much about what we are facing in the workplace is unprecedented. I think that as employers, the best we can do is to have empathy and give people space but still hold them accountable for outcomes.
The first step is getting aligned on what needs to happen. Set expectations. Also come up with the reconciliation plan if things are not going well. That gives you some assurance that the demands of the job will be met; and if they are not, there is a path to changing it.
Research shows that people are switching jobs at record rates, with many leaving companies that are trying to force them back to the office before they are ready. And maybe some of these people will never be ready. The past 18 months have inspired people to reflect; and many are wanting to change some of their former daily practices, including commuting to an office. More than ever, we have to remain flexible and ready to adjust. That elasticity is the way to stretch beyond what previously limited us—and not break.
On a final note, I understand that this will likely produce some anxiety. Managing in this manner can be uncomfortable, but it’s likely to be the way people want it to be. We can successfully find a way to navigate this by setting clear expectations and having more communication and connectedness. And, imagine how much more powerful work can be if we open up the opportunity for people to work from anywhere.