A couple of weeks ago a consulting civil engineering client of mine offered an opportunity to an extremely talented candidate that would have allowed him to work from home for his first 6-8 months in order to accommodate some special circumstances. The candidate ended up delaying the acceptance of the offer until the first quarter of next year as his situation would be fully resolved (hopefully the opportunity will still be available). The details of the circumstances are neither here nor there, but at the end of the day this candidate determined that as flattered as he was that they would make special accommodations for him, he would not feel comfortable in a work-from-home situation as he would be “out of the mix.” He is a team player and not having immediate access to his team, and the “perception” that he would not be giving 110% because of his physical absence he saw as a detriment.
According to the article, remote employees were more engaged because:
1. Proximity Breeds Complacency – that is, leaders who work in the same building, let alone the same floor, regularly fail to interact face-to-face with their employees, preferring rather to communicate via email.
2. Absence Makes People Try Harder to Connect – that is, leaders are more deliberate in their communication with those off-site employees.
3. Leaders of Virtual Teams Make a Better Use of Tools – that is, leaders are forced to use video-conferencing, instant messaging, and even the telephone, just to name a few; an advantage that their peers may not necessarily take advantage of by having everyone working in the office.
4. Leaders of Far-Flung Teams Maximize the Time their Teams Spend Together – that is, since the time the team actually spends together on location is limited, when they do get together the level of focused attention is higher than it might be otherwise.
I do not necessarily doubt the findings and opinions of this article, but my question is, was the candidate in the experience that I alluded to at the beginning of this blog right in his decision? Since we are dealing with a Civil Engineering consulting firm and considering that the candidate would be a full-time permanent employee with the title of Sr. Civil Engineer who is looking to continuously advance up the corporate ladder, I would say that, in as much as I was disappointed in the fact that he declined the offer, he was probably correct. And here is why:
1. Knowing the determination and intelligence of the candidate, he could have successfully handled the situation. But he felt that, especially with a new employer, he did not want to be perceived as a slacker. Even though he would have given 110%, his absence from the office could easily be mis-construed.
2. Part of his motivation for exploring a new opportunity was because in his current role, he lacked mentorship. Working from home for at least six months would limit the mentoring opportunities available to him.
3. Working from home for a large civil engineering consulting firm as a project engineer often makes it difficult to grab people, share ideas, ask questions, and bounce concepts off of peers and managers “on the fly.”
4. Out of sight, out of mind. Enough said.
Unless you are a regional or national business development executive who is jet-setting all week, or a technical engineer who is completely satisfied with maintaining a long-term technical engineering role with no real advancement, you are better off working at the office as opposed to remotely from home.
Does your firm allow for work-at-home opportunities on a regular basis? Have you been part of a positive work-from-home experience? Have you seen people fail in work-at-home situations with their employers? I look forward to hearing you share your thoughts and experiences on this topic as a civil engineer.
Finally, if you are on LinkedIn, please click on the following link to take our following “one-click” poll on this topic: