Over the years I’ve met many employees that were initially excited to work from home but found out that it is easier said than done. Some employees think it’s easy. Some even think they can multitask family obligations while working or can insulate themselves from all the distractions in their home. In the end, some employees decide that it is better to work in a traditional office setting. And that’s okay.
At the beginning of a telework or flexible work arrangement, leaders should know that not all employees will enjoy it or perform well in the new work arrangement. For these reasons, leaders should develop an exit policy for those that wish to come back to a traditional work assignment (assuming that you haven’t given away all your office space and there is an actual location people can go to). You may want to think about suggesting several possible exit options for the teleworking arrangement if it doesn’t go right. The leader must then communicate those options to all workers. I have yet to see any specific statistics on how many workers opt out of a telework/flexible work arrangement, but I think it is safe to say you will have a small percentage of people that won’t want the new work arrangement or find out that it is not working for them. It just isn’t for everyone no matter how good the selection tools are.
The very best leaders and organizations are those that accommodate their employees—that are able to offer some flexibility. Leaders should never want their employees to feel trapped or boxed in. So, work with other leaders and possibly Human Resources to make sure that an exit policy is created that would allow employees to return to a traditional work arrangement if needed. Seek to understand and document the reasons why it didn’t work to share with the management team. Do workers not have the right tools or training? Does your selection process need to be refined? Are policies clear? Are there organizational best practices that can be shared across teams to make it easier for employees to adapt? Learning through experience and sharing the information can ultimately help the organization become more efficient and effective.