The "Working From Home (WFH)" trend has always interested me on several levels. Lets begin with some personal WFH history.
My first introduction to WFH was when I worked at VeriSign (based in Dulles,VA). In 2002, my wife and I decided to move to Chicago. I was fortunate enough to continue working for VeriSign as Manager of Registry Customer Service. The plan was simple. I would work from Chicago and then travel to Dulles, VA once per month. At the time, my tools were: Laptop, home office phone (landline), and cell occasionally. It was a big transition for me. Two immediate lessons:
1. I had to learn to better communicate over email. Lets face it, I wasn't down the hallway anymore. The major way I was going to connect with co-workers was through email. So, I had to become a much better communicator via email.
2. I was going to have to put effort in to connecting with my Virginia co-workers beyond email. Again, I'm not down the hallway anymore. Thus, reaching out from Chicago to just say "hello" became a big deal to me.
Later I was promoted to Registry Account Manager at VeriSign. In this role, I was tasked with managing our Top Registrar accounts in North America and Europe. The magic ingredient --> travel. My travel went from a 2 hour flight to Dulles each month to literally traveling around the globe 2 weeks per month. Another major transition.
But I was ready. I was ready because I had one year under my belt of working-from-home. That one year period made me a more productive worker and a productive business traveler. I had the right habits. In my opinion those habits are as follows:
1. Use email but dont rely on it 100%. Do *not* make it a substitute for communicating with the office or customers.
2. Call your co-workers and call your customers. Even when you have nothing to discuss. Keep the personal connection alive. Say hello for no reason whatsoever. Email can never accomplish this in my opinion.
3. You have to be detailed orientated. If you're not, the WFH lifestyle is going to be painful.
4. Make it a habit to travel to HQ. Have a plan and schedule before you go to HQ. Make it a productive week. You will be glad you did.
After I left VeriSign and joined eNom, I worked at the eNom HQ for 5+ years. Then I moved back to Chicago in mid 2012 and dived back in to the WFH gig. In my new role at Weebly, I am continuing the WFH/Travel routine.
So that brings us to today. The WFH lifestyle has changed dramatically from my 2002 introduction. Some key changes:
1. Better collaboration tools like Google Apps
2. Advanced smartphones (enough said)
3. Video conferencing - Skype, Hangout, Hipchat, etc.
4. WFH options like Starbucks, Panera, Dunkin Donuts. Lets face it being in your house can get stale. Its nice to get out, grab a coffee, have free Wifi available, and not lose one step @ work.
So, this brings me to the title of this post. WFH is just an acronym for "100% Mobile Employee". I can work from anywhere. I have the tools. I have the habits. I can balance travel and the needs of work. In short, I am permanently out-of-the-office because I don't have an office.
There are alot of discussions about the impact this change is having on jobs, tech industry, hiring, etc. It doesn't surprise me at all. In my opinion, the biggest area that will continue to be impacted is hiring/recruitment. People used to call me and say, "Chris - do you know anyone in <insert US state> that is looking for a job". I don't get that call anymore. That call has evolved to, "Chris -- do you know a great Account Manager? I dont care where they live". Its a significant difference. It represents a real focus on getting the best talent and then determining the working arrangement second.
Last comment on this topic. I have heard people say the WFH lifestyle must be so great. You are at home, you do your own thing, etc (the insinuation is that its easy). That is a myth. To achieve the right balance, you have to put in the effort in connecting with your colleagues. You have to work at it. You have to go beyond the email to make an impact. In short, the company has given me the opportunity to work-from-home. In exchange, I need to put in the effort to make it work (being flexible, travel, etc). Its a real commitment. When both parties have that attitude, it works.
I am very interested to see how the mobile-employee workforce evolves and grows. If I had to guess the next important category evolving from this trend, I would say it is mobile employee Managers. People who have a proven track record managing remote employees effectively. Its one thing to manage yourself as a mobile employee. It another to take on a full mobile team. It makes sense to me. I see it as a very specific skill set. A skill set that will be in big demand as this workforce grows.
I look forward to getting that call one day.
I just saw Matt Mullenweg tweet out a link to this work-from-home story. Great read here