Trust employees and don't spy on HomeOffice work
Since Corona times Home Office has made the real revival since it was born and put in practice by Jack Nilles, who was working as a rocket scientist in the early 1970s when he was struck by the amount of daily road to office congestion. He realized that the daily commute that people made just to get to work was responsible for the stress-inducing traffic everyone had to suffer through. Still before Corona, Home Office work was discussed as a critical subject and almost impossible to implement from small to large companies and organizations. Syndicates advocated strict limitation on home office working hours, employers advocated the systematic monitoring and supervision of the employee and politics advocated tax controls. Fact is, that in case of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, home office users may be based either in Luxembourg, Belgium, France, or Germany because some 200,000 cross-border employees are working from one of the neighbouring countries. Of course, HO offers great advantages for both staff and organizations on less travel, less road congestion. less related GhG emissions, less office space occupancy, maybe quicker response times and some not listed now here. One major disadvantage for the organization seems in effect be the lack of control of the staff working times.
But is externally managed working time a such important indicator for delivering good work on time? The answer is definitely NO. If the employer allows his employees to work from home, then the employee will be responsible to deliver good work remotely as in previous conditions, he/she should have done the same in his local company office. Did his management in a regular way ask her/him to provide progress reports during the day, week or even months? Of course, the answer is YES. So what is the issue, if the employee now decides to drive with his family to a relaxing place, has access in some way to the company's network, or just may work off-line and delivers his work on-time as requested by his management? In fact, the biggest issue seems in some cases to be the jealousy that his HO worker may have a more relaxed working environment than his management. Or is it just a matter of trust?
There is only one solution to properly manage HO. The key is: Working with clear objectives on time, quality, and content. Back to the 90's when I started practicing the concept of the Balanced Scorecard, I really appreciated this tool for its straightforward philosophy and its amazing flexibility in designing and managing strategies. Balanced Scorecard (BSC) was developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton as an alternative strategy design and monitoring tool for very big organizations in early 90's. But shortly after having published the first book on BSC, Kaplan and Norton demonstrated that this exciting concept may be used in all types and all sizes of organizations. Its concept is simple: split your organization in 4 perspectives - starting at the bottom as the first layer or people perspective, second layer is process perspective, third layer is customer perspective and forth layer is finance perspective. People are the most important asset in a company, without people, the organization is unable to operate. (Even in case of fully digitized) People are working according to processes and procedures. If people are perfectly trained the people will have the best basis for delivering perfect work. If processes and procedures are perfectly defined, then for people it will be easy to work accordingly. Now, processes have been executed in perfection or poorly, then the customer will be affected accordingly and directly. The satisfied customer will be pleased to pay his bill and to remain as a loyal customer. The loyal customer feeds finance. As you see in this example, everything what happens in an organization is related to each other in a cause-and-effect order. The employee must fulfil a task – let’s name it HomeWorks (HW). Management has defined a set of Key Performance Indicators, resulting from the corporate strategy, which is based on a corporate BSC. These strategy-extracted KPI’s are positioned at the top level of the indicator pyramid. Each one of these KPI’s owns sub-indicators. Each job, task or assignment owns its proper management indicators in such a way that an employee who will have to fulfil a specific job, will have a set of Sub-Performance Indicators guiding through the achievement of her/his work.
Management now may forget spying with cameras and Apps just to see somebody sitting in the HO, locked inside some place defined as HO location. For HO workers there is no need to be observed whatever is being done in his private location. Leaders use Indicators that they connect to the employee’s assignment and will have real time reporting on a 24 hours basis.
What about the taxing issue? In fact, from the beginning of the Corona lockdown, politics decided almost immediately working from home as a good option for keeping at least part of the economy alive. Now, during the release of the confinement, suddenly the former questions about how to tax HO work are again popping up. Why should simply HO not being considered as its identical work out from the company office in the company country? The employee, having a contract from a Luxembourg company, working by HO from France is doing a work for his company in Luxembourg. He/she delivers a work from a location X to his contractual destination. Why should this work be taxed differently? There is no way and sense to apply a different taxation to the HO employee as for one working from his company office. On the contrary, the HO worker helps the company reducing costs and protecting the environment. But unfortunately, here we talk again about a conflict of interest between two European countries and not between an employee and her/his contractual workplace.
The European Commission should use this HO working opportunity for standardizing by Regulation, not Directive, the way how taxation will be done at a global EU level and thus avoiding loosing valuable time to progress with this powerful, energy and costs saving operating tool.
Hopefully this article will be read by enough leaders, understanding the principles of modern management that promotes HO and thus substantially may contribute to less working stress, higher quality of work, less road congestion, lower office space means less admin costs and environment protection.
Georges Seil, PhD - BIZ-Consultant sàrl - G.D. of Luxembourg
25 Mai 2020.