Alex Brooks knows the value of employee trust: the Kidspot executive editor’s direct reports all work from home, while she answers to a head office in Melbourne and a CEO in Texas.
“It’s flexibility with accountability,” Brooks tells Women’s Agenda on what it means to successfully work in a flexible work environment.
“Give people the accountability to do their role as they see fit, and they’ll be more engaged employees who will return the favour with hard work.”
Brooks explains that her small editorial team collaborates and communicates on Skype, and can go days without actually hearing the voices of each other. While the team is expected to be available online during core business hours, the strategy allows flexibility for outside work commitments, such as picking the kids up from school.
“You can’t think working from home means looking after the children while working,” says Brooks. But, she adds, it can mean blurring the lines between work and life, and matching the former to better meet the latter.
It helps that Kidspot is a content-driven parenting website and that the team has well-established targets and deadlines to meet – not all industries can rely on such clear measurables. And according to Brooks, not all employees are suited to working from home.
“Some people like the fact you turn up at 9am and clock out at six. They’re not focused on outcomes, but rather the face time,” says Brooks.
In particular, the idea of blending work and life is difficult for some. There’s the issue of motivation, dealing with isolation, and knowing when you’re done with work for the day — or alternatively, when you should be starting.
Indeed, Brooks concedes she’s lost staff members who couldn’t make the adjustment.
Brooks says she learned what it takes to operate out of a home office while working freelance. “You have to have a room with a door on it, and other people in the household must absolutely respect work time. You have to have boundaries.”
Then there’s the matter of the home office itself. “The best thing I ever did was buy a fancy office chair. Don’t skimp on the home office,” she says.