Over the holiday weekend, I contemplated this post from Jason Fried, the CEO and Founder of Basecamp. If you’re curious how Basecamp as a company feels about knowing if staff are “online” or not, the opening stanza says it all:
As a general rule, nobody at Basecamp really knows where anyone else is at any given moment. Are they working? Dunno. Are they taking a break? Dunno. Are they at lunch? Dunno. Are they picking up their kid from school? Dunno. Don’t care.
As a remote worker myself, I agree this is a great position to take. The idea that having a constant pulse on what everyone’s state is at all times (the digital version of peeking over a cube wall and observing your ~slaves~ employees working is archaic and is a very 20th century mentality. Save for actual emergenices/time-sensitive tasks, there’s no reason to have this kind of operational mentality.
Setting your “presence” to away to keep from being bothered is a catch-22, also:
Away, in particular, can be seen as bad form. Stay “away” (which most often actually means you’re working, but don’t want to be bothered) and people begin to question if you’re at work at all. Leave “away” on too long and you’re seen as unreliable. If you’ve got presence on your work tools, you’ve probably lived this very thing. What a joke, right?
Whether someone is reliable and working should never be measured by their green-dot availability status. If it is, you’re measuring the wrong thing. Instead, look at performance. Look at actual output. If Joe Employee is never online but always seems to crank out loads of high quality code, leave them the hell alone. Seriously.
Go micromanage a pizza order if you have to, but don’t ever think that anything but green means your employees are slacking/not performing. Get out of here with that mindset. It’s toxic. If your employees are never available and never doing any actual work… maybe you hired the wrong employees.