Remote working and effective leadership
Today in London is the third day of underground railway (tube) strikes, and more and more people can and do work from home, thanks to broadband internet and powerful IT solutions. Indeed I am writing this from a café in Wandworth Common as we speak!
With more and more people able to remote work, and indeed many firms changing to a remote working culture it is strange that 1980s management practices are reducing employee productivity and engagement.
What do I mean?
A few weeks ago I was talking to a person I know who was saying that her boss had been on a management course and was changing the way they were doing things. I initially thought GREAT!! A win for learning and development, but no.. the manager had introduced a Monday morning whole office meeting. Of the face of it this seems reasonable. The meeting was to ensure that everyone knew what was going on and to be kept up to date with clients and business news etc.
Great… but… most of the workers are remote workers. This means everyone commuting at rush hour on a Monday. On top of this many remote workers were part time working professional mums. So they needed to arrange childcare just to attend a meeting.
If you look at the concept of having a “mandatory” face to face meeting on a weekly basis for everyone, this is a great idea, but why do it on a Monday morning. This is very much a flashback to the manufacturing “Total Quality” days of the 1980s, where everyone on the shop floor was involved in a briefing stating targets and clarifying problems before the weeks production started. This makes sense… but for a professional services function that is project based not production schedule bound…
Why have a meeting early in the morning? This means a horrid commute for many, increased costs of travel, its not very family (or parent) friendly. Had the meetings been set for midday, the boss would have engaged with people as they would not have to travel at peak, and many people are not “at their creative best” on a Monday morning in the dark mornings of autumn and winter!
Remote working makes sense
Why pay for office space when an employee can use a telephone and internet connection for 95% of their work, and for may that are not client facing or bound by production schedules, they can work almost any hours provided they are available for clients, suppliers etc. Last year I did a contract with a major international consultancy firm, people did not need to talk to each other, and indeed they tended to use instant messaging software to speak to people even when they were just a floor apart in the same building. Why have all these overheads? It does not make good business sense.
Provided there is appropriate social interaction and regular face to face meetings, many workers can work 95% of the time from home. So in this time of austerity and climate concern why not allow more people to work from home (remote working), reducing CO2 from transport, and costs of a business paying for floor space they do not need. One of the US based partners in the project I was working on spent 99% of their time home working, some never having met peers in the flesh, yet they were highly productive.
Times are changing and as managers, leaders and people developers we need to start to explore new ways of managing and leading people to ensure productivity and appropriate engagement through remote working.
Its time to rethink remote working.
Also see this piece on remote working