As part of this post, I’m going to show you a puppy: a cute, adorable puppy.
The benefits to teleworking and distributed teams are no secret. Seemingly every week a new report comes out espousing the positive impacts that telework has on business from increased worker efficiency, to costs saved on real estate, to tonnes of CO2 not emitted by drivers not having to commute. The statistics all seem to point to teleworking as the new wave of the future.
Yet despite these rosy outlooks, Telework adoption is slow. Upwards of 30 million Americans work from home at least one day a week, compared to the extra 50 million who could. The number who telework consistently is much smaller. 38% of the workforce that does not currently telework said their jobs lent to teleworking daily. 79% of the workforce is interested in teleworking. One would think, given these statistics, teleworking and distributed teams would be much more prevalent than they are. So… what gives?
The adoption of telework tends to be a top-down process. A manager sets up a program, and then workers utilize it. But what incentive do managers have to create one of these programs? From anecdotal evidence (conversations with managers) many don’t see the immediate advantages, either because they’re uneducated on the possible gains or simply because they don’t believe what they’re told. Their hesitations are best summed up in a quote from @telesaur “people get hung up on how to manage what they can’t see.”
I thought it was a brilliant observation. If you’re a manager, why would you allow your team to move AWAY from you? Doing so makes it that much more difficult to keep track of their progress, to get in touch with them, to collaborate or work with them, etc. If they’re not in the office, how can they possibly be getting any work done, right? It comes down to trust; do you trust your team?
The answer better be yes (for trust building, see my previous post on trust). If you don’t trust your team, it won’t matter if they’re distributed or co-located; they simply won’t be as efficient as they could be. But think about it this way
Q: What’s the most important thing for a business?
If your team members get their jobs done consistently on-time, why does it matter where they physically work? As long as you have clear expectations for communications and work-product, all else is comparatively trivial. The important thing in any job is getting it done, and that’s more likely to happen if you have happier workers (meeting workers’ demands for telework options will help make them happy). If you’re a manager, know this: telework is THE working wave of the future. It’s unavoidable. You best learn how to embrace it now, so when the mandates get handed down from up high (as they already have been in the federal sector) you’re prepared for the inevitable and beneficial changes to come.