Thanks to continuing advances in technologies like broadband, mobile computing, and collaboration, remote working – a perennial trigger for the neuroses of many a conservative manager – has been becoming more and more technically viable for some time. Crucially though, it’s now becoming increasingly palatable from a commercial perspective too, writes Gareth Kershaw…
Whisper it quietly, but some managers can get a little bit stressed, right?
“What do you mean, you want to ‘work from home’ on Thursday?”
“Well I’ve got a meeting just around the corner from my flat first thing, followed by a three-hour conference call, and then a report to finish, so it kinda makes sense.”
“But, but, but… you can’t.”
“Oh. Why not?”
“Well what about er, thingy? Productivity, that’s it. And security. And um, you know, other… stuff…”
Why do so many managers still get so twitchy when it comes to people working from home? Or anywhere remotely come to that? In truth, it scarcely matters. It’s increasingly short-sighted. And for an increasing number of reasons.
Firstly, as countless studies have recently proven, so long as the appropriate channels of communication and engagement are maintained, remote workers are no less productive or effective.
(Indeed the polar opposite is often true. Studies from Gallup and Ernst & Young found that workers given the option to telecommute one to two days a week displayed higher levels of engagement than their office-bound colleagues.)
Secondly, thanks to a fast-expanding range of technologies, of the breed found aboard Lenovo ThinkPads for example, it is now eminently possible to ensure such workers are more secure, productive, and collaborative.
Thirdly and most importantly though, NOT allowing some form of home working now makes almost zero commercial sense. Not just for the stock rationale with which we’re all familiar (it’s good for morale and work/life balance. Resource can be scaled according to need etc.), but for all manner of solid, bottom-line, practical reasons.
Because one thing is clear: remote working and associated technologies like AI can be instrumental in helping businesses meet key commercial imperatives.
In reducing operating costs for example. The period between 1995 and 2008 reportedly saw one tech giant cut its office space by 78 million square feet, of which 58 million was sold for $1.9 billion. Enough said?
Other savings are possible through cutting commute times and so on. According to figures from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs*, not enforcing daily office attendance can drive time savings of 11 days per year, per employee, with flexible scheduling yielding similar gains; north of $11,000pa where a worker is allowed to telecommute half the time.
There are benefits in other areas too.
In recruitment where, with more and more people looking to the ‘gig economy’, offering remote working opportunities can open up pools of talent otherwise out of reach. Mothers trying to return to the workplace for example, which can in turn help business address issues like the gender pay gap.
In a broader HR context also, where the potential in areas such as talent selection, acquisition, and development is enormous. In finding, screening, and filtering the best candidates. In helping usher them through recruitment and onboarding processes. In getting the best out of them when they arrive.
The bottom-line according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, is this: ”Whether we’re nine feet, nine floors, or nine time zones away, we’re working virtually. The employees have already left the building.”
Doesn’t look like that manager’s stress is going to ease any time soon then…