Published on September 27, 2013. Written by Peter Stephen (Astute Copy), on behalf of Nick Davies, Sales Director, ASI Cloud
I’m not talking about the device for switching channels on the TV; I mean the ability to manage a workforce that isn’t based in the office 5 days a week; I’m talking about those with the foresight and ability to accommodate flexible workers that operate from multiple locations as part of their function. In most cases, and for the most part, I mean those that work from home.
The evolution of the workforce
Evolving markets and emerging technologies are driving the evolution of workforces; this in turn is resulting in an increase in home-workers as more industries see benefits in introducing flexibility into the work-lives of their personnel. But along with this flexibility, comes a lack of trust from some colleagues that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be – this translates as “are home workers putting in a decent shift?” Some managers consider flexible working to be a favour to the employee and confess to micro-managing their remote activity in the belief that they’ll get a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Home workers themselves sometimes feel a sense of guilt, not necessarily that they are less industrious than their colleagues, but that they haven’t put themselves out quite as much, in order to get to work; they haven’t driven through rush hour traffic, they haven’t had to dress or shave or put make up on.
This can lead to the home worker overcompensating by “being extra visible to co-workers”; making more calls into the office than usual, logging into systems to show you’re present, updating details of a sales call to various people throughout the day by email. But is this counter-productive? Should we give the flexible worker more credit for their industry, and not worry so much about their activity?
I’m one of the lucky ones I, I live 45 miles from the office but I don’t go in every day. I’m running a busy team of sales people, building a partner channel to deliver a set of cloud/hybrid solutions and services, and my autonomous role takes me to different locations most days. If I spend the whole day working at home, that’s exactly what I do, WORK; in fact, I generally get more done when I’m at home for a whole day. I enjoy not worrying about negotiating the journey through rush hour, it gives me more time to catch up and plan activity; I don’t get interrupted at all and when any of my contacts needs to work with me on a project , it’s usually planned that way and is therefore more productive.
All the data and business services I need are available to me; I have my hosted desktop with all my apps, so I can still collaborate with colleagues, team members, partners and customers. The very nature of my job dictates that I work with a whole bunch of people that are remote to me anyway – raising the question, which one of us is actually the remote worker? Perhaps that’s another question for another day. Being given the flexibility to achieve my daily work plan in a way that suits me makes me a happy employee, saving money on fuel makes me even happier, and working remotely has also given me the opportunity to build on the trusted relationship I already have with my MD.
The re-invention of the workplace
As the saying goes “necessity is the mother of all invention”; given that the pros of remote working outweigh the cons, there are so many good reasons why remote working is on the increase. As more businesses take advantage of cloud and hybrid services, the more we will see the re-invention of the workplace; creating a culture, less about activity and more about industry. Technology is the great enabler here and is what keeps us productive – cloud computing makes everything, (data, applications, people, services) much more accessible – so cost is no longer prohibitive and no new skills are needed to be a digital worker – someone that’s able to operate a secure, fully functioning office from any location.
Let’s say you were forced to work from home; your car has let you down, the train was cancelled, overnight snow has made it impossible to get anywhere – there are a myriad of examples; but my point is, if you couldn’t reach the office, but needed to give a presentation to, or hold a sales meeting, with colleagues (who may not have made their way to work either), you’d be able to have that vital meeting using Microsoft Lync or similar technology; you’d be able to hold a conference call with all the stakeholders in a project, you’d be able to finish that vital financial report and email it securely from any location, straight to the FD. Flexible working is fast becoming the norm for businesses in the UK and it’s estimated that over 6.5 million people, roughly 20 per cent of the UK working population, can now be classed as digital workers. Richard Branson, a thought-leader worth listening to, recently stated that remote working is now “easier and more effective than ever, and that it is something every organisation should embrace where possible.”
The revolution of the work ethic
Distributed workforces, with staff, collaborators and partners all in multiple locations are also becoming more adept at working within remote, virtual teams and business eco-systems effectively, without making any big changes to the way they work. The evolution of the workforce that led to the reinvention of the workplace, is in turn, leading to the regeneration of the work ethic. The business that has the remote control will attract and retain a great digital workforce and will be able to focus less on people, activity and responsibility, and more on motivation, collaboration and productivity. Although most managers like the traditional idea of being able to monitor the workforce, it’s often the last thing digital workers need; telling staff that you trust them to get the job done is a huge vote of confidence – one that they will respond to. The new generation of managers will become leaders of teams of trusted professionals and will empower them to deliver business outcomes and not simply a completed checklist of daily or weekly activities.
- Are you a remote, digital worker?
- Do you agree that you get more done when working at home?
- Does your company offer flexible working?
- What more could your company do to enable a happier, more flexible workforce?
If you have any questions about safely enabling a remote, digital workforce, or you have comments on how you see the re-invention of the workplace, I’d be happy to hear from you.