Telecommuting, understood as working from home, making use of the internet, e-mail and phone, has traditionally been and still is a sensible topic among management.
In an organizational culture that is deeply entrenched in the industrial-age tradition, formalizing working-at-a-distance can appear to some as radical as going to the office in your pyjamas. However, most of the obstacles to successful telecommuting are psychological rather than technological, and failure is far more likely due to management reasons.
Executives imagining empty offices and the high cost of duplicating hardware or managers imagining not being able to see their workers busy at their desks can constitute a serious roadblock to the implementation of telecommuting projects. While most of these misconceptions can be overcome with proper planning and implementation, it is important to know the core concepts around telecommuting resistance.
Here are the main examples.
I can’t tell if you’re working if I can’t see you
Before the normalization of computers in the work-space, non-work activities were much harder to hide. It was generally understood that if a worker was present at his desk, surrounded by contracts, bills, and any other form of paperwork, it must have meant that his paid time was being put to good use. It was very easy to see whether an employee was busy at his desk or goofing off elsewhere.
Nowadays, on the other hand, managers who have not updated their skills have a hard time distinguishing work from leisure, when it is so easy to spend time on the internet and make it look like work. Add to that the fact that with telecommuting, the employee might not even be physically present within the office building.
In order to cope with these insecurities, it is recommended to keep good records of your telecommuting days, time and work activity. Go out of your way to tell your manager exactly what you have accomplished during each telecommuting event. This is where our flagship product comes in: TeamColony.
I won’t be able to call a meeting
Pressed by everyday company concerns, hands-on managers imagine that they will not be able to organize lightning ad-hoc meetings if most of their workgroup is telecommuting. There is a persistent fear that the telecommuting employee will become an unreachable asset, and problems will not be solved in time.
It is necessary to understand that if impromptu meetings are important to your manager, as an employee you will need to remain available for email, phone calls or videoconferencing. On the other hand, the idea of telecommuting can create the belief that an employee or co-worker has the obligation of being available 24/7. In order to avoid this, it is important to correctly organize and coordinate scheduled meetings and keep managers and co-workers informed on the real-time development of telecommuting projects.
There’s no budget for equipment and services
This is a common concern for managers looking for a reason to avoid telecommuting. While it is true that a proper telecommuting project requires connectivity software and hardware, most of this can be done with a very low budget. Nowadays, any employee that will work for a company with a telecommuting project is expected to own a personal computer, and the required software for proper organization is either free or very affordable. Check out our previous blog entry about software for working remotely.
Additionally, a solid business proposition can be made for a substantial corporate investment, as long as management can properly quantify the returns.
Workers who shouldn’t be allowed to telecommute will want to
This excuse is possible evidence for weak management skills. Evidently there will be people that will look to use telecommuting as an excuse to do less work and get away with it. It is important to understand that telecommuting is not for everybody and most certainly it is not for every type of project.
By understanding that telecommuting should be implemented in order to increase productivity, decisions should be made concerning the organization of the employees within. It is the job of the manager to assign the distance-work positions and obligations when organizing the project development.
If your manager remains nervous around the prospect of you telecommuting, find out why and do the best to overcome it.
When a telecommuting program fails, it is not likely caused by telecommuting itself. The truth is, telecommuting fails among larger employers when it amplifies preexisting organizational problems such as poor internal communication, low morale, unhealthy competition among departments, weak performance measuring techniques, mistrust of management, and poor leadership and management skills.
If you work for a smaller organization, are trusted to do your work, and communicate fairly well with your manager, these weaknesses will have less effect. The larger the organization, the more important it is to have formalized rules, well-trained participants, and telecommuter accountability.
Telecommuting Success by M.J.Dziak
Making Telework Work by E. Othstein, J. Morwick