15 Oct Remote Working: Good or bad for business?
It was interesting reading the BBC News article Teleworking: The myth of working from home in response to the Yahoo! Memo informing staff that from June, those with work-from-home arrangements will be required to work from a Yahoo! Office.
In the memo, Yahoo!’s head of HR Jackie Reses announces:
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”
“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”
The Wall Street Journal picked up on the story beginning with the statement
“Jobs may get done when employees work from home, but careers are made in the office.”
It goes on to examine the different ways in which employers are managing workers who work from home. One of the most contentious statements in the Yahoo! memo was Reses’ statement that
“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group was quick to respond on his blog where he confessed he has never worked out of an office and never will. In his post entitled Give People The Freedom The Freedom Of Where To Work he said:
“To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.”
“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen.”
In 2012, a Virgin Media Business Report predicted that up to 60% of the workforce would be working remotely in the next decade. Remote working reduces the need for costly office space making it an attractive alternative to traditional office-based working. It also creates a lesser burden on transport infrastructure as workers need to travel to the office less frequently.
Research shows that home workers are happier and more productive. They were found to take shorter breaks, less likely to take time off due to illness and more likely to stay with a company longer resulting in lower recruitment costs.
It seems there are three main issues under the spotlight: communication, trust and performance. What appears to be the challenge, is how to manage a remote workforce effectively. Achieving the right balance between remote and office working is the key, along with giving workers the tools and resources to do their jobs as effectively as possible.
Is the real issue that we lack the knowledge and understanding of how best to manage communication, trust and performance in these times of technological and workplace change?
I think Branson sums things up nicely:
“If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.”