Can we do without Remote Working?

The discussion about Remote working, yes or no, has been too ideological in many ways. But too often it fails to recognize the fact that traditional management based on control is the root cause of issues with this form of flexibility. We can only succeed if we are able to retire our management style.

This week I’ve shared on Linkedin and on the Knowmad Magazine a link to an article appeared on FastCompany titles “How to address the pitfalls of remote work“. One of the comment received was very true, and deserves some attention.

Most companies are still in denial about how critical going flexible is for employees and productivity.

I believe that the discussion on Remote Working has been (as usual I would say) too much taken from an ideological perspective from both who favors it and who is against it.

For sure, we need to clarify that not all jobs can fit a “home working” set-up, whether this is fully remote or not. This is particularly true for customer facing roles (although new technologies have made this distinction not always so critical, let’s think at new phone technologies for customer service centers).

Once we have defined which job can be done remotely, what are the key issues that we face? There’s for sure some myths about home working that needs debunking, and also some practical preparation for the individual.

Can we do without Remote Working? 1
Remote Working can support true Inclusion across the world.

The weak link however in remote working programs, is the fact that organizations and managers very rarely get prepared to what this added flexibility means. Because it is true that Remote Working complicates the way we traditional manage people, but this is not a good excuse to allow for a much needed flexibility.

I don’t want here to add to the list of exhaustive suggestions on hot to manage remote workers (Quartz published a great article, and so did Fortune with its coaching council). But just point to one critical aspect.

The key issue with management is that it is a discipline born on the basis of a coordination of work measured in terms of input (time) not output. Which in many cases has given has created a working style where performance confused with “desk dedication”: i.e. how many hours I clock in in the office. And BTW, this is not just a cultural element: how many regulatory burdens exists across the world that are all aligned on this idea (think clock-in requirements for example still present in many countries)?

Too often the biggest critique about Remote Worker is “How do you control if they’re working”?

But then a similar question is, how do you control if a person is working (productively) even while in the office?

This is the key conundrum of remote working, the need to create a different trust relationship between employer and employees. One of the side effect of this, I’m afraid, is also to make some managerial coordinating roles redundant (thus flattening org charts). If people are able to work remotely, self-organizing their work, the question about a lot of middle level manager roles might arise.

Remote working is here to stay. I think that the winning system will that of and hybrid between traditional office work and home working, with flexible arrangements that allow individual preferences and balances to be taken into consideration.

What do you think about Remote Working?

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