The strengths and weaknesses of remote working
A couple of days ago, I came across an article published in the blog Scott Edinger Harvard Business Review, about why remote workers are more committed to their work. Some of the items listed are:
- The proximity fosters complacency: According to Edinger, a boss is physically close to your employee (whether a few feet or in the same building), making communication of how something is done, there is no real connection between the two .
- Absence makes people more difficult to contact: Far from being an obstacle, is beneficial. For Edinger, this effort requires managers to maintain a constant communication to see what happens.
- Leaders of virtual teams using better tools: Having to use different resources (email, videoconferencing, instant messaging, telephone, etc.), team leaders become more efficient.
- The time is used most: to be more limited time together, the team leader tends to make better time, paradoxically, when members are in the same space.
Well, how much truth is there in this? From my experience, a lot. I’ll start with a bit of my story: I went to work in July 2009 Hypertext, for over three years. The team is divided into different countries: Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, to name a few. I had to get used to some changes. For example, it is governed by a different time zone to me and there is virtually no opportunity to meet your colleagues, unless you make a long trip. Thus, scattered around the globe, we had to coordinate.
In the beginning was simple. Argentine with another blogger wrote, so the only problem was to agree between the three hours we drove (Madrid, Buenos Aires and Puebla). If we had to share links or coordinate on a topic, we used a mailing list. In 2010 I joined Living ALT1040 and Mexico. The dynamic was different. In ALT1040 have a strong flow of information and response times should be faster. Living In Mexico, we had to communicate with three others. I was fortunate to coordinate another couple of places, and at some point, be as editor of this network. But, well, let’s jump those details. The point is that, in these three years, I learned many of the advantages and disadvantages of teleworking. These are my comments:
- Yes there is a relationship between proximity and complacency … but not causal: In remote work, constant communication is a vital value. You can not afford to not be aware of what is happening. I know that is easier to view a question or report a result if you have the right tools. However, there are also complacent, remote work. It is easier for an employee (or boss) “disappear” because they turned off the phone, did not have Internet access or do not want to have to pay attention to work. It is more a cultural issue.
- Absence makes you struggle more: Yes In an office, simply change your seat to reach someone. Here you have to exhaust the means. For example, I can have a place in a collaborative editor like Yammer, but no answer, other mechanisms where to contact you: email, Twitter, Skype or IM. The result, oddly, is to prioritize better. As communication is harder, better choose the messages you send. Again, it is also a cultural issue: a boss (or an employee) inattentive what will work inside or outside an office.
- Leaders use the tools best: The biggest advantage of remote working, from my perspective. A few months ago, I shared why I believe the email may be obsolete in business . It’s one of the lessons of telework: learn to exploit the resources you have at hand and to discover other. In the long run, is a competitive advantage because you can implement solutions in other environments. ‘s Another anecdote: I learned to use Dropbox by working remotely. Not long ago, a friend’s dad asked me to set up your new iPad, because he was traveling and wanted to review the documents that will be mailed. I told him that Dropbox could sync all your business files (which are on an internal network) and watch them from the tablet. The solution changed his way of working, because now you are sure that you can monitor the job from anywhere.
- The time is used more: In offices, one of the great evils is the proliferation of meetings (in Mexico, we call ‘juntitis’). In remote working are less constant, because it implies that all agree on the same point. So, when one occurs, it takes more time. It is more common for a company to work together to implement remote monitoring and timely shorter than a conventional one. What is certain is that they are also necessary physical meetings, especially when doing brainstorming or need to discuss anything for a while. As they say, all with measurement.
In my experience, remote working can be very successful if you know how to open the channels of communication, and especially if there is commitment from all parties. However, my main message is that companies should not be afraid to not have all your items within an office-very common, it is believed incorrectly that work less. Remote work is an excellent choice for a company to grow without being limited by geography and harnessing the talents of other sites. Believe me, it works. If not, now would not be writing this text.Tags: Harvard Business Review, Telecommuting, Working Remotely