Work from the office or work form home... it's been on ongoing debate for more than a decade. Maybe it's time we expand this discussion beyond the two strongholds - home or office - and into the Field.
We CAN telework, can't we? Sure we can. Technology is there. Law supports it. Slow pokes are catching up. We're learning. What's next?
Customer service is pretty bad too. Why not kill two bird with one stone? Send employees out into the field! Mix it up with customers in customer spaces. Why not? Telework rules apply just like field operatives.
Putting faces into customer spaces is one way to improve perspective, build trust, and increase understanding. Our people don't have to take up residence in any one place unless that makes sense and space isn't an issue. They CAN visit spaces though.
Some people avoid telework because they don't like the isolation. These people are potentially good candidates for on-site customer telework.
One of the things I insisted on when I was trying to improve customer relations for the Business Transformation Agency - a now defunct (closed) agency that had the worst biennial review (mandated by Section 192(c) of Title 10, U.S. Code) results I've ever seen - was to get out of the building! Customers were hollering (in writing) about the lack of understanding or support from that agency. Staff inside the building had little idea how bad things were until the announcement of the agency closure was made. The truth was that most field activities had never heard of the BTA, and many who did thought it was all kinds of things I would not repeat here.
I hired a new analysts and told her to stay away. I needed her to understand the program on her own (without any of the internal political bias). I needed her to form a perception of the agency from the outside - without influence from me or anyone else. I needed her to connect with customers and understand their issues first. THEN, she could come in and have a look around.
She teleworked as often as I could convince her to. I directed her to make calls into customer spaces - many of them cold calls and almost all of them outside her comfort zone.
The consumate team player, she would come in to the office from time to time and want to join the other staff. She was great to have around, but she inevitably started showing signs of group-think. She was at risk for being infected by agency paradigms. That's when I'd kick her out again.
Over time, she grew to appreciate the perspective she was gaining from her research and customer contacts. She started asking questions - the same questions our customers were asking. She cold see better than anyone on the inside what impression the agency was making (and not making) on the world. And, since she was politically aware and diplomatic enough to avoid most of the ego-based land mines inside the agency, her input became one of the most valuable assets on my team.
My point is this: we have the ability to use telework and other things (like social media) to deepen our relationships with customers and gain perspective. We should be taking advantage of that.
What other ways might telework and/or mixing it up with our customers help our agencies to be more effective?
How might we leverage telework to solve some of our other problems?
Defense Security Service has been doing this since at least 1996, when I joined them! When I left in 2005 they were STILL doing it.
Alot of the Industrial Security Representatives had dedicated office space in the various facilities that they are responsible for, unless it would be a small facility...
Never seemed to be any major conflict between DSS and the facilities, perhaps because in most cases a Rep would have responsibility for up to 20 facilities....
DSS was one of the first agencies, that I am aware of that slipped right in to the telework mode, would guess, because the managers/supervisors were accustom to not being terribly concerned about where they were doing the work but whether they were doing the work...
"...managers/supervisors were accustom to not being terribly concerned about where they were doing the work but whether they were doing the work..."
Glad to see that it works. Doesn't seem that complicated, really.
This could work... check out the example I spoke of relative to InfoUSA today. There is really no reason why that young man couldn't have been calling me via VOIP from home or anywhere else. The impressive thing is that he mixed it up with me - his customer - within minutes of my making contact. Awesome customer engagement.