Call it what you will: telecommuting, remote work, telework, working from home, etc. Regardless of how one labels it the truth remains the same: telework works, period!
However, for remote work to be successful employers must make sure such practices are properly applied and implemented with strict standards to ensure employee accountability, high performance and productivity.
Some federal agencies are good role models for the private sector, while others still need to get with the program already. The Telework Enhancement Act has been around for over four years.
Telework is obviously not for every employee. It all depends on the job at hand.
- First, an employee must be qualified, eligible, ready, willing and able to work remotely.
- Second, an employee must demonstrate exemplary performance on a consistent basis whether working in or outside of the traditional office arrangement.
Any employee who fails to meet these two basic standards should have their telework eligibility immediately revoked.
Although many jobs are currently not conducive to telework, others may be a good fit.
To wit: leveraging high-tech job tools allows qualified employees to work smarter and more effectively via the virtual workplace. Telework also helps employees maintain the increasingly important work-life balance, which is especially beneficial for those with family and caregiver responsibilities or employees with disabilities and serious medical conditions.
More large employers need to look at the macro picture. Today’s high-tech mobile/digital world is already an integral part of contemporary society and is fast becoming a permanent fixture of the modern-day global work culture.
So why are so many employers still intransigent regarding telework adoption? The answer may be twofold:
- Management Resistance, and
- Entrenched Bureaucracy
Most managers may not trust employees to work from home or other remote locations. However, micromanagement and clock watching are not workplace best practices. Moreover, it takes time for status-quo employers to accept new ways of doing business. This is even more challenging for employers when veteran managers fight innovative change in favor of antiquated work practices, policies and procedures.
Unfortunately, too many managers have tunnel vision regarding telework. This is largely based on myths, fears and stereotypes — such as the work won’t get done because employees will goof off at home (as if this never occurs in the traditional office setting).
Yet just showing up at work is not nearly enough to make an employee a human asset to the organization. Moreover, many managers are afraid of relinquishing any control over those they supervise. This is because they think it will weaken their management ability and be perceived as a loss of authority and power.
However, is it asking too much for managers to give some high-performing employees the benefit of the doubt regarding telework?
How about adhering to the tried and true principle of “trust but verify”?
There’s already a plethora of empirical studies and anecdotal evidence demonstrating that telework simply makes good business sense when correctly applied to targeted segments of the workforce. The many benefits to employers include:
- Increasing bottom-line productivity and profit,
- Boosting employee morale, engagement and job satisfaction,
- Saving millions of dollars on expensive building leases and office space,
- Ensuring continuity of operations during emergencies and shutdowns,
- Fostering a more healthy workforce (both physically and mentally),
- Accommodating workers with major family and caregiving responsibilities,
- Reducing chronic absenteeism and high health care costs, and
- Decreasing harmful pollution inherent with gas guzzling commutes.
Empowering High Performers
Perhaps most importantly, telework helps builds trust — not lessen it — by liberating and empowering top performers to do their best work, a win-win outcome for employees and managers. What should matter most to employers are tangible results rather than where, when or how work is done.
For instance, would a manager rather have:
- Disengaged employees who may consistently “punch the clock” but are unproductive and problematic in the workplace, or
- Teleworkers who exceed performance goals and boost productivity and mission-related activity?
The answer should be a no-brainer.
Today’s employers in the private and public sectors must adapt to the 21st century Information Age just as their predecessors successfully transitioned to more effective, efficient and productive ways of working during the Industrial Revolution and thereafter.
The high-tech Information Revolution means the traditional brick-and-mortar workplace paradigm is undergoing a radical shift to a virtual work environment, albeit slowly but surely. This is primarily due to the persistent proliferation of new and evolving digital/mobile/virtual technology at the dawn of a new century.
A new era means new and better ways of doing business. Employers can run away from the virtual workplace but they can’t hide forever.
Embracing the New Normal
Therefore, if forward-thinking employers want to remain competitive in the future global marketplace they will be compelled to embrace telework for applicable jobs. Business and government leaders must accept the reality that working remotely will soon be the new normal, whether they like it or not. It’s also a potent incentive to attract a new generation of workers.
The fact is that Millennials (Generation Y) are 80 million strong and growing. They are entering the workforce at increasing rates and will eventually take charge of it altogether — followed by Generation Z — as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers retire and move on.
This new generation of innovative leaders will fully embrace the unequivocal reality that many aspects of work are inextricably linked to virtual environments based on the latest high-tech innovations.
Old-school employers who choose to reject this inevitable change will only fall victim to it.
** In case you missed it: Gov Should Resolve to Expand Telework in New Year (Jan. 2014)
*** Join the author on Twitter @DBGrinberg and/or connect on LinkedIn
**** All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any government agency, employer or group.