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Remote Work Week: Pursuing Telecommuting at Your Office

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For our final post in Remote Work Week, we wrap up the discussion with advice on advocating telecommuting at your organization.

Before we discuss how to pitch the idea to your boss or employees, let’s review the highlights:

Happiness: On Monday, The Methodology Blog asked about the relationship between working remotely and overall satisfaction. Some research supports this connection, but there is more evidence that people enjoy telecommuting because it better demonstrates they are trusted, respected and have genuine ownership of work.

Research: We then outlined some of the major findings in academic studies of remote work over the last thirty years. Odd side effects steadily appeared: as people work more hours away from the central office, they begin to feel less productive. Also, researchers were surprised to discover that none of the standard criteria such as gender, job title, job function, level of education or type of work has any significant impact on worker productivity or satisfaction. Finally, recent analysis demonstrates that the reported benefits of telecommuting must be wildly inflated. In summary, the advantages of remote work are most strongly connected to positive, supportive and results-oriented workplace cultures.

Technology: When the word telecommuting first appeared in print in 1976, remote employees had only the most primitive electronic systems for conducting work from home. Today, practically all computer-based tasks can be completed remotely. AccelaWork principal Robby Slaughter demonstrated this technology live by leading a brief on-screen productivity training seminar as part of the Talking Tech Series. If you haven’t investigated this recently, check out free tools such as Vyew and Yugma. Thanks to today’s fast computers and high speed networks, a telecommuter is less dependent on geographic location and mobility than ever before.

Qualifications: On Thursday, we returned to the question of identifying people best suited for remote work. It turns out that the best indicator of telecommuting success is social attitude, but not in the direction you expect. The heads-down, quiet, introverted employees are the ones who perform best in an office. Boisterous, extrovert types do better when they can work from home. But again, assigning people to a work location based on a judgment is still issuing an edict. The best way to decide who should telecommute is to collaborate with stakeholders to identify relevant personality traits and individual perspectives on work.

Developing a Telecommuting Policy

© Flickr user wrumsby

With all that in mind, let’s return to the question everybody asks: how do I talk to my supervisor about telecommuting? It’s easy to find advice on the topic. Just last month, Web Worker Daily ran an article titled “How To Ask The Boss If You Can Work Remotely” and SitePoint served up “Telecommuting: How To Approach Your Boss.” Both of these posts offer general suggestions about citing research, listing the benefits and offering to make some concessions.

Remote Work Week has told us that telecommuting is not about where you work. That, in reality, the home office phenomenon actually stems from three, more powerful concepts:

  • Productivity and satisfaction in a given work environment is predicted by personality type
  • Employees become stakeholders when they are trusted with authority and responsibility
  • Supportive, results-oriented, technology-enabled employee cultures perform best

So, do not approach your boss (or your employees) about telecommuting! Focus instead on improving relationships toward work. Transform and take ownership of your workflow using an process-oriented mindset. Build satisfaction and productivity through direct engagement. Show that results, not presence, are what really matters.

Then, decide collaboratively about the best work environment for each employee. These are all tactical questions that can truly be pursued if you have an open workplace culture. And when you’re ready, reach out to the telecommuting consultants at AccelaWork to figure out how to implement your own telework policy.

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