Physical Versus Virtual Presence

Telecommuting has been on the rise.  Technology advances have escorted the virtual office to the forefront.  The old school thought that collaboration only works if all parties are physically located in the office still exist.  Is there real merit in this thought or is it personality based?

Working from home isn’t necessarily for everyone but that doesn’t mean that everyone should be forced to work in the same manner.  It’s quite possible for a hybrid model, which happens today.  Some people are working in the office, others work in different locations.  Technology allows for working at the beach, the coffeehouse, home, or anywhere else with a connection. The caveat, is responsiveness and accountability.

Simply put you work as you would work in the office. Your hours should be posted and you should be available during the posted hours. This provides people with feedback as to when to expect a response and when you are available for contact.  Employees working remotely (not in the office) must still be held accountable for deadlines, meetings and other timely work.

The mindset that people need to be physically located in the same room in order to achieve the end goal of collaboration doesn’t apply to every employee. Personality is a big factor. With the exception of a few individuals, with the right leadership collaboration even in a high crisis time can be achieved virtually with responsive individual.  How can the leadership change the environment?

Set the appropriate expectations.  Working from home isn’t a free day to watch email while attending to personal items. It’s a work day just as if you were sitting at a desk in an office with everyone monitoring you.  You must respond to emails, calls, tasks and deadlines in the same manner.  I have found too often the reasons management is so reluctant to have a work from home policy is simply people misuse it.  Instead of allowing the work from home to substitute for appointments and other personal tasks, appropriately setting the expectations will provide for an atmosphere that will demonstrate a ROI to the company through a higher level productive from their employees.

Management still not convinced.  Fearful that work still won’t get done.  Set the expectation and start a trial.  A leader should know who would be able to work well in this type of environment.  Trust your employees. Surrender to the fact that your employees don’t need to be watched over with a mindful eye and will actually produce more for you while working remotely.

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