Volume XXI, Number 32 (Issue 1036) August 7, 2023
Eight Questions – Chapter Four – Part 1 | Managing and Motivating Remote Workers
A host of new research indicates a sizable percentage of the workforce is less than enthusiastic about returning to the office full time. So much so there is growing evidence another spate of voluntary separations is instore for those organizations that are insisting their people be in the office day-in and day-out. In short, having had a pro-longed taste of working from home, the new mindset of the typical employee is they want greater flexibility when it comes to their work schedule, including the newly important “where.”
The employers’ reasoning for wanting everyone back in the office is valid. So too is the workers’ preference for remote work. The solution is a balance between the two. Thus, the birth of the hybrid work schedule, consisting of days in the office and days where team members have the option to work from home. No real news there, yet there are some wrinkles that need addressing if all involved are to achieve some of their objectives.
In the case of the employer, some of their reasoning for wanting workers around full time goes like this: We pride ourselves on and have invested heavily in our culture. Experience shows that culture is best extended when our people are face- to-face under one roof. We further know from experience that impromptu brainstorming and collaboration occur more frequently and naturally when our people are under that roof rather than separated by physical distances and virtual settings. To the employer’s way of thinking, training and development and especially the on-boarding and mentoring of new hires can be better accomplished when people are together. Another significant impediment to the work from home preference is that for those who are new to the workforce or the role, it is a near certainty that they lack the knowledge and skills needed to do the job absent direct supervision. That is hard to accomplish when one or more of the players is virtual.
Also, try as managers might to compensate for it, employees who are out of sight also tend to be out of mind. Common sense tells us physical separation can and does get in the way of personal and professional growth opportunities for those who are exclusively remote.
To this we must add that many roles simply cannot be performed remotely – think first-responders, surgeons, construction and manufacturing workers, bank tellers, and the list goes on. So, while some tasks and the roles associated with them can be easily accomplished remotely thanks to technology, it is not feasible for others. There is no equity in that distinction; however, life and work are not guaranteed to be fair and equitable. We do the best we can. Another factor that may go unmentioned but is nonetheless top of mind for certain employers is their investment in facilities. No thinking organization plans and builds a facility to hold the Easter Sunday crowd only to have it partially filled the balance of the year.
To this list we must add that some who seek to work remotely are not well served by that choice because they lack the personal discipline to work that way. Others need the social interaction and camaraderie that only the office place can provide. We know of at least one personality assessment tool that provides remarkable insight into those distinct inclinations. Then there is the group who for one reason or another encounter ready-made obstacles to their ability to focus and concentrate in a work from home setting. As I write this, three of our grandsons (ages five, ten and thirteen) are visiting. Their periodic antics and squabbles can make it difficult for me to string two words together, let alone compose a paragraph or two.
But we cannot overlook that group of individuals who can be their most productive when they are freed from social interaction and the interruptions that can bring. For those “I want to be left alone types,” the coworker who pops-in unannounced can be the bane of their workday.
This list of the manager’s point of view would not be complete without some mention of trust. While much of the evidence is anecdotal, there is the opinion held by some that there is a segment among remote workers who steal time from the company. They do this either by wasting the day or worse still, operating a side gig on company time. Personally, to the extent such thinking plays into any employer’s reasoning, I would say if you cannot trust your people, why are they on your payroll?
A discussion of this nature cannot ignore some of the big upsides of remote work for employers. At the top of that list stands the ability to attract and retain talent, including rare skill sets that can be hard to source or attract in some locales. There is also the advantage remote work offers fast-growing organizations since satellite employees do not tax space needs the way an onsite workforce does.
In Part 2 we will consider the employee’s point of view.
Soli Deo Gloria
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” Colossians 3:23a
J. Keith Hughey
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com
Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2023 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.