The 411 on TeleWorking (Part 2) – How…

teleworkMy first exposure to an organization fully embracing remote working options was Sun Microsystems in 2001.  Sun Microsystems had just completed a study that revealed on any given business day 25% of their staff was out of the office sick, traveling, or on vacation.  That meant that 25% of their real estate, in the expensive San Francisco Bay area, was not being utilized; they were essentially over-built.  Since then, Sun Microsystems has experienced significant annual savings to the tune of nearly $100 million.  Savings such as this are explored further in Part 1 of the 411 on TeleWorking as are other drivers contributing to the growth of teleworking.  In this article, we will provide tips on how to implement teleworking at your facility. 

Leadership

If teleworking is going to be successful, it is imperative that management from the top-down support and promote it as a good, viable option.  Success will be limited if management merely dabbles in workshifting.  This will require a commitment to change policies, infrastructure, and management practices – they have to jump in with both feet.

Managers will have to work with human resources to identify which roles can work remotely and how much (e.g. a few days per week to full-time).  Do not be so quick to rule out certain roles; evaluate their tasks and determine why they cannot be performed remotely and what would it take to do so.

Infrastructure

Office configurations will need to provide hoteling spaces that are setup with the necessary data, power, and phone connections.  “Call Rooms” can provide space for one or two people to hold private conversations and quiet space for phone calls.  Meeting space utilization should be evaluated to determine if changes are necessary to accommodate this new work dynamic.

New construction and remodels should incorporate design features that promote space flexibility and opportunities to connect employees such as collision points and collaboration zones (these are discussed further in The Forthcoming Millennial Reign).

Information Technology

Information Technology (IT) will likely have to make significant changes as well.  For example, when I participated in Washington Mutual’s telecommuting pilot program, we initially experienced difficulty with the organization’s Virtual Private Network (VPN), because IT was not prepared for the influx of VPN connections; thus some users had to be routed to other servers and the system upgraded.

IT may need to implement a variety of new online collaboration tools, such as instant messaging, document sharing software (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint), video conferencing; thankfully, these are already a staple for many organizations and employees are gaining competency in using them.

Policies will need to be identified regarding which IT hardware the company will provide for remote workers and how to procure & support it.  Additionally, IT’s customer support should be revisited to ensure it is prepared to assist teleworkers.

Challenges

Alone, Yet Not Alone…

A typical initial complaint of teleworkers is the feeling of being disconnected – missing the socialization that the workplace provides.  This can be offset by leveraging social media to keep remote workers connected and productive with their counterparts.  Thankfully, today’s generation already operates in this fashion and the distributed workforce of many organizations is hastening the adoption of such forms of communication and collaboration.  However, further hardening, training, and promotions of these systems may be necessary.

Based on my experience, I advise remote workers to be diligent about connecting with co-workers and customers.  For example, when I knew I was traveling to the corporate office, I would quite often schedule an additional day to allow more time for me to “connect”.  I was deliberate about either scheduling one-on-one meetings or doing “drop-ins” to have face-time with folks.  This went a long way in bridging the teleworking gap.

Not for Everybody – ”The riding mower was calling my name…” 

Teleworking is not for everyone.  For example, I have a friend who has his own business which gives him the freedom to work from home full-time; however, he chooses to rent an office due to the distractions at home (e.g. honey-do list, lawn mowing, etc.).  Telecommuting requires someone that is self-directed and self-motivated; don’t worry though, as these attributes can be learned.

Remote workers need to be equipped and trained to use online collaboration tools and software.  They should become well-versed at connecting and working with colleagues virtually.  Organizations should provide such tools and training to reap the most benefits of this workshifting.

Lastly, teleworkers need to find other channels outside of work in which to have physical, social interaction with people (e.g. church, hobby groups, sports, etc.).

Managing the Remote Worker – “How do I know they are working, if I can’t see them in their cubicle?”

In my experience and research, managers seem to pose the most significant challenge to successful teleworking.  They have a difficulty trusting their employees if they can’t see them.  Sadly this can also influence performance evaluations and promotions.  Thanks to the decentralization of the workforce, managers are having to learn how to manage and gauge performance of remote workers; however, organizations should provide training to managers in preparation for teleworking.  Additionally, the performance review process and measurement thereof needs to be revisited and possibly overhauled.

Co-Worker Jealousy – “Why can’t I work remotely?”

Another challenge that most organizations will face is jealousy or dissatisfaction if they are not allowed to work remotely.  This could be offset by including employees in the initial discussion and review of which tasks and roles can be performed remotely.  Additionally, it is recommended that employees see that teleworking is a privilege, and as such should be earned; given that data shows flexible work options are important to job satisfaction, this should be easy for employees to understand.

Other Resources

As previously mentioned, there are ample resources available online and consulting firms that could assist with navigating the waters of telecommuting.  Some resources referenced in this article series include:

(i)                  www.TeleWorkResearchNetwork.com

(ii)                Global Workplace Analytics

(iii)               www.telework.gov/Index.aspx

(iv)              http://www.ifma.org/community/ifma-groups/group-details/workplace-evolutionaries-(we)-community-of-practice

 

For other related articles and Part 1 of The 411 on TeleWorking – The Why, visit fm360consulting.com and sign-up for FM360’s newsletter.

John Rimer is President of FM360, LLC and has over 17 years’ facility management experience in a variety of capacities and industries.  He uses his breadth of knowledge and diverse expertise to provide a comprehensive perspective to his clients and students.

John is very active in the facility management community.  He is the founder, Past President, and current Director of the Northern Rockies Chapter of IFMA.  John is a huge proponent for educating the facility management community. He is an IFMA Qualified Instructor and an approved Building Operator Certification (BOC) Instructor.  John has taught more than 50 courses in the last two years across the United States.  John also speaks and presents at numerous conferences throughout the country, including IFMA’s World Workplace.  He has been published in IFMA’s Facility Management Journal (FMJ) and has readers from around the world.

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