In his recent post Goodbye to the office, Seth Godin list a lot of good reasons for working virtually, remotely, or whatever you want to call that. He summarizes:
“If we were starting this whole office thing today, it’s inconceivable we’d pay the rent/time/commuting cost to get what we get. I think in ten years the TV show ‘the Office’ will be seen as a quaint antique.
When you need to have a meeting, have a meeting. When you need to collaborate, collaborate. The rest of the time, do the work, wherever you like.”
One thing he doesn’t mention there is accountability. Traditionally people were accountable for physical presence: butts in seats (and pardon the expression). I’m not in favor of that old-fashioned metric. Technology gives us a lot of options. And meanwhile we suffer the ills of commuting, overcrowding, energy use, and all the rest.
However, as old-style accountability fades, we need new management, with planning, tracking, and metrics. Not just people in seats, people in workstations, or people at desks. People getting things done.
(Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)
Ah, the age old art of setting the right metrics. The old saying that people at work do what is measured and then what they want to do still rings true after all these years. The trick is setting the right measures and I agree that nowadays it’s what you do that counts more than the hours you put in, although carried to extremes I wonder if people (me?) would just out in the minimum required to get the rewards they want?
Another angle is that in today’s microchipped world too much is already measured: ask anyone who works in a call-centre who gets “feedback” about their toilet breaks, how long they spend talking to customers (radical I know in this DIY internet world).
New style of management? Maybe it’s about just being clear what we need from people at work, supporting them to achieve that and maybe just trusting them to do the right thing. Nothing new about that even though your local library/book shop will have hundreds of titles saying that they have the answer. In my opinion they don’t – they just regurgitate old stuff in new shiny colours and make a fortune on the speakers circuit. As someone who ran management courses for over 25 years, perhaps I should stay quiet…
I’ve worked in many Fortune 500 (100…50…) companies, and the issue in those environments for remote work is managers who cannot manage. Quite frankly they are clueless even when they can count butts in the seat. In one such company a manager indicated by requesting a “feature” to my manager, that he wanted the application I was working on, to essentially manage his employees. The feature was not implemented because the function required thought not yet possible by machines. This does leave you shaking your head though. I’ve had a constant issue that managers would never stop by to see how I was doing. Most seem to think creating and attending pointless meetings is their only function. Don’t get me started on the executive class.