Remote Workers

June 10th 2014

Why support remote workers?

I'd always planned to do a blog post on remote working and why it was so beneficial, but David Tate beat me to it, and his post is a million times better than anything I could ever write, so go check it out: Subtle Benefits of Supporting Remote Workers.

Everything David says is, in my experience, absolutely true. When there's a snow day or I've got a cold, I still work. When 5 o'clock rolls around and I'd normally be thinking "Right, time to get home before Megan does", I can instead keep on working right up to the moment when Megan walks in the door. And in that time between 5pm and Megan arriving home: that's when the emails stop flowing and the distractions end and I can get my best work done.

One addition I'd add to David's list: often employees don't all work in the same location anyway. If you have multiple offices around the city or globe, you have employees who are separated from each other. A company that truly embraces remote workers is more inclusive of these workers in other offices - the entire company works better together regardless of physical proximity.

Of course, there are right ways & wrong ways to support remote workers. Many organizations talk about remote work as an exception: you can do it when you need to. There's a pang of guilt if you choose to work from home when you could perfectly well go into the office. So then most people do go into the office, even when they don't need to. And in that scenario, remote workers are isolated and remote working is less effective.

Remote working works best when everyone works remotely regularly. That way there is no "core" of people at the office who make decisions in isolation from those not physically present. When remote working is a cultural norm, including phone numbers in meeting invites or using Yammer/Lync for business conversations becomes second nature.

There's a huge cultural gap between those that embrace remote work and those that don't. Often resistance to remote work stems from a lack of trust: someone not in the office can't be trusted to be working. Companies that embrace remote work embrace the concept of results-oriented performance: being measured not by the time you're sitting in your seat, but by the results you achieve.

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