The future of work is shaping up to be a place of contractors more than tenured, salaried workers. It’s already trending that way. A large part of this evolution is the increase in remote workers in teams across a huge variety of industries. People will do jobs on a short-term basis for a company and move on, or they will perform different tasks for a variety of companies at the same time. And although working from home may seem like a cop out from traditional hard-working values, research and anecdotal evidence suggest that’s just not the case.
Much like holacracy, telecommuting represents a shift in culturally engrained, time honored behavior. These new remote workers don’t punch a clock, and they don’t gather around the water cooler or hide their favorite stapler from the boss. So what do they do? And how is this way of working viable and beneficial for both employer and employee. Have a look below at what I see as the two major issues facing employers and employees looking to telecommute.
Flexibility is key. Schedules and habits of workers who telecommute become flexible in ways that even the most “cool,” relaxed office environments can’t replicate. Need to throw in a load of laundry? No problem. Have a busy day and no real time for lunch? Pour a bowl of cereal. Family coming into town and you want to take Friday off? Work odd hours earlier in the week to get ahead and give yourself an extended weekend.
In fact, these kinds of freedoms can actually have positive effects on the work we do in terms of how creatively the brain operates. There’s no shortage of research that points to the fact that cubicles are the exact opposite of ideal when it comes to ideation. Changing your activity or environment is like exercise for the brain. Leave it sitting in the same box all day and you’re not as likely to do clear, concise work as you would if you allowed yourself to switch tasks and environments several times.
Communication tools are available but not required. The communication aspect is potentially the largest adjustment for many people working remotely. You have work-related communication and social communication, both are important for different reasons.
First of all, work-related communication is streamlined. Meetings can still take place via conference call or video chat but the fact that they must be so carefully coordinated typically means that they are run more purposefully and efficiently. There are also typically many fewer interruptions. Whether it’s work or non work-related, it’s easier to ignore that chatty coworker when they fire a funny link to your inbox than it is when they show up at your desk.
With that said, social communication is important, too. Isolation is no good for anyone, and most office environments do provide a social element that can be somewhat uplifting. However, tools like email and chat mean that you can socialize with your coworkers or other work from home friends throughout your day.
So while our traditional views of work may lead us to believe that “unsupervised” workers would generally be less productive than those corralled in an office Monday through Friday from nine to five, the opposite has been shown to be true. Is telecommuting right for you or your business? Have you had experiences with it, positive or negative? Let me know in the comments below.
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