It's somewhat difficult to believe that only a few generations ago, before the industrial revolution, more people lived in small villages than large towns. In just a few short decades, not only did towns populations quickly swell and break records, but brand new cities sprung up in areas of industrial activity.
People moved to where the action was, where production was happening, which more often than not meant working with a machine. Yet today our production not longer demands machinery and has been internalised. It is we who produce and wherever we go, our potential for productivity will follow. Our reasons then, to remain in big cities are quickly disappearing, along with our teleworking colleagues who are returning to regional areas where real estate is cheaper, communities are safer and many consider the lifestyle better.
They are joining the ranks of global virtual workers, who already account for 900 million people and this figure is expected to grow to more than 1.3 billion people within a few years. As 'offshoring' started to be become common place, so did access to virtual freelancers in India, South America, the Philippines and South East Asia. The second group to join the virtual workforce are our own western corporate colleagues, many of whom already work a number of days per week from home. The last wave will be our full-time offsite co-workers, with whom we will work 'closely' from anywhere in the world.
Yet like a craftsman is only as good as his tools, so is a virtual worker only a productive as their tools; technology. Small and large businesses alike, must therefore invest in the latest innovations of mobile technology, to ensure increased productivity in their virtual workers. As a manager a couple of common traps to avoid;
- An ultralight computer may not have a DVD drive, but it will encourage your staff to take the computer with them when the move around the office between meetings or home.
- Remember is not only about high-tech, its also about high-touch. Your technology and applications should improve the collaborative, creative and collegiate spirit in your teams
- Implement a BYOD program, so that staff may bring their own devices, smartphones and computers, to access corporate systems. After all, nobody really wants to carry two mobiles.
- Review and upgrade your HR and P&C policies to support and promote teleworking
- Coach your managers to avoid 'presenteeism' in their teams people (staff showing up at the office even when they may be more productive elsewhere)
Finally, teleworking is not about cutting cost or increasing productivity, even though both of these are the result. Teleworking is about people, and therefore in managing this change, it is our people who must change. 'Line of sight' management no longer has a place, and managers must adopt an executive style of people management. For example, meeting the team, in person or virtually, at the beginning of each week to agree the tasks to be delivered that week. After this, the team may use any environment required, virtual, head office or overseas, to deliver on the agreed tasks. No more workplace anxiety, no more presenteeism, no more pretending to sit in front of an Excel spreadsheet at 4:50PM on a Friday and watching the clock.