Tag Archives: telework management

the telecommuting hybrid takes shape

Thanks to Covid, widespread telecommuting emerged in 2020; its more mature form, the telecommuting hybrid, has started to take shape. In early 2020 the situation was that basically all office workers were forced to work from home essentially full time. Offices, with their threat of Covid contamination, were avoided by all but the most stalwart office hermits.

Dilemmas

There are at least two main problems with this situation. First, many telecommuters did not have home environments suitable for full-time telecommuting. Second, most people enjoy and look forward to some face-to-face interaction with their colleagues; video conferencing does not quite satisfy that desire. As a result the newly hatched telecommuters suffered various forms of stress and anomie.

At the other end of the working relationship, managers found that the old, traditional ways of running things didn’t work nearly as well when their employees were geographically dispersed. Since many managers, upon becoming managers, are given little training on management techniques, their natural response has been to use the management-by-walking-around method. Clearly, this doesn’t work with telecommuting and its management-by-results philosophy.

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Slowly, slowly, then all of a sudden!

In the old days, pre-Covid, I used to write about telework as a tide coming slowly in. An inch at a time, unlike Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave. But with the advent of Covid the telework tide turned into a tsunami, seemingly sweeping all else before it. Now that the tsunami is slowly receding it’s time to review its impacts and their future.

Its suddenness

The Covid pandemic suddenly forced many organizations to become telecommuter-dominant early in 2020. Consequently, the majority of the employees at all levels of the organizations were forced, almost overnight, to work at home, mostly with no prior training or other preparation. I was conflicted at the time, elated that a massive, global demonstration of teleworking had been started, but worried that the lack of training and pre-planning would produce many organizational disasters.

Fortunately, most of those instant, tsunami-induced conversions to telecommuting worked well after a few days or weeks of frantic adjustment. The organizations — and employees — adjusted. Productivity rose. Many operating costs were reduced or eliminated. The pandemic was deflected if not avoided. Business operations normalized, at least when viewed from a distance. The “bottom line” improved rather than crashed.

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It’s the Management, stupid!

Every now and then an article appears in a media outlet decrying teleworking because of the alleged propensity of teleworkers to goof off instead of doing actual work. For example, the Washington Post recently published an article about the claimed gallivanting of Patent and Trademark Office teleworkers. The article was based on a report by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General that several PTO employees were collecting for teleworking time when they weren’t really working. Quickly that intrepid California Congressman Darryl Issa demanded an investigation of the supposed malfeasance.

Next came an article in Nextgov, titled Patent Office Telework Scandal Not Really About Telework, claiming that it was all a case of mistaken attribution. Specifically:

Revelations of unprofessional behavior within the Patent and Trademark Office’s award-winning work-from-home program have been described as “telework abuses” by investigators and lawmakers — despite a lack of details specifically linking the problems to telework, mobile work advocates say.

They were abuses, sure. Fundamentally telework-related? Not so much, they say.

Surprise, surprise! It’s the Management, stupid, not the telework that’s the problem!

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