Earlier this year I wrote about defining telework and its synonyms. Much has happened regarding telework and its evolution over the past two years. Here’s a progress report.
As I wrote in January 2022, telework is now named differently quite often. The most popular terms in 2022 appear to be remote work and hybrid work. Both terms are often perceived erroneously, particularly that the work arrangement must be full-time. That is, the hapless worker must always be confined to working from home or to a rigid schedule, designed by the Chief Executive Officer, of a fixed ratio of days-per-week in the office, the rest of the time at home.
This misunderstanding is not news to me. It has been a problem over the past five decades, people miss the point that telework is a flexible tool; to be used when and where it is appropriate. It is by no means all or nothing.
Continue reading Telework’s evolution: A progress report
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.
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.
Continue reading the telecommuting hybrid takes shape
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.
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.
Continue reading Slowly, slowly, then all of a sudden!
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!
Continue reading It’s the Management, stupid!