We see our cities getting crowded and commute time on the rise; office-goers have no option but to brave the high pollution levels and over-stressed infrastructure of our cities. They lose time and compromise on their well-bring. These days, nuclear families have become more prevalent in society, which means, there is an increasing need to shoulder the many responsibilities of running a home and hence, the need to be available at home as much as possible. Given this, do they need to go to an office? Why not tele-commute?
Mobility and cloud have helped businesses digitize their work processes and make those accessible easily. Further, this has helped define responsibilities and accountability clearly and made collaborative working easy. With advances in telecommunication, it is easy for co-workers to tele-conference and collaborate if they are working together on a task. Unless the work necessitates specialized tools and equipment or involves manufacturing using machinery, construction, agriculture and so on, most office work is pretty much doable if the employees tele-commute. It reduces pollution, saves human energy wasted in avoidable travel to work, conserves time, increases the life of our city infrastructure and can make real estate costs reasonable.
The cynics argue, an organization cannot achieve its goals unless the teams work together and believe in the same values and spirit. Engaging the employees with the larger purpose of the organization is an absolute need. However, the point is to discover ways by which tele-commuting workers can be engaged better and led in a meaningful way. It calls for innovation in HR!
Organizations have to redesign their work processes in such a way that all the actions of an employee are carried out in a safe, secure and transparent manner; seamless communication amongst the team is enabled; demo or training classes are available to the employees on-demand; performance is measured automatically and reported; rewards and recognition are held widely; one-on-one coaching is provided remotely through a video conference or in person. For the occasions that need working together as a group, they can hire a physical space that suits the need rather than owning a physical space.
Remote working will not be possible in a manufacturing plant or a customer service centre where employees are expected to operate machines, use tools, produce an output which is received by an external customer or an internal customer. However, all other workplaces should adapt this new way. Traditionally managers and the HR teams believed that employee attendance and work hours are to be monitored. However, the fact is that an employee may come to work for 9 hours a day but may not produce the desired output. At times, bosses are the cause of low output. They mark their presence by holding long meetings in the name of managing their team and coaching their people. But, the fact is that many of those meetings are either redundant or highly inefficient. Hence, the practice of tracking in-time, out-time, break-time is passe now. Many organizations have stopped tracking leave balances. Rather, they encourage all their employees to monitor the output and the process metrics. A physical office adds no value given the new developments.
Strong performers, given the option to tele-commute will love the flexibility to schedule their work in a way that suits their personal needs. The passion for their work will keep them achieve higher goals. And at the same time, the weak performers will find the option of tele-commuting a bliss. Either they will use the opportunity to shape up or lose their way. Because the premise of remote work is performance metric, the weak performers will get spotted easily and the organization will be able to act on them in an objective way and at the same time, will reap the benefits of increasing productivity of the strong performers.
Last, but not the least, gig economy is on the rise because organizations have been looking for more and more flexibility in their inputs. They do not want a huge amount of fixed cost. Since wage bill is a fixed cost, they want contract employees, contractors, part-timers and so on. These employees are best managed by the output rather than the number of hours they are present. Moreover, physical workspaces are expensive. Hence, organizations should increasingly adopt flexible workspaces which can be paid for based on usage in terms of hours.
The participation of Services sector is increasing steadily in the overall GDP of the economy. Given the nature of the industry, it is most ideal for remote work, gig economy, and flexible workspaces. Our cities can be less polluted, infrastructure be long-lasting and lives be better if we are not constrained to work out of physical offices.