Now that climate change has taken hold and the summers are cold and wet, and the overall land temperatures have plummeted, we can see that the pundits are still being wheeled in to prattle on. On Radio Four this morning we had two of them nattering on, and John Humphries was just too exasperated to even try to correct them.
Surely the answer nowadays should be to promote teleworking. What with Computers, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) the Internet, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant, such as a Palm) and mobile phones, coupled with the cost of petrol, public transport, and the violence out there on the “streets” there was never a better case for management to consider having staff working from home.
But, alas, it is management, who don’t trust their staff, who are at fault. There are two issues here, people who don’t trust others are often untrustworthy themselves – which is why they don’t trust others. The other issue is that people who are obviously not trusted tend to be less trustworthy than those who are trusted by others. A bit of a vicious circle really isn’t it?
In addition to this, staff are often a lot more intelligent than they seem. The trouble is, you hire a new clerk and they don’t take any initiative and just “follow orders”. One should ask “why” rather than condemn. Perhaps that youngster has had his initiative “knocked out of him” by a previous employer and feels he has “learned his lesson”. If you manage staff, the best management book (and I have read, literally, hundreds) is a short 150 pager, costing a little under a fiver, called “The One Minute Manager meets the monkey“. There are a whole lot of these books in the series but this is the only one I recommend. It teaches you to take this poor sod and recreate his initiative again so he can become a pillar in your company – and will worship you – no doubt – in the process.
But I digress. I do know of one company who have taken Teleworking to its natural conclusion. It is a top rate company in the Financial Services industry. They are Management Consultants who tend to train the trainers in the companies they service. Amongst their clients are all the UK banks, some European and American banks, most of the building Societies, and more recently, the Post Office and the Department of Works and Pensions.
The core staff of the company are four directors and one executive in charge of administration and accounts. They all work from home, using computers, cell-phones, the Internet and their PDAs. Each home is provided with ADSL and there is an SDSL line in one of the houses with a server and each staff computer is linked to this using a VPN so all the company data is on the respective machines and also on the company server to ensure proper backups. In addition, full use is given to call forwarding so rather than answering machines and voicemail, calls to the director/consultants are rerouted directly to the “office” at the admin exec’s home.
In addition to the top five, there are about thirty independent consultants who are called on from time to time according to their expertise and the new job in hand. Eight years ago they operated out of an office in the City of London and when they went “teleworking” in earnest, each member of staff received a large rise out of the large pot of money saved. A big difference as most people are offered lower salaries for working from home! Not to mention the ten hours a week travelling saved. Every two weeks all team members met in the centre of London for a meeting (often at the Institute of Directors) so they had personal contact.
My wife, the administrative manager, has been with the company since the nineties and loves working for them. She has retired recently but still works for them one morning a week handling all the accounts. She is a highly trusted member of staff and part of her accounts work is to pay the salaries, and to record invoices, deciding when they should be paid, and then writing and signing the cheque. Not really something I recommend as controls should always be put in place. But if you had met my wife it might be easier for you to see why she is trusted so much.
So my point here is, teleworking is possible and can work. I am not suggesting that other companies do as much but why not try dipping your feet in? Initially find out which members of staff can do their work efficiently at home. Then find out whether each had a “space” at home where they could work away from their children and wife. Train them in how to deal with requests from their spouses and children. The best one is, “If I don’t produce, they will stop this and bring me back into the office“
Set up a management oversee solution responsible for kit, expenses etc. Don’t be too concerned about cost, you can always end the experiment and bring the kit back into the office, if the experiment is successful, but then once you have everyone working from home, you can downsize your office space and have different employees coming into the office one day a week but each group on different days. Most companies who have tried this report that they get far more work out of their staff.
If the subject is of interest, type: teleworking information into Google and a wealth of useful information will appear. Most of it is well worth reading.