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Working from home for G20? Why telecommuting and managing remote teams is not such a bad thing

By June 24, 2010August 6th, 2019Uncategorized

The scene in the city of Toronto’s downtown core this afternoon is like something from apocalyptic fiction. Three meter high fencing encloses the G20 zone of the city-turned-fortress where many Career Edge Organization employers and inters currently work.

Within the fenced area, police on foot, bicycles and even horses have taken up post at almost every street corner, providing a mixed sense of both security and heightened awareness of the potential chaos looming ahead as the world’s most powerful leaders come together.

It is a significant departure from the typical scene on a beautiful Thursday afternoon when the streets would normally be pulsating with activity. Instead the streets are eerily quiet and deserted, leaving one to ask – where is everybody?

And most importantly, who is doing the work?

Many of Canada’s largest employers are headquartered in downtown Toronto, including our five big banks. One might think that practically shutting down the city for a few days could be crippling to our economy.

Thankfully many organizations are already well-equipped to have their staff work from home, also known as web commuting, telecommuting or simply “WFH.”

According to experts, the key to effectively managing teams remotely is to take a purely results-oriented approach since managing by observation is no longer an option. “Management by objectives” (or MBO) involves setting specific goals mutually agreed upon between the employer and the employee and clearly laying out objectives and how to meet them.

By managing in this style, employers may find that there are many advantages to having their employees work from home. Firstly, both the employee and the manager may emerge with a clearer understanding of what is expected of them, since managing staff remotely requires having common sense conversations about setting tangible goals and targets – conversations that should be occurring anyway, but often don’t.

A recent Robert Half study found that telecommuting can largely increase employee satisfaction. Many studies have found the option to work at home is the best incentive an employer can offer to be an employer-of-choice.

Increasingly, more workplaces are using rotating schedules to allow a larger staff to work in a smaller space – this saves considerably on overhead and operational costs.

Let’s not forget about the environmental benefits. Think of all the cars on the road and the crowded subway cars and trains. Driving into the city in the days leading up to this weekend’s G20 summit is a good indicator of how much better things could be if more people worked from home, more often.

Technology has done a fantastic thing for the workplace – not only does it allow employees the flexibility to work from home which is good for morale, motivation, productivity and retention – but it is also teaching managers a lot about how to better manage their teams. And, it is challenging teams of all types and sizes to utilize technology and new communication tools since you can no longer walk over to the next cubicle to ask your colleague a quick question.

Of course, there are challenges to consider. Those who are used to managing by observation will have to learn a different approach. For some employers, managing remotely will mean taking a huge step towards relinquishing some control and trusting the people who call you boss.

Hopefully, once the G20 passes and the fences come down and everything returns to normal, employers will learn that a good, productive employee is more than a “bum” in a seat or a warm body in the office.