Posted by Brian McCullough
Technology is reaching the point where I can carry my entire office in my pocket. And various software packages now allow me to access my office materials from any computer anywhere in the world.
It almost feels like we’re getting to that mythical point where being physically present in an office will seem quaintly unnecessary.
Or maybe not… On the one hand, not everyone is cut out for remote work. Some people just don’t like it, and other people just aren’t good at it. On the other hand, there’s not yet enough empirical data on the issue of productivity. Something tells me that in the vast majority of cases, productivity suffers in most remote working conditions.
And on a third hand (assuming you’ve got one) there’s a growing body of research that says we’re just not wired as human beings to work alone from our personal deserted islands.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) offers a personality test so workers can determine whether they are suited to solo toiling in pajamas. Among other things, the test assesses whether workers can handle limited supervision. But even those who can require some face time. Researchers at IBM (IBM) learned that if teams went more than three days without gathering, their happiness and productivity suffered. Now managers are required to bring teams together at least once every three days—physically or virtually—for reasons that have nothing to do with completing an assignment.
Intangibles like worker morale and overall team productivity seem to require some sort of face time.
Setting up a remote workforce is a delicate balancing act, and while I think it can work extremely well in certain specific circumstances, working from home will never become the general rule in our worklife.
Out of Sight, Yes. Out of Mind, No (BusinessWeek)