Coaching “Old School” Managers on the Benefits of Virtual Workers

telecommuteDo you have a manager who refuses to acknowledge or allow people to work from home like Yahoo’s CEO — who was surprisingly old school — recently did?  If so, is there a way to coach them to see the light.

A sensible first step to change their opinion is to share the very real and quantifiable benefits of virtual work.  After all, the clear evidence about the benefits of telecommuting is very compelling regardless of whether you are an employee or contingent worker.  In fact the benefits of using contingents, whether they are located offshore or in another part of the country,  are numerous and well known.

When organizations look to the future, the most innovative and successful leaders realize the potential that virtual workforces have to change the face of business. Increasingly, leadership and organizations are viewing “work” as something you do, rather than somewhere you go. As organizations expand across the nation and around the globe, remote labor forces are becoming vital to business success.  Currently, 82 percent of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” already have virtual work policies. That number is expected to rise as time and technology advance.

Eight-one percent of people that have worked remotely report that they were more productive at home than when working in a “traditional” workplace environment.

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Each year, the population of virtual workers grows, and observing this pattern contributes to the belief that virtual workforces are here to stay. The trend toward virtual work is, in fact, gaining such a hold in the workplace that colleges and universities are beginning to introduce programs dedicated solely to best practices for virtual work. To remain up to par in this increasingly distanced world, managers must consider the increasing demand and necessity for a virtual workforce.

Remote workforces help maintain an organization’s competitive advantage. Distance employees contribute to higher profits, larger market shares, and an ambitious edge. Prior to incorporating remote workers into your organization, it is imperative managers understand every facet of the virtual workforce in order to establish the most successful virtual teams.

The next step in educating your old-school managers is to assess whether their real issue is TRUST.

Terrific “new school” virtual managers don’t beat around the bush when it comes to the trust issue; they tackle it boldly and directly by doing one simple thing: They let go. Extraordinary virtual managers know that in order to let go and fully trust their employees, they must be very scrutinizing and careful during the talent selection process. By hiring only people they innately trust from the get-go, managers are able to start out on the right foot with new hires, and support their autonomy. If working virtually is only a privilege for tenured employees, managers should choose their most trustworthy employees to work from home.

Virtual managers who cannot let go and continue to micro-manage, annoyingly checking in or checking up on their remote workers , will damage trust at their organization, and they have no one to blame but themselves. They should turn the reflective mirror back on themselves and realize that they don’t have a trust issue; they have a hiring and talent acquisition problem. Simply put, they hired the wrong person. If, ultimately, a virtual manager cannot hire the right people and then trust them, then maybe it’s the manager who is in the wrong position. This person’s manager needs to re-cast him or her into a different role that does not have virtual direct reports.

MORE: Telecommuting and the Office of the Future

Kevin Sheridan
Kevin Sheridan is a New York Times best-selling author, a frequent keynote speaker and the chief engagement officer of Kevin Sheridan LLC. He can be reached at kevin (at) kevinsheridanllc (dot) com.

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2 comments
shoshanad
shoshanad

Hi Kevin - I'll second Andrew's comment. Spot on. I wanted to note that online workplaces were built largely to address this trust issue. In fact, that's part of the founding story of oDesk -- our two co-founders were friends who wanted to work together but one was in Greece while the other was in Silicon Valley. To instill trust in their working relationship, the two developed the tech platform that's now the foundation of oDesk's online workplace -- which has tools to manage virtual workers such as time tracking and a work diary that shows images of work as it's happening. You build trust by working together of course, but tech like this can help reinforce it (perhaps easing the transition of these managers as they learn how to let go a bit more). Shoshana Deutschkron (oDesk)

andrewkarpie
andrewkarpie

Spot on post, Kevin.  I look forward to reading your book on this subject!! 

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  1. [...] Do you have a manager who refuses to acknowledge or allow people to work from home like Yahoo’s CEO — who was surprisingly old school — recently did? If so, is there a way to coach them to see the light.  [...]

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