What is most important to your employer: the number of hours you put in or the outcome of your efforts?

Some of Lau's "remote offices" over recent months

Some of Lau's "remote offices" over recent months

By Lau Hesselbæk Andreasen

The motives that lead to the introduction of mobile or remote working practices are many and obvious. Saving desk space in pricey prime locations in major cities is often the first catalyst.

Reducing commuting time - which can be tiring and stressful in equal measures - frees up time that could be spent working (or re-charging). -And it adds to the green credentials of the corporation; reducing the carbon footprint, acting responsibly in relation to the environment and planning a sustainable operating model are all mantras that can be found in the CSR-sections of most corporate sites. Reducing the number of commuter-miles ticks all those boxes.

Less interference from noise and distractions in busy offices should allow more focus -(clearly, the counter-argument is that working at home means you are surrounded by "domestic distractions"...) - and more focus should increase productivity.

There are other benefits too, but the ones listed suffice here.

I have seen this shift happening in a large number of organisations in recent years. The "license to play" is a functioning set-up provided by the organisation: tools and access that match (or almost match) those in the office and a well-managed workflow- and communications setup; check in times, roles and responsibilities etc. A set-up like this takes considerable investment and a different type of maintenance - but can be done if the commitment is there.

Curiously, the biggest challenge; the thing I have seen derail most remote working initiatives is not the infrastructure and tech demands. The real barrier tends to be cultural. -And varies considerably depending on where in the world you happen to be.

The "number of hours at your desk matters" mentality is (bizarrely) still prevalent in a large number of organisations; typically those governed by layers of hierarchy. It is not uncommon that senior leaders in an organisation have made the decision to explore the benefits of remote working, but that things turn sour a layer or two below. Middle managers sometimes resist this change and in reality don't support it on the ground. They may continue to require presence in the office (even when presence is not necessary for completing the tasks their direct reports are working on), thus effectively making it impossible for employees and the organisation to reap the full benefits the flexible setup could provide. There are many reasons for this; in my eyes none of them very good! The most dominant one is still an attitude of "if I can't see what you're doing, you are probably doing very little" - hardly an indicator of trust in your team! And it is a balance: the need for checking in face to face, collaborating in the same room - and the social aspect of a workplace are all still important.

In our home country of Denmark, many organisations do seem to be more comfortable with letting employees decide where and when they want to work than in many other countries I work in. It is much more common to be measured squarely on the outcome; what you deliver - rather than how many hours you spend in the office. Danes work less hours and spend less time commuting than most other nationalities. Yet, our productivity performance is no worse; in fact, quite the opposite. It is probably no coincidence that Denmark consistently tops the list when it comes to the level of trust at all levels of society; trust between citizens; between employees and their employers; between citizens and the government etc. etc. Achieving real success with remote working initiatives requires more than the right infrastructure; a culture of trust is essential if the investment is going to pay off. Does this exist in your organisation? I would love to hear you experiences - and to have my perceptions and observations challenged!


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