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Working Remotely

Posted August 31, 2012 6:08 PM by Brandon Kline

I recently read an HBR blog entitled, "Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged," and it really hit home for me. For one, we here at Ascendant spend a fair amount of time working remotely when not on client site or traveling. And second, something that will resonate with others who have read Dan Pink's book, Drive, is that autonomy is one of the key factors in motivating employees.

When reviewing the results of a 360-degree feedback survey, the HBR post found that the employees who were most engaged, committed, and rated their leader the highest were those who worked remotely. One caveat however - the post does mention that the differences were not huge, but enough to warrant some speculations. The post had multiple observations, but the two that I would like to focus on are:

Absence makes people try harder to connect. For me, this resonates both personally and professionally. When I was living abroad, I utilized any and all methods of communication to connect with my friends and family. Professionally, we make it a point to connect on a regular basis by phone, Skype, email, and even through web conferencing. Without exception, we all make the extra effort to stay connected. And, especially when connecting with leadership, they have the ability to devote their undivided attention to each person without the distractions that sometimes come with working in an office setting.

Leaders of far-flung teams maximize the time their teams spend together. Making the extra effort to coordinate schedules and get the entire team together often translates to leadership wanting to make the best use of that time. It creates a vibrant atmosphere that combines catching up and working together on shared initiatives. Oftentimes, there is a greater level of focus and attention that is hard to replicate in an office setting with people you see every day.

Taking these two observations, along with Dan Pink's notion that we all have some desire to direct our own lives, it begins to make more sense to me. Whether big or small, we all, on some level, have a yearning for autonomy. When provided this autonomy, along with the two factors above that stem from working remotely, it makes a strong case for the value of this structure. However, whether you work remotely or in an office, it ultimately comes down to utilizing your time together and communicating effectively.

Filed Under Ascendant, Communication

I read this article in the HBR magazine too, the research findings kept my mind busy for some while. What kept me thinking is the following, do the research findings also apply for young professionals? This is the employee category that -since the start of their careers (let's say 3 years since today)- have been given the opportunity to work remotely. They don't know how it is to sit all the day in the office, so that is why I think they do not value this opportunity equally as elder employees. Consequently, the relationship between working remotely and increased engagementin in the Young Prof's. category is in my mind not so significant. Better to say, Young Prof's already see working remotely as an entitlement in job conditions.
# Posted By Tycho Vonk | 9/12/12 10:07 AM
Thanks for your comment - that’s a great question. In my mind, the extent to which working remotely leads to increased engagement is directly correlated to the culture and emphasis placed on communication, within your organization. If your organization doesn’t actively strive to create an open and communicative environment, it doesn’t matter if you’re a young professional, old professional, working remotely, or working in an office, the engagement from employees won’t be high. Many young professionals, especially those who began their career only 3 years ago, are still in the process of developing professionally. As a result, they can be “molded” more by the environment that surrounds them. If that environment is conducive to engagement, then they will likely be very engaged, with the opposite being true as well.
# Posted By Brandon Kline | 9/14/12 6:37 PM
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