Developing an effective distributed work program will require investments in information technology, in supportive workplaces, and in developing policies, procedures, and training
Los Gatos, California (Vocus) June 22, 2010
The common phrase “I’m going to work” suggests that work is just one place. But increasingly work occurs in many places. Members of the New Ways of Working Network and the Telework Coalition have published a new report highlighting key elements of a successful distributed work program.
Distributed work is already a reality. The question is whether it is done well. In many cases employees are working effectively in a distributed manner in spite of, not because of, company practices and policies. So the real question becomes, how well does an organization support employees so they can work productively wherever they are?
By developing programs to support and enable distributed work, New Ways of Working has found that a growing number of companies have increased productivity, reduced facility costs, improved sustainability, and enhanced the lives of their employees. Companies with telework programs can save about $20,000 per worker a year. In the event of business disruptions ranging from weather incidents to terrorist attacks, distributed work helps ensure business continuity.
There are also advantages to bringing people together in the same location. Research shows that collocation more easily supports the “density of communication” that allows people to absorb norms, expectations and information without conscious effort. And being in the same place is still the fastest way to build and maintain social relationships.
Building an effective distributed program requires a strategy that integrates information technology, workspaces (facilities, workplace planning), and corporate policies and procedures. Building a program without the participation of all of these corporate elements sets it up for failure.
Members of the New Ways of Working Network and the Telework Coalition have published a new report: 'What Every Senior Executive Needs to Know About Distributed Work.' It is available for free download at http://www.newwow.net/public/what-every-senior-executive-needs-know-about-distributed-work.
This report provides a summary of lessons learned from organizations with successful distributed work programs:
- If organizations offer employees the opportunity to work in a distributed manner, staff see it as a benefit. If organizations require distributed work, employees see it as something being taken away from them.
- Consider all kinds of distributed work: Some of the problems with distributed work occur when people attempt to apply a single type of distributed work to all situations.
- Distributed work is not for everyone: Some employees may not be able to adapt to distributed work, either due to personal workstyle or cultural context.
- The need for data: Understand how people actually work before changing things.
- Focus on results: A crucial precondition for distributed work is a job performance evaluation and measurement system that assesses actual performance and is not dependent on supervisors and managers being able to personally observe staff at all times.
- Training for distributed work: For teams to work effectively via technology they must acquire additional skills and make several explicit agreements about how they will work together.
“Developing an effective distributed work program will require investments in information technology, in supportive workplaces, and in developing policies, procedures, and training,” says Jim Creighton, co-founder, New Ways of Working Network. "This will ensure that your people have the skills they need to work effectively in a distributed manner.”
About New Ways of Working Network
The New Ways of Working Network is a membership organization of thought leaders from companies and academia exploring new ways of working such as distributed work, environmental sustainability and work, cross-cultural work, innovation and productivity.
About Telework Coalition
The Telework Coalition is the nation’s leading nonprofit telework education and advocacy organization. Their mission is to enable and support the advancement of virtual, mobile, and distributed work through research, education, technology, and legislation.
Jim Creighton, New Ways of Working, 408-354-8001
Joe Ouye, New Ways of Working, 831-392-6060
Chuck Wilsker, Telework Coalition, 202-266-0046