While technology makes remote work more and more feasible, companies are finding that keeping employees on site is simpler . There are significant disadvantages to remote work and equally significant advantages to working within the office.
Should companies allow employees to figure from home, some or all of the time? in any case , with the communication possibilities of the digital age — from submitting materials through email or drop box to low-cost teleconferencing and video-conferencing — the old reasons for creating employees commute to the office a day not apply. Why not eliminate commute time, save office space and costs, and allow them to work remotely? Such is that the argument from proponents of remote work, and lots of progressive companies, notably Internet firms always at the vanguard of innovative work practices, were starting to listen.
Many managers and business owners had their doubts — doubts confirmed to some extent when Yahoo, a corporation that’s in any case specialized in data communication , suddenly announced the top of remote work.
For Professor Richard Avery, head of the Department of Management and Organization at National University of Singapore graduate school , there’s good reason to doubt. His research shows that not only are there disadvantages to working or meeting remotely, but also that there are significant psychological advantages in co-location and face-to-face meetings.
A major advantage is captured within the phrase ‘face-to-face’: people can see each other’s faces, and not just faces but entire bodies. It’s impossible to catch the nuances of facial expressions, gestures, visual communication , even tone of voice through an email. In fact, an email can easily lend itself to misinterpretation.
Even in video-conferencing many of the nuances of visual communication and tone are lost. And yet such verbal and non-verbal behaviors are vital to successful understanding and collaboration among team members or participants at a gathering .
In addition, Avery found that remote employees — easily distracted by other work tasks, checking email, irrelevant side conversations, and other diversions — aren’t as engaged during a meeting as once they are present within the room. Avery also notes that humans are naturally social creatures. “Being physically within the same place serves a primitive human need,” he explains. We seek contact with others, and avoid isolation. Email, teleconferencing or video-conferencing doesn’t satisfy this need the pliability of the ‘answer at your pace’ characteristic of email are often useful, but it also slows the pace of dialogue and decision-making.
Face-to-face interactions also can be more unplanned and fewer formal than email conversations, which can always have some structure of ritual to them. Participants in meetings or on teams develop what psychologists call ‘exchange relationships,’ which are built on informal negotiations, favors, promises or understandings. Such exchange relationships are difficult to develop through the technology of email messages.
On-site employees also are getting to develop a far better understanding of their roles in their organizations — how they slot in — than off-site employees. they’re going to even be able understand more completely and deeply the culture of the organization.
Finally, consistent with Avery, there are unintended but positive side benefits. for instance , unplanned discussions and impromptu meetings between employees in an office can cause surprising breakthroughs and innovative ideas. These sorts of discussions and meeting are less likely to require place among employees connected only by email or Skype.
Many work management practices and attitudes, some originating from the economic revolution-era, are discredited or rendered obsolete within the digital age. From the rejection of top-down command leadership in favor of intrinsic motivation to the popularity of work-life balance issues and private fulfillment to delegation and employee empowerment, progressive companies are rejecting the past and redesigning the longer term workplace. Perhaps, however, some traditional practices exist permanently reasons. Remote work might satisfy the employee-centered approach to figure within the 21st century, but separating workers is really undermining collaboration, teamwork and productivity.
There could also be situations during which remote work is possible and even preferable. But given the benefits of face-to-face collaboration and interaction, these situations should be taken as exceptions instead of the rule. the simplest approach, in fact, is to seek out the optimal combination of remote and on-site work that best helps your company achieve its goals. In short, the top of the secretarial pool doesn’t signal the top of the office. Use technology carefully to reinforce productivity, while keeping the simplest of what worked before anyone had heard of the Internet: human contact.