The “Martini” Workforce…

Posted on : 20-06-2010 | By : jo.rose | In : General News

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For many years, CIO’s have considered the benefits of remote working.  From the initial days of basic remote access being almost “hardwired” into staff homes in the late 1980’s, through the VPN revolution for email and application access to the pervasiveness of today’s connected office.  Effectively, the line between workplace proximity and the ability to be both functional and productive is almost burred to obscurity.

Through this journey the applications of remote working have also evolved.  Early on it was for critical systems access, then workplace recovery or business continuance took centre stage followed by considerations such as cost efficiency and time to market.

So how about the recent blurb regarding lost productivity due to staff members sloping off to watch the World Cup ?  Some have put estimates as high as £4 billion !   Whilst the rhetoric around this is somewhat subjective, it does pose a serious question.  Are the days of being glued to the workspace from 8am-7pm gone forever ?  Is only leaving the trenches for comfort breaks or to run out to Pret for lunch the right way to operate now ? ( which, of course, is consumed with one hand whilst catching up on emails… ).

We’ve all accepted that home-working is part of corporate life now with many back office staff routinely having a day a week without the commute.  Indeed, some firms have instigated a 4 day week policy which can contribute not only to work-life balance but also ( in theory ) to decrease the required fixed office space.  But what about changing the rules completely ?

 What if organisations took the “when” and “where” staff performed their work out of the equation ?  Obviously this wouldn’t work for many roles, such as those with client contact, those requiring a high level of peer interaction, traders etc…but for others it would, particularly in IT or administrative functions.  The important thing is not that the person is in the office, or even that they are working the same hours, but that the job gets done.  Indeed, we have adopted offshore delivery for a number of non-core activities so we know that the business model works.  Often we take a deliverable based approach with “remote” delivery partners and yet we still feel the need to keep tabs on our own staff.    

If we switched our approach to measuring output, or productivity, and creating a closer coupling with staff performance then the result could be positive for all sides.  The technology certainly exists now to create a truly portable workforce and implemented properly there could be benefits for all in terms of morale, output, efficiency and cost.

Come the 2012 Olympics maybe the question of lost productivity will receive less media attention.  It could truly be a case of staff working “anytime, anyplace, anywhere…”