'Tis the Season for...Online Shopping?
I once heard that the most popular day for online shopping is the Monday after Thanksgiving or "Cyber Monday" - when everyone heads back to work. Of course, teleworkers probably shop online all of the time, right? Well, at least they do it when they aren't looking at dirty pictures. Why should we work? We are at home, big brother is not looking over our shoulder, and no one holds us accountable. Michael Hardy writes in Government Computer News that a new study by the security firm MessageLabs shows that the mobile workforce (which includes but does not comprise only teleworkers) is responsible for a disproportionate amount of network security alerts. Now, some in the anti-telework community have taken this data as proof that teleworking is dangerous and unproductive.
The MessageLabs report is worth reading because the main message is that there are some workers who will always push the limits of acceptable behavior, whether in the office or out. In fact, the report notes that attempted access to prohibited sites (read adult) was more frequent by workers who were actually in the office. Is the issue not telework after all? MessageLabs recommends clear policies and effective training for remote employees on what is acceptable Web behavior when using company/agency resources and during work hours. I couldn't agree more and will even take it a step further. Let’s manage our employees by productivity, not attendance.
I have always thought that one of the big values of telework is that it forces our leaders to "manage" not "supervise." Let's break those words down a little. I see management as an effort to bring the efforts of a group of people toward a goal or objective. Maybe that's a policy development task or maybe it's reviewing cases, but there needs to be a definition of success and the manager's job is to get everyone supporting that effort. Supervise sounds a lot like what we do with children – make sure they don't get into too much trouble or get hurt.
We have managers in both government and industry who take the easy way out. They limit their management activities to supervision – ensuring that Pete and Patricia are "butt in chair" for eight hours a day. Do they know if Patricia and Pete are actually working effectively and efficiently? No, because they are not managing, they are supervising (ensuring they meet the minimum requirements). That's harder, but not impossible, to do with remote workers. We still have managers who try and then get frustrated because their management style is incompatible with remote workers. Therefore, telework must be the problem, right?
Managers who actually manage by productivity and outcome, tend to be more supportive of remote workers, because those workers tend to be more productive. A study by the Telework Exchange in cooperation with the Federal Managers Association found that two thirds of managers who manage teleworkers found those employees to be as productive or more productive than their counterparts who worked in the office. So I agree we need better policies on Web usage for remote workers, but let's also focus on the real management issue. Let's make sure our managers are managing and not supervising our professional workers whether they are in the office or not.
To comment on this blog on the Telework Exchange site, visit http://teleworkexchange.com/work/?id=online-shopping.