How do you prevent the spread of flu, create happier, more productive employees and “inoculate” your organization against disruption? It starts with making technology simple and adding the right organizational support. Let me explain.
The other day my eight-year-old boy, Alex, woke up complaining vaguely that he was not feeling well. He didn’t have a fever, and he really didn’t have other specific symptoms. At that point, I had a choice. I could send him to school and see if it went away, or I could keep him home.
Since my husband and I both work, the temptation could be to send the kids to school unless they’re clearly ill. Only I didn’t. At this point it’s finally gotten so easy for me to seamlessly work from home at a moment’s notice, there’s no need to take the risk of exposing our germs to anyone else.
After getting my son to work on his homework, I logged into GoToMyPC which lets me securely view and control my office computer and work on my documents and programs as if I were sitting there in the office. I reviewed my meetings for the day, and informed the organizers I would join remotely via GoToMeeting.
Over the years, I have seen firsthand how these remote work tools have empowered myself and my husband – as well as co-workers, friends and customers who have shared their stories – to keep up with demanding jobs while balancing the rest of their lives. I helped launch GoToMyPC in 2001 then used it to work from home with a new baby. My husband could take the kids to soccer practice in the afternoon, and finish work from home at night. We’re not tempted to bring our cold germs to work, and we always know we can get things done even if we’re not in the office. It’s no wonder work flexibility tops the list of most desired employee benefits.
Not everyone must get a vaccine for the general population to be protected so I imagine the same is true of remote work. Not everyone needs to be able to do it, but those of us “inoculated” with the ability to do so easily, at a moments notice, protect a much larger group. In so doing, we help prevent flu contagion, get work done when traffic or other disruptions threaten business, take better care of our families, and generally increase our well-being and productivity.
For organizations wanting to see these benefits, there are two potential pitfalls:
1. The key to adoption is making technology simple. For instance, I rely on GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting because they are easy-to-use and dependable. The more I use them, the more I benefit my employer with increased productivity – even when I might otherwise be unavailable. Some organizations think putting the tools in place is enough. However, they must also be easy and convenient before they will be widely adopted.
2. Work flexibility is a privilege. Organizations must provide remote work tools and encourage employees to make use of them in a responsible way. This requires a results-oriented culture of accountability. Measure task completion, not hours logged at a particular place. Plan for a future of increased work mobility and family-friendly policies. You may not want sick employees in the office, traveling employees to be out of touch, or new parents to quit, but if you don’t publicly and frequently encourage remote work as a solution, that’s what you may get.
My son, incidentally, was fine and back to school the next day. Perhaps I was overly cautious, but I’m sure glad it’s easy for me to make that choice…
See Workshifting for more on working from anywhere.