A mobile workforce may sound great in principle , but I’ve heard plenty of concern from managers about how well an untethered workforce will really perform.
I haven’t seen anything in the way of a rigorous, real-world, before-and-after study that shows, one way or the other, whether mobility aids or detracts from workers’ productivity and effectiveness. Which means that for now anecdotal evidence will have to do.
Among the most interesting anecdotal evidence is a recent Harvard Business Review blog by Scott Edinger: “ Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged ”.
The author’s conclusion — apparent right there in the blog’s title — is based on consulting work he did involving “a 360-degree feedback process” at an investment firm, which concerned both worker commitment and how workers rate their leaders. According to the author, the results show that:
- Proximity breeds complacency. Sometimes the possibility of easy communication with someone in the same building, or even just a few feet away, is too much taken for granted — and leaders end up using email.
- Absence makes people try harder to connect. And when leaders try harder to connect, they pay more attention to what they say and how they say it.
- Leaders of virtual teams make better use of tools. These leaders are more adept at videoconferencing, instant messaging, e-mail, voicemail. And, of course, the phone.
- Leaders of far-flung teams maximize the time their teams spend together. They tend to socialize more, filter out as many distractions as possible.
So — chalk up one for mobility.