Many knowledge workers could be virtual, that is working from home, from a hotel, from an airport or from a customer's offices. The technology making this possible has been available for a long time. The benefits are obvious. Staff could be hired wherever the talent was rather than where the organization's offices are. The reduction in travel time and consumption of fuel would rate pretty high on the list as well.
Why isn't this a more common mode of working? I hear many reasons presented by managers. Only a few of them really make sense to me.
- Security - managers are concerned that proprietary applications and data could fall into the wrong hands. The folks at suppliers such as Citrix, Microsoft, and others could knock that objection down in a moment.
- Productivity - some managers simply want to see the workers working. This folks are convinced that if they can't see working being done, it isn't being done. All of the studies showing the contrary are obviously wrong.
- Others? - it seems that every time I speak with a manager who is concerned about allowing virtualization of their workforce, the list of reasons it can't be done changes. No amount of information showing that this approach would save time and money is convincing.
I've been part of remote working environments for over 10 years and have found it to be a great way to work. I can be available when and where I need to be without having to work in an expensive (floor space, electricity, communications) office. I don't have to waste hours of my time enjoying the benefits of heavy traffic. Bad weather usually isn't an impediment. (Hurricanes, on the other hand, can chase Mr. Ready Kilowatt away and make it difficutl to work.)
I'm instantly available via IM, Email, VOIP and/or mobile phone when needed. I also can take my wife to one of her many Doctors or to the hospital (like today) and my work goes on anyway.
Do you work remotely? What did you have to do to justify this approach to management? What political and technological problems did you have to overcome? Do you feel that the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" creates problems for you?