The Tele-Work Transformation

In 2005 I was asked to help to assemble a team of software engineers to create an Airline Dispatch Management system for one of our customers. Our team included developers from Canada, Ohio, Colorado and California. Our team used an adaptation of Extreme Programming as our development methodology, and with tools like IM, Email, a VPN, Issue-trackers and a Wiki we were able to build and lead a highly productive team for six years.

Effectively employing tele-workers requires some environment changes with an organization. First, the firm needs to have the essential elements to support tele-work (VPN, Skype, Hangouts, etc.). Secondly, firms need a culture that supports tele-workers. We need to encourage our staff to call / text / email one-another when they encounter problems to overcome the physical separation of the staff. Some firms require staff to begin with on-site work, and then allow team members to transition to tele-working once they have proven their productivity and demonstrated that they have the discipline to successfully tele-work. Other teams may require their members to be present only for scrums and retrospectives with tele-working in-between these ceremonies. Even with those who tele-work 95% of the time, there is still the basic human need for interaction because there is value to being physically present with one another.

A decade ago, tele-working was a novelty, fast-forward to today and tele-working is morphing from a novelty to essential. InfoFUSION is currently hiring and we often are asked about tele-work options. We are finding that prospective employees expect a tele-work environment at least 3 out of 5 days and are surprised if it is not an option. The upshot of this is that businesses that do not support tele-work are not engaging with well-qualified candidates because the candidates are choosing employers who are supportive of tele-workers.

Tele-working is another transformation of our culture - one where the workforce is becoming increasingly remote from one another. Workforce data backs up this change in our society. According to Global Workspace Analytics the number of tele-work positions has doubled in the last decade, and the trend to tele-work is accelerating. Key motivators for tele-working are increased flexibility for the employees, less stress from commuting, and an increased ability to focus on solving work problems.

Humans have a primal need for community, and tele-working is changing how we build community with one another. I am curious to learn about your experience with tele-working - is it a blessing, a curse or a mixed-bag? How has your organization changed to adapt to an increasingly remote work-force? What effects is the tele-workforce having on your business?

Image for this page © Copyright Eugene Birchall and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons License

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