Productivity Is Not Lost on the Mobile Worker

Source: Quick Poll on Employer Branding Today

Contingency planning is one of many reasons why the ability to work from a remote site (home office or otherwise) is a smart solution to minimizing the interruptions a severe weather event can unearth. Continuity of operations in the public and private sectors is essential and Hurricane Sandy is another example that demonstrates why organizations who equip employees with laptops, tablets, and smartphones (or some combination thereof) are not only committing to the more mobile way employees work today, but are ones that can achieve cost efficiencies from allowing employees to work remotely through severe weather events like this (barring prolonged power outages).

But does working from home increase productivity? Naysayers and skeptics, while quick to point out distractions, are still surprised to learn that productivity is not lost on the mobile worker. A research study from Stanford University, one that looked at call-center employees working from home, found a 13% increase in productivity. A recent Wired survey (in partnership with Marriott Corporation) found that workers are more productive out of the office and less stressed. But beyond the research and surveys, a more important question to be asking today is not whether mobile workers can be productive out of a traditional office but what new models do we need to measure productivity for this growing contingent of knowledge workers?

Ditching the time clock and promoting a more autonomous work schedule is increasingly a way to promote employee productivity (and engender trust and loyalty), and companies like Automattic, as one example, are consciously creating a culture that embraces a completely distributed way of working. This modus operandi may be easier for small tech companies to achieve than say, a bank, but there are best practices any organization can glean from the way companies like Automattic works with their employees, as highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Step Into the Office-Less Company. A basic underlying assumption of employers like this is that they treat employees as adults, and attract people who are more self-directed, those who can work both independently and collaboratively while meeting deadlines regardless of location.

Strengthening an understanding of how global hybrid and virtual teams work together, and how they produce work while concurrently staying innovative and creative will help pull organizations towards new models for measuring productivity that move beyond indicators that simply track time and output vs results and outcomes. Recent research from Cornell University indicates that building strong social connections increases innovation capabilities. In this Huffington Post article, James Slavet wrote about five new management metrics needed now, including a compound weekly learning rate. Knowledge sharing is becoming more important to track as the intersection between social business tools and organization learning and development strengthens and impacts productivity. How new models for measuring this intersection evolve in a way where managers need to balance both flexibility and productivity, as highlighted in a recent Forbes article, How to Manage the New Mobile Workforce, will be far more interesting to follow than debating the same question about whether employees are more productive in the office or not.

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