Dave Oshlag

By Dave Oshlag, President Project Marketing Associates

Working from home or a third party location, while your colleagues are back in the office is known as “working remote.” Just how prevalent is this work style and what are the productivity pros and cons?

A 2018 Zug study reported that 70% of professionals work remotely and 53% work remotely for at least half the week. In the U.S., 40% + of Americans are working from a remote location during some portion of the week, according to a 2017 NY Times survey.

Sounds great, but is it the best way to get things done? Let’s explore some of the challenges.

On the home front.
According to an on-line Forbes, quiz up to 71% of respondents reported they get interrupted frequently when working from home. Barking dogs, crying children, second phone lines ringing all take away from productivity. You certainly wouldn’t expect these kinds of interruptions in the office, but this is the “joy” or “challenge” when working from a remote location. The same rules that apply in the office, apply when working remote, it’s just that the remote worker needs to be the one to manage the logistics – a lot of remote workers aren’t as sensitive to this as they should be or think it’s part of the privilege of working from home.

If you are a software developer, working on code or debugging, where you are interfacing remotely with other devs or with an operating system, as long as you get the assignment completed, you’re good.

But how does a manager judge productivity for a remote worker? If the worker is on salary, as long as the assignment for the day, week, month gets done on time, within budget and a quality job is completed – all is good. For the remote contract worker or subcontractor – if they complete the assignment within the set number of hours or days, the results should speak for themselves.

Back @ the office.
Wasted time. Stop and reflect for a moment how much time is spent setting up the AV for a remote meeting. Some studies report up to 15% of video conference meetings are spent just setting up the AV. That’s a lot of time. If it’s all set up in advance and ready to go, great, but in most companies it’s the meeting leader, not the AV tech guy, that’s responsible for getting things set up and going.

How about the project manager running a remote team meeting that day? Depends on the agenda and content of the meeting. If documents are to be shown and critiqued, using a screen sharing platform like GoToMeeting or Zoom should do the trick. Even video can be shared with relative ease.

If, however, the meeting contains a topic where discussion of a problem or an issue is involved, it gets a little trickier. What’s the big deal you ask?

What you may miss, by not “being in the room.”
Without a presence at the office or in the room, you no longer have the ability to “read the room.” Simply stated, you are not there to observe the non-verbal cues being given off by your office or teammates such as … voice inflection, eye contact or lack thereof, body posture, engaged or not engaged, sidebar conversations or the ever favorite, passing of notes or texting during the meeting. The “behind the scenes” action, often gives tremendous insight into whether the project or meeting is achieving its goal or not.

  • Needless to say, minute takers must also be where the team is.
  • Administrative assistants, whose job it is to physically distribute and deliver key documents must be on-site.
  • For meetings with break-out sessions, be there.
  • If the meeting involves product prototypes, you’ve missed the opportunity to visually inspect, touch and probe in person.
  • For larger group discussions, having a seat in the room gives you a physical presence and increased influence in the final decision.

@ the end of the day, it’s the results that matter.
For certain types of solo work or discussions between a few people, working remotely can increase productivity. For larger groups or discussions or where an in person presence makes a difference, working remotely is not the best option.

If you have a product, service offering or a book that makes SMB’s more productive by saving them time and money, e-mail daveo@w5templates.com to schedule a review via telephone or over coffee.

Dave Oshlag is CEO of W5Templates (www.w5templates.com) and President of Project Marketing Associates (www.projectma.com). He offers a practical and results-oriented approach to CRM and Project Management based on 25+ years of business experience.