By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management, American Public University
A few weeks ago, I came across another article about remote workers. Once again, I think the author’s position was based on personal perception rather than on the norm.
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In past articles I have focused on whether employees have sufficient time to collaborate if they are in different locations working remotely. I believe the success of a business is based on the employees’ approach to make remote working work. Unfortunately, some experts still rely too heavily on the foundation of a concept to “predict” whether a current practice can be successful.
For example, whether or not remote working could be a “nail-in-the-coffin” career move depends on the culture of the company. What do we know?
Trends Indicate the Practice of Remote Workers Is on the Rise
According to a FlexJob Report, trends supporting remote working seem to be on the rise. Evidence in support of this trend includes:
- 9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half the time. That is up from 1.8 million in 2005 (a 115% increase since 2005).
- FlexJob’s remote job listings increased 51% from 2014 to 2017.
- As of 2017, 43% of U.S. workers now work remotely at least occasionally, up from only 9% of workers in 2007.
- In more than half of the top U.S. metro areas, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the top commute option of choice. Telecommuting has grown faster than any other commuting mode.
- It is predicted that 38% of full-time staff will be working remotely in the next decade.
Based on these results, one would think that companies would develop strategies to attract remote workers and create an environment conducive to retaining top talent. Yet articles highlighting the negatives of remote working still appear.
Upon the publication of the statistics cited above, CNBC’s Suzy Welch called working remotely a career killer. Given the opposite trend, how did she arrive at that conclusion? The thrust of her argument is that you need to be “inside” to become a leader. Inside of what? Inside the corporate headquarters or on the inside track for advancement?
The Success of a Remote Environment Is Based on the Ability to Effectively Use Resources
The success of a remote working environment is based on an organization’s ability to effectively use its resources to support the business. Remote work is complicated because people make it so. Many companies do not implement the process correctly. They don’t effectively utilize technology or develop the leadership to properly manage people and processes.
Once again, we are reminded that what we need is more work in leadership development. There must be a program that will assist leaders to effectively manage remote work forces as well as manage employees from any location.
If we think about it, leadership requires an individual to motivate and coach a group of workers to produce. Do they have to be “seen” to do that? Isn’t it possible for senior management to gauge leaders’ ability by the performance of their remote teams? Isn’t that the bottom line?
If Suzy Welch is correct that working remotely is a career killer, it is due to insecure or under-developed leadership. There are still insecure leaders out there!
Therefore, let’s not summarily kill the growing trend of remote workers. Instead, let’s develop the people who can work successfully in a remote environment, especially since trends indicate that many employees consider the option of teleworking a perk.
The labor market is tight, and we want to retain our high-performing employees. Let’s not limit their careers over something that can be corrected.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Interim Dean for the School of Business and the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.
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