Making the Case for Workshifting
Home, sweet home
When work is something you do, not somewhere you go
Online meetings – together with the many other Citrix tools designed to enable flexible working styles and practices – give employees the freedom to be productive wherever they need to. Working from home, while staying connected via online meetings, allows many people to get more out of their day by eliminating the dead time and energy drain of a tedious commute, not to mention the cost.
Whether that means starting and finishing earlier, using the time to get more work done or simply grabbing an extra hour in bed, it’s a no-lose situation. Instead of an ongoing tension between work and home life, employees can apply themselves wholeheartedly to meeting their professional responsibilities without neglecting their friends, family and non-work pursuits that give their life purpose. Employers in turn benefit from a reduction in both excused leave and sickness absence.
What’s more, many businesses are running out of real estate to warehouse their staff. These companies are finding that online meetings can help them maximise existing meeting rooms or workspaces without the cost of buying or renting new office facilities. Being able to support remote and flexible working means staff can be rotated between the office and off-site locations, so the building effectively operates at over 100% of its usual capacity.
Making the case for workshifting
So, there are proven, affordable, secure tools to make flexible and remote working practices not only achievable but desirable. But what if you work for a company that steadfastly refuses to embrace workshifting on principle?
There are countless ‘Future of Work’ studies and statistics that point to a rising proportion of the workforce becoming mobile or at least non-co-located. Nevertheless, many employers are still shutting their eyes, putting their hands over their ears and shouting “la, la, la, la” to the prospect of relinquishing direct visibility of, and perceived control over, their knowledge workers.
The win-win-win of workshifting
Technical, economic, demographic, environmental and societal factors are combining to make workshifting a no-brainer. It’s good for business, good for people, and good for the environment and the economy. Everybody wins.
• Reduced public or personal transport expense (train fares, fuel, car wear and tear)
• Reduced general work expense (e.g. daycare, convenience food, clothing)
• Time savings
• Increased productivity
• Reduced real-estate requirements
• Reduced energy consumption
• Reduced absenteeism
• Positive impact on attraction and retention
• Reduced dependence on imported oil
• Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
• Reduced traffic congestion and road accidents
• Increased standard of living in rural and disadvantaged areas
Objections to workshifting – and how to overcome them
Before having a discussion with your supervisor or HR department, you might want to role-play some of these scenarios with a friend or colleague. Gaming out your strategy in advance will allow you to be rational and assertive, rather than defensive, when you come to put your case forward.
Workshifting has been proven to boost productivity and cut costs among leading businesses and progressive employers. It’s also shown to have a big impact on attracting and retaining employees. Many workers who have used video meetings to enable remote working say they wouldn’t take a job with company that didn’t support the use of this technology.
If your staff are asking for greater flexibility, encourage them to find examples of similar companies in your industry or sector that have successfully implemented a flexible working policy. You can share this as a ‘case study’ with your HR function, who can adapt it as a template for your own business’s flexible working policies or guidelines.
You’ve probably known someone who has been challenged by life circumstances and has had special dispensation to work from home. The problem is, these discretionary arrangements aren’t democratic and perpetuate the idea that flexible working is a perk.
However, workers are increasingly expecting a degree of flexibility as a rule, rather than an exception. So if an employee’s work style and job role are a good match for remote working, allow them to give it a fair trial period for so many days a week, and gauge the reaction from people that work with that person, internally and externally. If nobody is inconvenienced and the employee’s performance isn’t adversely affected, the arrangement can be formalised and extended to others in similar roles.
Besides, as the benefits of workshifting are so compelling, why wouldn’t your business want more people to embrace it?
In national or multinational companies, workers are typically dispersed over several locations. It’s not unusual for people to report to a line manager on a different continent, let alone a different country. The management of knowledge workers tends to be less authoritative and more democratic. Bosses are not there to check that their staff are working, like a supervisor on a production line – their role should be to let staff get on with their jobs autonomously while doing whatever is necessary to facilitate. Line managers who use video meetings to stay in touch with their direct reports say they have more, not less, contact with their staff and are better informed about issues and challenges on a day-to-day basis.
As Aristotle said, “one swallow does not a summer make”. He probably didn’t have working from home in mind three hundred-odd years BC, but he had a point. One anecdotal account of someone abusing a flexible work arrangement doesn’t discount the entire principle. After all, if we banned things simply because some people can’t be trusted, we’d have to have an amnesty on scissors, hot coffee in paper cups, and hedge funds.
If a previous arrangement didn’t work, it’s either because that individual lacked motivation (and could happily find ways to slack off even while in the office under the beady eye of their line manager) or because there wasn’t an adequate framework in place. Employers need to be able to monitor and measure the performance of remote workers (although this should never become a time-and-motion study) and use tools like video meetings to ensure regular contact so that employees don’t feel abandoned or isolated.
Sometimes, we all have to put subjectivity aside. Managers that don’t ‘get’ flexible working should encourage their team to share how they believe flexibility will solve their business challenges, and what they think that vision of flexibility will look like. In return, managers need to be able to freely express the ‘price’ they fear they’ll pay by allowing this flexibility (they usually discover their fears are unfounded).
Lastly, managers should establish right from the get-go that any issues related to work flexibility which cause the team not to meet its goals will be resolved by everyone, and not fall solely on the manager. So for example, if having two members of the group working from home on the same day causes a problem with customer coverage, the manager should ask the team to come up with a way to solve the problem instead of taking it all upon him- or herself to make flexible arrangements work.
Today’s tools are not yesterday’s toys. Web conferencing is now becoming embedded in business, rather than a nice-to-have. Bandwidth isn’t the concern it once was, and video no longer buffers and lags. In fact, Citrix GoToMeeting with HDFaces™ provides a high quality, telepresence-like meeting experience just using a webcam and an internet connection. But unlike high-end telepresence solutions, hidef video meetings are accessible and affordable enough to be used on a company-wide basis, not just by an executive elite. It’s a powerful way to overcome the personal engagement challenges of remote working.
Director Demand Generation EMEA
“Ok, let me get personal on this one. My name is Daniel Waas and I run the Demand Gen department here at Citrix’ SaaS Division in Europe. As you might expect for a company that sells this stuff, we are heavy users of online meetings. And I mean Bob the Builder hard hat heavy.
The company I worked for previously got acquired by Citrix in 2011. We pretty much had exactly the same line-up of products – products allowing you to work and collaborate from anywhere. Yet flexible working was not allowed. There’d been a sales rep once who had abused it and it got shut down for everyone. Great. Thanks, Mr. Sales Rep.
One of the first things I received from Citrix right after the acquisition was a slide deck talking about what the company stands for and what its values are. You know, the kind of document you’d expect from any larger corporation. You probably have one of your own gathering dust somewhere. But ours is different.
Different in the sense that this company really means every single word. Our claim is enabling people to “Work better. Live better.” and this starts with a flexible working policy for employees. I can hardly think of anyone for whom this has been as impactful as it is for me.
I went from five days in the office to three days a week working from home. I have a 40 mile commute that takes about one hour each way. Multiply that by the 132 days per year that I now work from home and you’ll find that I save 11 full days of commuting. Let’s take this a step further and assume I work until I’m 67 (Germany’s retirement age). If I keep up the flexible working, I will save 330 full days.
Yes, almost an entire year of my life!
But time saved is not the only benefit I get. Working from home, I was there when my son, Vincent, now two, had his first solid food. I pick him up from day-care twice a week at 4.30pm, without raising eyebrows among my co-workers, because they know I’ll make the time up by checking in later that evening or at another time that suits me.
Another treat of working flexibly: every other week on Tuesday I have breakfast at a local coffee shop, feeling hip and free as I check email via Wi-Fi while sipping on my latte – the epitome of the (admittedly small town) knowledge worker.
So how do I lead a team while being at home 60% of the time? Well, my team is distributed across multiple locations anyway – Chalfont (UK), Karslruhe (Germany) and Paris (you guessed it, France) – so I wouldn’t be able to give them full-time face time, even if I was in the office every day. So I meet with them every day via video using GoToMeeting’s HDFaces feature (see above).
I was sceptical when we launched the feature. What difference would it really make? Wasn’t video just eye candy that nobody would use anyway? Well, now I’m a total convert. Video really makes all the difference when working with people across multiple locations. It doesn’t feel as if we’re remote because we see each other every day, albeit virtually.
Do you need to meet in person every now and again? Absolutely! Online meetings cannot replace face-toface get-togethers. These pictures are from a recent team event we did, spending an evening together cooking under the supervision of an exquisite chef. You cannot bond this way in an online meeting.
Working together every day, however, is something you absolutely can do, even if half the team is working remotely and the other half is scattered across three countries.
This is why I fell in love with the (online) meeting. It has helped me bring a team together that works with high spirit, dedication and a friendly virtual poke in the ribs every now and then.
I (selfishly) recommend you give it a try.”
A quick recap…
Bad meetings are bad news for business – they’re expensive, unproductive, lack clear outcomes and stifle innovation.
- Good meetings don’t happen by chance – they require thoughtful preparation, good discipline and strong leadership.
- Online meetings have several advantages over conference calls, such as desktop sharing, Voice over IP, Chat, mobile capability and video.
- HD video conferencing is a high quality, more natural way of collaborating, and integrated webcams in PCs make it affordable enough to be used pervasively in companies.
- While free tools are available, they lack the quality of service and security that businesses need to be professional and compliant.
- Good meeting etiquette applies equally to online meetings, together with a few simple practical considerations such as camera set-up and working environment.
- Work is something we do, not somewhere we go: work-shifting supported by online meetings allows people to get more from their day while reducing commuting time and cost.
- Making the case for work-shifting needn’t be an uphill struggle, if you apply our pragmatic, evidence-based arguments for change.
- Online meetings have revolutionised the way we do business here at Citrix, so we can honestly attest to the benefits for organisations and employees.
Hopefully, you’re now equipped with inspiration, best practices and constructive arguments for better meetings and more agile ways of working. But if you want to dive deeper into the tools and techniques that can help you have fewer, higher quality meetings, you might want to get your hands on a copy of these top reads:
“Read this before our next meeting” Al Pittampalli
Al Pittampalli addresses a time worn challenge that all of us have experienced for which many of us are chief executioner: Death by Meeting. The single most powerful question to ask yourself or your co-workers when faced with a challenging situation is: What difference could you make that requires no one’s permission other than your own? Al embraces this critical notion of personal responsibility in his counterintuitive approach to getting senior management to adopt the modern meeting: you don’t have to get everyone on board – you just need to start and let your success influence others to get on board.
“Meeting for Results Tool Kit: Make Your Meetings Work” Richard M Lent
The Meeting for Results Tool Kit provides a different approach to running effective meetings. Written for leaders whose focus is on holding meetings to get work done and not on facilitation, it provides 12 clear choices and 31 supporting tools for planning, conducting and achieving results from meetings. It can help you structure a naturally effective meeting instead of relying on rules or norms for guiding meeting behaviour, and run effective board, team or staff meetings in a business or non-profit setting. You can also follow Richard Lent’s blog – Meeting for Results: Making Meetings Work – at www.meetingforresults.com/blog/.
Discover a wealth of informative and insightful content on this and related topics
at our blog: blog.gotomeeting.com
Online meetings and video conferences made easy.
Our Citrix online service for better collaboration
Get your free trial version: 0800 048 8368