The consistently thoughtful Stefan Czerniawski (also known as @pubstrat) posted an excellent set of reflections on Remote: Office not required yesterday, itself a book which “shows both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any space, in any place, anytime, anywhere.”
I thoroughly recommend you read the whole of Stefan’s post and the excellent discussion in the comments that follow [not often you say that – ed]. Of many excellent parts, how about:
Although few like to admit it explicitly, many managers do not have that trust or, more generously, have not needed to develop a management style which is based on trust.
Stefan also points to an excellent video from the RSA on Re-Imagining Work, which animates a talk from Dave Coplin (we won’t hold the fact he’s from Microsoft against him). It’s well worth 9 minutes of your time.
I’m not quite sure where I am on this. Drawing on my own experiences I’ve worked in places that are the extremes of both office-based working and remote working. Neither really worked for me. Then again, when I worked in a place that was generally trusting and so had a flexible approach to where you based yourself on any given day or week, this didn’t really work for me either. In this case there were different reasons at play: it was less the location of people’s working but more other organisational cultures (grappling with silos, funny enough) which made things difficult.
Inevitably, I don’t think there’s a general conclusion we can draw on where people should work. I know the balance is currently too far in the direction of traditional work models, but equally think the correction shouldn’t be taken too far in the other direction. Let’s work first on trust and approaches to management that are appropriate and relevant to the function of an organisation, and then figure out the form that follows.
Addendum: The opening of Dave Coplin’s talk really hit home with me about people who get the collaborative, networked approach we are moving to now, and how this differs from traditional views of management and work. My (admittedly silly) working theory is both that (a) those people who are more naturally collaborative will more often attribute where their tweets, references or thinking cites others, and (b) they will cite in less traditional ways, using @usernames and links rather than referencing according to the Harvard system or using footnotes.