Business Brains

Are remote workers more engaged?

Posting in Technology

Managers who assume telecommuters are less committed or motivated than those working at headquarters might be making a big mistake.

The last boss I had before I went totally free agent was highly suspicious of the productivity of remote members of our editorial team, often wondering if they were really performing as well as the people working in plain sight every day.

I'm sure plenty of managers have likewise questioned whether or not telecommuters are really as on board with their jobs as those who happen to sit at desks in the headquarters building.

But managers who automatically assume that members of their team who work on-site are automatically more engaged than those who telecommute or work in a branch office may be making a big mistake, according to an essay in the Harvard Business Review.

The article by management consultant Scott Edinger actually suggests that remote members of your team are slightly more engaged and committed to their corporate and their manager. This is at least in part because managers may overlook the people working on site, while they might have more periodic check-ins with the people working offsite. It may be because the people who are remote try harder to stay in the know and on the radar of their managers.

Think about it. If you manage a geographically dispersed team, do you make it a habit to have the same sorts of in-depth discussions with the team members who are local as the ones who aren't in front of you every day?

Edinger writes:

"Most leaders I work with make an extra effort to stay connected to those they don't ordinarily run into. They can see that taking even a few minutes to talk about what's happening in their respective worlds before addressing the tasks at hand makes a difference in maintaining the connection with a colleague. What's more, because they have to make an effort to make contact, these leaders can be much more concentrated in their attention to each person and tend to be more conscious of the way they express their authority."

But they don't do the same with those in the next cubicle.

The irony is that the people working in plain sight may not get the same "face time" with their managers as those who are remote.

Kudos to the managers who use all the technologies now at their disposal, such as videoconferencing, instant messenger and other collaborative tools to help make remote workers feel like they are "there" in the office. Now, don't forget to do the same with the people who are working in plain sight.

[via Harvard Business Review]

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure