“If I can’t see you working, how do I know you’re working?”
You’ve heard this mantra from business executives before. It always comes up when employees talk about telecommuting.
Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? But some execs just won’t budge.
In this post we’ll explain why they don’t. It’s not the reason you might think…and it’s definitely not the reason they give!
What are Execs Really Afraid of With Telecommuting?
This statement, meant to sound like a reasonable rejection of a telecommuter’s working outside the office, actually illustrates a fear. A fear the exec has…a fear which is central to Remote Work objections. A fear that stands in the way of its adoption.
However, it’s not a fear of laziness. That’s what you might think when you hear it. But the exec isn’t worried telecommuters will just slack off and not do any work. (Few white-collar execs assume so little of their employees.)
No, no. This is a deeper fear. A personal one.
The Question of Control…and Losing It
The fear execs have when it comes to Remote Work is actually fear of loss of control.
The belief is that Remote Workers are outside of Management’s reach, and thus the exec cannot direct them. Cannot control their actions. The result? They (the exec) no longer controls that worker’s productivity.
Of course that’s not true. Remote Workers still need direction for a bunch of job aspects:
- Overarching business strategy
- Project oversight
- Inter-department communication
- Customer service
- R & D
- Marketing objectives
- Snags in the day-to-day processes
I think we can safely say that fear of loss of control is unfounded. It has no rational basis (as if most fears ever do!).
But if there’s no rational basis, why does the fear of “I’m losing control” arise at all?
For the answer, think in terms of business models. A business executive is likely older (I’m generalizing)—in their 50s, 60s, etc. Throughout their career they knew only one business model:
- You Go To Work
- You Do Your Work
- You Go Home
They’ve lived within that model, that paradigm their entire professional life.
Enter Remote Work. A business model which moves emphasis away from physically going to a job site. Yet the work still gets done.
To the exec’s mind, this is unnerving. Incompatible. Their emotions activate and start yelling.
“New model! Uncertain! I can’t use the same mindset I always have. Am I obsolete? No! REJECT!”
…and that’s where the fear comes from. Loss of control, not just over their employees, but over their entire business mindset. Remote Work is perceived as a threat.
In a sense I understand the fear. We’re all only human. But even though I understand, I must still point out a major problem. It’s not just a problem for workers wanting to telecommute either…it’s also a problem for all the businesses whose execs are afraid of Remote Work.
This fear expresses itself as a rejection of Remote Work altogether. The exec can’t see themselves in the Remote Work paradigm, which jeopardizes their own position. So they try to stop it. Try to keep their time-worn mindset relevant (and keep their job).
Here’s the problem. Remote Work isn’t going away.
In fact, it’s still growing. According to the Flexjobs report, “2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce,” telecommuting grew by 115% from 2005 to 2015.
If a business’ execs continue to reject it? It’s the business equivalent of paddling into a tidal wave. The BUSINESS is what’s going away, not Remote Work.
Feel the Fear…and Embrace Remote Work Anyway
The cold truth for all executives is: The market values productivity over brand names. It doesn’t care about your fears. It doesn’t care about your business model, no matter how long it’s been around. It only cares about the value you provide your customers.
Here’s a quick example. Let’s say your business and a competitor each have a similar product. Your business refuses to allow Remote Work. But your competitor embraces it.
You pass the traditional operating costs (salary, benefits, R&D, misc. Op-Ex) on to customers via the product’s price. Typical model. Like they used to.
The competitor, having lowered their Op-Ex by granting telecommuting to its workers, is able to lower its total expenses. Let’s say they reduced their office space, and moved most of their IT services to cloud platforms. This allowed them to reduce expenses by 10% – which they use to lower their prices.
Their product is now 10% cheaper than yours. The product is just as good, just as high-value…just more affordable.
Guess which product the market buys.
Guess what happens to your business.
Message to Business Executives: Remote Work is Here to Help. Don’t Be Scared.
Sorry, but your, “if I can’t see them, they’re not working” mindset is directly harmful to the bottom line. Time to change. The world is not waiting.
What can you, the worker, do to make this clear to Management? Show them this post. After you do, please leave a comment on the results. I always like hearing stories from fellow Remote Workers.