Preeti has been working in a mid-sized IT company for five years now. She’s been commuting for two hours, each way. That’s a precious four hours every day that could have been used more productively, maybe to pursue a hobby or to spend time with family. While Preeti did ask for flexi-working, her request was turned down by her manager, who said, ‘if we offer it to you, everybody will ask for it, and you know we can’t do that.’
One would think that by now, work-from-home would have been de-facto in the knowledge industry, particularly in IT and ITES. But it’s not. Ironically, the very companies that manage critical projects for their customers remotely from halfway across the globe are hesitant to let their own employees work from home.
The question that most companies ask is ‘why work from home’. The answers – most of which revolve around balancing professional and personal commitments – are convincing and widely understood as well. According to a survey by Global Workplace Analytics in the US, 37% of respondents said they would rather work from home than get a 10% salary hike! One can imagine that the figures for India will be similar or higher, at least among the mid-level and above tiers (given our extremely congested cities).
Further, according to the same survey, 95% of businesses that offer some type of work-from-home option say that this facility has led to increased employee retention. So, the question we need to ask is, ‘why not work from home?’
The answer is trust, rather, the lack of it.
Most managers admit, albeit reluctantly, that the impediment to granting work-from-home revolves primarily around trust. According to the Global Workplace Analytics survey, “75% of managers say they trust their employee, but a third say they’d like to be able to see them, just to be sure”. Managers, their managers, and by extension, the business itself wants to be able to ‘see’ their employees ‘on the job’ during office hours. For example, company management needs to know for sure that conference calls will not be rescheduled because participants are lax or unavailable. They need to know that working hours are satisfactorily accounted for. In short, team managers want transparency in what their team members are up to.
A typical work environment consists of email (which often needs client software), instant messaging (IM), file sharing (which needs VPN when accessing files from outside office), and project management software. And herein lies the problem. There are too many tools for just managing work. It does not seem reasonable or productive to ask managers to use different tools just to stay on top of what their teams are working on. And that’s why they would rather have their teams in office.
Enter team messengers that are a one-stop-shop for all collaboration and productivity needs for teams. Team messengers have roots in instant messaging but have grown into full-fledged mobility-ready productivity tools. Managers can converse with their teams and individuals alike, by just creating different groups or channels. Team members can share files within a channel, thereby greatly reducing the need to monitor emails.
Let’s say that a manager needs to review a document with his/her team. In a sit-together-and-work environment, the file is projected on a screen and discussed. In a work-from-anywhere environment, the file is emailed as an attachment, and conversations typically criss-cross, leading to frustration and inevitable delays. Besides, email does not evoke the kind of urgency that a messenger inspires. A team manager may be tempted to just call his/her entire team into office.
Now imagine a scenario where the manager creates a channel for the team (takes only a minute) and shares files on the messenger app itself. Participants share their votes for any yes/no questions, and instantly share opinions, responding to each other in real time. Team members who may be working out of the home, or are on the move, can log in via their smartphones, and have access to all the resources that they would in office.
Feature-rich team messengers with open APIs, which can be used to build custom apps, as well as to integrate with existing productivity and project management applications. They alleviate the need to use numerous apps for communication or productivity. When a single platform/app serves collaboration needs end-to-end, managers can easily stay on top of things, leading to increased confidence in their teams, even when the team members are working remotely.
Team messengers are much more than a solution for trust issues in workplaces. They are nifty enablers that help to boost productivity among geographically dispersed teams.
About the author: Bhavin Turakhia is a serial tech entrepreneur who has founded 11 companies till date — some of them are Radix, Ringo, Zeta, Flock, CodeChef, BigRock & Media.net. A startup evangelist, Bhavin has over 19 years of experience in the technology sector.