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Publication Title | Managing a Remote Workforce: Proven Practices from Successful Leaders

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Best Practices for Managing a Distributed Workforce Page 20
The absence of continuous learning systems
The truth is that each company culture is unique. In addition, it’s impossible to anticipate all the things that will happen as the program unfolds. The business climate changes, new regulations come into effect, major advances in technology occur, mergers and acquisitions happen. Any of these events, or others that are equally unexpected, can significantly alter the trajectory of a distributed work program.
Some organizations are highly experienced at dealing with change; their industry is characterized by rapid new product development, or new competitors enter the market frequently. Other organizations have learned to thrive in very stable environments and so have had little need for continuous learning and adaptation. So when a major change in the work environment comes along they simply don’t know how to adjust.
The absence of long-term experience with change as a way of life, or the lack of a formal change/adaptation process, will wreak havoc with even the best-designed programs.
What Advice Would You Give Others?
Our first advice, of course, is to follow the five best practices outlined above. But when we put this final question to the thought leaders and practitioners we spoke with they added several additional insights, which nevertheless serve primarily to underscore and reinforce the core principles we have already described.
Tie the program to an explicit business need—and then link that need to personal behaviors.
At their base distributed work programs are large-scale organizational change initiatives. As such, they must have a well-understood and clearly articulated business purpose or they will be dead on arrival. Executives must communicate clearly, and repeatedly, the business reason for initiating the new work environment.
Senior management should also spell out the “give to get.” That is, what are employees “getting” in return for what they are “giving” up. For example, in many instances employees who are offered an opportunity to work from home several days a week must in return give up an assigned or dedicated workspace in the corporate facility. Working from home is the benefit; giving up a personal space in the office is the cost of getting that benefit.
When senior management articulates clearly the business rationale for moving to a flexible work program, employees are far more likely to accept some “costs” even when they don’t like them, knowing that the program is central to the company’s future success.
© Copyright 2010 by The Work Design Collaborative, LLC. All rights reserved.

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