Networked Workers

Networked workers bring many opportunities and challenges to an organization. Below are some opportunities and challenges I thought of. Opportunities of freely available internet access:

  • Access to information-by having access to more information, could help problem-solve/create opportunities for organizational growth. As Weinberger (2011) highlighted in earlier chapters, Google is at the fingertips of employees to where knowledge is sought outside of the organization.
  • Increased collaboration-having more individuals that can work together on projects can lead to new ideas and efficiencies.
  • Being able to work wherever-having access to freely available internet allows for access wherever, whenever.

At my job, we work within a cloud-based system which allows us to access all our work files/projects wherever we are. I live a good drive away from our office and if the weather is ever bad, I can work right from home uninterrupted.

networks

Challenges of freely available internet access:

  • Leaders have difficulty leading others with influx of information coming into the organization. With so much information coming in, leaders have to redefine their role and how they will lead others.
  • Workers can work wherever and not have to be present in the office. An example of this was in Yahoo’s article on banning telecommuting.

Marissa Mayer, who works as the CEO of Yahoo, ended telecommuting and was met with opposition from employees. Research suggested that there are both pros and cons of telecommuting. If productivity is what is being sought, then ending telecommuting could lead to additional productivity.

I recently read an article about Michelle Peluso, the Chief Marketing Officer, at IBM recently made an announcement ending telecommuting by requiring staff to move into one of six offices or leave the company. IBM has experienced declining profits for many quarters and the hope is that by ending telecommuting, this will shake things up. What is interesting to me is that the article specifically called out that is shake up Peluso is doing compares to what Mayer did at Yahoo.

Weinberber, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: NY.

 

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9 thoughts on “Networked Workers

  1. You are so right about the wonderful benefit of being able to work from virtually anywhere (of course the curse is it’s often hard to draw the line and stop working …). But overall – I love being able to work even while visiting family all over the country. Spending the day working in a quiet room from Philadelphia or Salt Lake and then spending the evening with loved ones is awesome. Being expected to respond to emails from China up until 11 PM and at 6 AM is less pleasant. But connection is connection. I like Dr. Watwood had not seen the IBM announcement and after reading it went on to find that just yesterday – after you posted – another announcement has come out indicating that the telecommuting ban will be company wide – not just in marketing https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/02/09/ibm_workfromhome_cull_companywide/ Wow! Let’s see how all this shakes out. Thanks for the nudge to learn a bit more about the attitude toward telecommuting. And to note – I just had lunch with a friend who has been hired as a leadership development manager for a multi-national company and she said one of the key benefits for her was working from home. Glad she isn’t working for IBM. Thanks ~ tg

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia,
      Thanks for sharing the article! Wow, this will be interesting to watch how things shake out at IBM.
      I wish your friend all the best in her role. Do you happen to know what her responsibilities will be? In your conversation with her, did technology and its impact on leaders come up? The reason I ask is because I had a meeting with a friend that works as a Director of HR within her health center. I asked her if any of her HR duties would be automated and she began listing software programs and future technological implementations that will streamline her work.
      Thanks,
      Keshia

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      • We didn’t get a chance to start discussing specifics of her role since it won’t start for a couple weeks. But after this class – technology and its impact will be top of mind for any discussions we will have. And thanks for sharing about the HR Director. Streamlining sounds great. I’m sure we all feel there is more and more work to complete so anything that helps free up even a few minutes is wonderful.
        Regards,
        Tricia

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  2. Wow-what a move by IBM. It make me also question the “confidential” tone of the announcement. I would think that both journalists and analysts can easily label this as a “desperate” move by IBM. As someone who benefits from working remotely, how do you think this announcement was handled from a leadership perspective? It seemed a bit short-sighted to me.
    Best-Krista

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    • Krista,
      I believe that such an announcement would have first started off with meetings on ways to stop the quarterly losses IBM experienced. I think many ideas would have been discussed before settling on one. What I find interesting is, like you, I feel that forcing staff to work within the office is short-sighted because many of the employees have gotten used to working from home. I know for me, my work flow process changes when I’m working from home compared to when I’m working in my office at work.
      The IBM decision was probably focused on profits and not on the impact upon employee morale.
      Have you ever worked for a company that allowed for telecommuting?
      Thank you,
      Keshia

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  3. Thank you for your post! While I do acknowledge challenges, I am admittedly biased toward telecommuting and the networked worker. If we define productivity by old standards, valuing “cheeks in seats,” Mayer was right to eliminate telecommuting as an option. However, if productivity is really about the quality and effectiveness of producing something, I do not see the where of this as in any way relevant.

    I appreciate that you noted your ability to work from home when weather is bad given you are a good drive from the office. I ran into this myself this winter. Though I am only a 25 minute walk (to get the exercise and save $150/month on parking) and often work from home for convenience (even if only saving 50 minutes round trip, I can spend those 50 minutes better on work than a commute), it was seeing my son get an unheard of seven days, nearly consecutive, off from school as “snow days” that made me pause.

    The concept of a snow day was completely irrelevant to me for the first time. At earlier points in my career, weather could and would have meant the office shut down. That little zing I used to get in grade school that continued into my adult years over a snow day officially was gone, as I watched Taylor jump with excitement for each announced closure. Yet, I find though while that zing has faded away, and I still log on regardless of what is happening outside, the convenience of networked working far outweighs getting a surprise day off, and for an organization, here is where a challenge is co-opted as an opportunity.

    Regardless, I cannot deny I find value in face-to-face interactions and benefit from spontaneous opportunities that arise from simply being around. So, like with many things, it should not be an either/or proposition but rather, a matter of balance achieved through clear company policy and adequate self reflection (Money, 2014).

    References
    Money. (2014, June 5). Telecommuting: What Melissa Mayer got right – and wrong. TIME. Retrieved from http://time.com/money/2791618/telecommuting-what-marissa-mayer-got-right-and-wrong/

    Julie

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  4. So IBM’s reason for the change sounds reasonable, but the columnist attributes the change to IBM simply needing a change; In order to shake things up, they need a change that will be disruptive enough to get folks attention. I am sure that IBM’s response to this article does not talk about shaking things up. I personally have said that for certain tasks, we need to be locked in a room for a day. This won’t hold true for all tasks, and I am willing to accept that I am working from an old paradigm, but I see the value in teaming together. On the other hand, for those other tasks, I also have noted that when I do go into the office, I get pulled in several ways off task (some of this by social choice). I think that there is productivity loss for some folks, but gain for others. And perhaps this will weed out those on the loss end.

    You mention cloud based tools, which is a really great point. When I answered the question initially, my perspective was on the employees’ access to the internet beyond the tools that leverage the internet inherently. So, I was actually weighing whether their independent access would impact work positively or negatively. But the reality is that cloud based tools rely on the internet to provide some value. So, the ability to coauthor documents, at the same time, is dependent on tools (e.g., Word) accessing a network (i.e., internet hosted) document. This is a huge advantage for both the workers and their employees (i.e., both parties gain from not having to email and manually version documents).

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