How Home Office Affects Collaboration
Specializing in analysis, panagenda caters to many issues in companies of all sizes. A particularly interesting topic is home office. Three aspects are particularly important here: Good communication and reachability, Verifiability of work performance so as not to “burden” trust, Optimal infrastructure and tools for working remote.
Translated from german original by Danny Klas
(sources marked with [DE] lead to german content)
Specializing in analysis, panagenda caters to many issues in companies of all sizes. A particularly interesting topic is home office.
Three aspects are particularly important here:
- Good communication and reachability
- Verifiability of work performance so as not to “burden” trust
- Optimal infrastructure and tools for working remote
Already in 2015, 42% of respondents in a study conducted by the Institute of German Business (IWD) [DE] in Cologne, stated that they are more productive through digitization and the related possibility of home office.
For many years now, it seems that home office has been a topic of discussion in all sorts of companies around the world, going hand in hand with a functional IT infrastructure. The key to successful collaboration is especially dependent on the level of communication and as a result, the preparation of the underlying infrastructure as well as that of the employees using it.
What economic benefits does home office actually offer?
Home office is a form of work that not only guarantees greater freedom but also greater flexibility. Employers who offer home office are more sought after and thus gain a competitive advantage over others not offering it. Especially in higher positions and with particularly qualified specialists, it certainly can also mean an innovation boost for companies.
In addition to the recruiting benefits, there are also nominal savings in commuting costs, renting office space and energy consumption.
What’s the catch?
All this does not automatically mean that home office is the solution to providing a flexible and modern working environment. A fundamental basis for collaborative work within the company is essential.
How can employees who only have their own monitor in front of them be part of a team? How can knowledge be spread and utilized within the company? Especially beyond the boundaries of a team or department. We’ve summarized some practical approaches in this regard for you, in our videos “Social File Sharing”, “Working Out Loud”, “Open Q&A” and “Realizing Good Business Practices”.
This means that in addition to clear rules for working from home, it’s also necessary to provide a suitable virtual platform that allows employees to communicate and work together. A study by Johnson (et al. 2009) for example, found that employees with more than 90% home office are far less efficient or productive. That was in 2009 though. In 2017, another IWD study on Industry 4.0 [DE] found that technology is no longer the primary source of improvement. It is a lack of understanding and experience of processes by executives and employees – suggesting that social adoption is certainly an issue that should not be ignored.
Social Intranet is only one part of a larger whole, namely Enterprise Social Networks (ESN). An ESN is not established overnight, it is however a worthwhile investment into the future. In a 2013 Bitkom study on working in the digital world [DE], around 60% of human resource managers stated that they think home office would inhibit employee communication. Does it have to be this way? Is it not more likely that the strategic use of ESNs with optimized processes and rules will guarantee a foundation for borderless collaboration? Forecasting the future is difficult, but trend analysis provides a degree of certainty as to where the journey is going.
Enterprise social networks are no longer the newest idea, so we’ve been able to see the development of a rigid nineties intranet into a dynamic working tool. These days it’s hard to imagine working in a company without some sort of collaborative platform. While other communication channels like email or phone calls are justified, such a platform fulfills quite different goals [DE]. It should automate knowledge management by not only storing information but converting it into knowledge and ultimately wisdom. In this context wisdom refers to the practical application of theoretical knowledge that has been recorded. This would allow sellers to share customer scenarios and thus build up a common pool of knowledge. You can read more on this so called ‘DIKW-hierarchy’ here.
The strength of an ESN also lies in the fact that both synchronous and asynchronous communication is possible. This means that employees from different locations, or even time zones, can work more independently and at the same time more closely together, as the possibilities and touchpoints are more diverse and can be adapted to respective needs – without reinventing the wheel every time.
Solutions such as IBM Connections or Microsoft Office 365 were already at the top of Gartner’s 2015 “Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace”.
How do I know it’s working?
First things first: defining milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rome wasn’t built in a day, and social change in particular takes time. You can of course minimize these times based on various indicators. For starters, it’s more important to identify users who can encourage other users to also share content as opposed to simply focusing on high density of use. Only at a later stage does it make sense to share best practices of the most active and efficient teams, communities or departments in order to broaden the horizon of use cases of the ESN.
An open and transparent way of working also prevents the phenomenon of silos, where teams in different locations don’t find out about projects with common aspects such as aims or customers. So how do you find those best practices, especially in a large company?
You collect data and evaluate it. Seems obvious, but without clear oversight, you can quickly lose track. The ‘wisdom hierarchy’ (DIKW) mentioned earlier, is not based on information but on data. Raw data is important as neither reports nor further insights can be gained without it.
While home office is just one consideration for ESNs, the number of companies recognizing the benefits of this type of collaboration is growing. Compared to the previous year, Bitkom was able to measure an increase of nine percent [DE] in companies offering the option home office in 2018.
In order to create a suitable infrastructure as elegantly and efficiently as possible, one cannot only rely on gut instinct. You must evaluate data, take measures and then optimize them based on defined KPIs and set targets. This process of analyzing, reasoning and optimizing is repeated at regular intervals and contributes to a long-term positive development.
If you have any further questions, please contact our team or leave a comment in the blog. We’d also love to hear what experiences you’ve made in regard to home office, social adoption and social intranet or ESNs.
- Jobmotor oder Jobbremse? (IWD) [DE]
- Digitale Führung (Martin A. Ciesielski, Thomas Schutz) [DE]
- Realities of Working in Virtual Teams (Stefanie K. Johnson, Kenneth Bettenhausen, and Ellie Gibbons)
- Digitalisierung: Bremsklotz Mensch (IWD) [DE]
- Arbeit 3.0: Arbeiten in der digitalen Welt (Bitkom) [DE]
- Social Intranet (Frank Wolf) [DE]
- The wisdom hierachy: representations of the DIKW-hierachy (Jennifer Rowley)
- Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace (Gartner)
- Vier von zehn Unternehmen erlauben Arbeiten im Home Office (Bitkom) [DE]