Mobility, schmobility. Despite all the talk of remote working becoming a significant part of the modern organisation, a survey by UK IT managed services provider Phoenix has found that only a small number of UK employees are making use of it.
The survey of employees in a wide range of industry sectors that use IT and electronic devices as part of their day-to-day work found 36% never worked remotely and half of them worked from home less than once a month.
The low numbers were surprising given that a separate UK survey of 100 CIOs and IT decision makers by Phoenix found over three quarters (76%) of companies have a remote working policy in place. But even that survey reported that only a small number of employees worked remotely more than once a week and fewer still worked from home full time.
So what explanation is there for the glaring gap between what appears to be enthusiasm for remote working on behalf of employers and the low rate of adoption by employees?
Alistair Blaxill, managing director of Phoenix’s Partner Business, put forward the not unreasonable proposition that attempts to increase remote working were “sometimes not being fully realised because the legacy infrastructure and IT support base is not as developed as it needs to be to implement it”.
He argued it was “vitally important for businesses to address this in the future as mobility is seen as one of the most significant driving forces for the IT sector and an increasing number of workers will expect to be fully connected to work all of the time”.
While there's a lot of sense in what Blaxill says, I can't help wondering if there's another more old-fashioned reason why remote working hasn't caught on quite as well as many might have hoped.
It's all very well having policies in place but you also need the will to make it happen. While I have no doubt that CIOs and IT decision makers are probably doing what they can to make remote working a reality, I'm not convinced that many managers within the organisation who are the bosses of those remote workers are fully on board.
It's an issue of ego and trust. Put simply, do managers trust their employees enough to let them work out of their sight? And in a world where some managers measure their value in terms of the number of people reporting to them, can their egos handle looking at fewer people in their offices on a daily basis?
Worse still, if employees are working less and less in the office under the direct supervision of a manager but still doing a good job, might someone start to ask what purpose the manager fulfils?
The benefits that remote working brings to the employee and the organisation are well known at this stage, what is less clearcut are what benefits it brings to the manager. I have a sneaking suspicion that until managers have a better idea of how they fit into the future workplace and how to guarantee their survival, adoption of remote working will continue to lag behind the expectations of organisations and their employees.