People have worked remotely since time began. Remember, Genghis Khan ruled half the world from a yurt, and Julius Caesar had a pretty good thing going until he returned to the home office. But if it seems like remote working has changed in only a few years… well, you’re not wrong.
In October 2018 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Kevin Eikenberry Group. That’s how long we’ve been following Kevin Eikenberry’s vision of what it takes to be a truly remarkable leader. Back in 1993, the assumption was that the people you lead would be where you are (at least most of the time.) This is no longer the case. Here are just some of the ways work has changed while we weren’t looking:
The rise (and fall, and zombie-like resurrection) of email.
My career in the corporate world started in 1996. Back then my first assignment was to roll out email to our small company that had offices in five cities. Since then, email has gone from new tool that will replace fax machines (which were their own kind of miracle when they became common) to the bane of our existence. The most important thing about email is how it has changed the very way we communicate, both within and outside our companies.
The percentage of communication we do in writing has expanded, and we actually speak less than ever.
While studies argue over whether it’s 65 or 70%, the fact remains that we do more work in writing than at any point in human history. Especially if you work remotely, email, Instant Messaging and written reports now constitute the bulk of our communication with co-workers, bosses and customers. The percentage of face to face communication has dropped, and speaking on the phone is down by over 50%. How much preparation and education have we received to reflect that change?
More of us work at home (or at least not at a central office) than any time since the beginning of the 20th century.
There was a time when everyone worked at home. If you were a blacksmith, you lived above the shop. If you were a farmer, you couldn’t very well plough the field from somewhere else. Then we began “going to work.” Now things are changing. Nearly 30% of knowledge workers (Peter Drucker’s fancy-schmancy replacement for “white collar”) work from somewhere else –usually home—at least one day a month, and the percentage of people who telework (even part time) is growing at 30% every year.
As Kevin and I have pointed out in The Long-Distance Leader-Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership and a lot of other places, the basic leadership tenets he set out 25 years ago still apply. What we do hasn’t changed much. How we do it has undergone a rapid shift.
How prepared are you and your organization to face these changes?
How do you know?
If you’d like to dig deeper into the challenges facing remote leaders, download this free report, Leading Remotely: What’s Changed and What Hasn’t.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.