It's About What You Do, Not Where You Do It

This week, as part of the annual Telework Week event, more than 64,900 people have pledged to work from somewhere other than their office. I could talk about the millions of dollars saved by these people ($5.1M) or the millions of pounds of pollutants they will keep out of or air and water (6.1M), but today I want to talk to you about another important benefit of this telework test drive: its effect on how we work and manage others.

If you have read my blog on The Huffington Post or heard me speak on this subject, you know my mantra is that the essence of work is that it's an action, not a location. Like most tools in our management toolbox, telework is not a silver bullet and it's not right for everyone or every situation. But neither is an office building.

Google built one of the most elaborate and incredible office campuses in modern history. They spared no expense and had more employee amenities than most of us can imagine (free food, entertainment, recreation, etc.). But it's pretty clear their goal was to keep their employees on campus and working as much as possible. Foxconn is an electronics manufacturer with major facilities in China -- they made that iPhone or Droid in your pocket. They also keep their workers close at hand, but use a more company town approach. Carrot or stick, the goal is the same: keep your people close and keep them working.

So let me propose a different way to improve productivity, innovation and satisfaction. Build trusting relationships between employees and supervisors by setting goals, communicating about issues and progress, and measuring success against those goals. Make location dependent on need, not some arbitrary or legacy policy. At any one time, some people need to be in the office or in a specific place. Others don't. I was discussing this with GSA Chief Human Capital Officer, Tony Costa, last month and he said something I think sums up this approach perfectly: Be Where You Need to Be.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments. You can email me at