In the very early days of telework, a large well known company decided to close its regional sales offices and have staff work from their homes. One day they sent a package to the home of each individual containing a shiny new laptop, a modem setup and a note that in essence said: “You are now working from home. Have a great day!” Then they closed the offices.

As you can imagine, the regional staff felt they were left hanging. They had no warning their daily routines would be disrupted. They were provided with no guidance for setting up their home office, how to deal with family, even how to make copies of presentations (back then, they were using first generation private email, no laser printers, no copy centers, no internet, no cloud), and in retrospect the plan was a disaster.

Many lessons can be learned from past mistakes

That company has since developed a highly successful distributed work program where a large percentage of employees work without an assigned desk.

How was that change executed? Executive management put together a plan that:

  • Drove a cultural recalibration through a deliberate, well-designed workplace change process
  • Shifted manager and employee work perceptions through internal messaging
  • Prepared the workforce through training to establish new processes, accountabilities and protocols

Today, mobile employees working in their distributed workplace is ‘just the way we do things here.’

Best practice guidance is now readily available: Since those early days, experience-based best practices – including the avoidance of mistakes – have been developed, published, tested, and fine-tuned, offering any organization a blueprint for success. Among the best distributed work programs of large and small enterprises, a pattern of proven success has emerged in a three-phased workplace change implementation process:

Phase 1: Individuals are prepared through Work Practice Change
Phase 2: Teams adapt to new experiences through Work Place Orientation
Phase 3: The enterprise becomes one in mission through Work Force Synergy

The momentum of history is on your side

There’s never been a more compelling time for an organization to leap straight into the 21st Century by recalibrating the enterprise as a distributed workplace. If you are formalizing distributed work with an activity-based workplace, preparing knowledge workers for teleworking, or if you’ve already launched a program that’s a bit out of control, you have an excellent opportunity to learn from the 25 years of mistakes others have made.

With this information, you can be sure that individuals are prepared for the experience, that mobile work is effective, consistent, healthy, safe, and secure, that remote workers remain accountable and productive no matter where they work, and that teams can maximize technology to benefit the enterprise.

Now you can be sure that when you say to your mobile teams “Have a great day!” they actually will!

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See the Evolving Workplace e-Learning Series: Technology-enabled workplace change can only be successful if the people change too. The e-work.com Evolving Workplace e-Learning Series modules accelerate workplace change through a deliberate mindshift in individuals, teams and the enterprise to work together in new ways.

For some additional tips see the Does your workplace change plan include a people change plan? blog post.