Review by Dr. Jim Ware, Work&Place, San Francisco, April 2021
Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere by Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley
(Harper Collins, 2021),
“If you need to know how to leverage the new world of distributed work, read this book. It is written for practitioners with easy-to-grasp analyses and, more importantly, common-sense advice for succeeding.”
I spent the last eight years or so of my consulting career advising organizations on how to set up and manage remote work programs. Those engagements always had two primary goals: first, to convince senior management that remote work made economic and organizational sense; and second, to teach first-line managers how to work effectively with remote workers who they could not see or “control” on a minute-by-minute basis.
That first goal was about proving to executives that remote workers were just as productive as their in-office counterparts, and that the added costs of setting up and supporting work-from-home offices were more than offset by savings in office space, management overhead costs, simpler technology setups, and increased workforce productivity.
Clearly, the need to make that business case essentially disappeared when the COVID related pandemic forced organizations to shut down their central office facilities. Since then, there has simply been no choice other than enabling employees to work from home.
However, this “new normal” does not mean that managing remote workers has become any easier, or that working conditions will not change even more dramatically as we move beyond the “everyone is remote” world of the past sixteen months.
In fact, with so many more people working in individual and isolated workplaces the challenges of supporting a fully distributed work environment are far greater than they have ever been. In spite of the rapid development of supportive technologies, measuring and monitoring distributed workers and connecting them with the organization and each other are still achingly difficult tasks for both first-line supervisors and the workers themselves.
So it was with great pleasure and even relief that I recently came across Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere (Harper Collins, 2021), by Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley. The book, published in March, is built on a solid foundation of research that pre-dates the covid-19 pandemic by many years.
Neeley has been studying remote work and remote workers for a long time; in this important book she provides evidence-based data and guidelines for ensuring both organizational success and individual achievement.
I particularly like the way she has organized the book chapters around a series of compelling questions, including:
• “How Can We [Re]Launch to Thrive in Remote Work?”
• “How Can I Trust Colleagues I Barely See in Person?”
• “Can My Team Really Be Productive Remotely?”
• “How Should I Use Collaborative Tools in Remote Work?”
• “How Can My Global Team Succeed Across Differences?”
and my favourite:
• “What Do I Really Need to Know About Leading Virtually?”
It should be obvious that this book is a must-have resource for anyone who is responsible for remote workers, distributed teams, and a workforce that is widely dispersed and rarely co-located. And isn’t that every manager these days?
Tesdal Neeley is the Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. She leads the Leadership and Organizational Behaviour required course in the MBA program at Harvard, and she is also the author of The Language of Global Success, an award-winning book about the power of strong cultures in multinational organizations.
If you need to know how to leverage the new world of distributed work, read this book. It is written for practitioners with easy-to-grasp analyses and, more importantly, common-sense advice for succeeding. The book ends with an “Action Guide” that enables you to develop a focused tactical plan for your own organization. That alone is worth the price of the book.