Oh, no, not another quadrant chart!
Sorryyyy. But quadrant charts do have their uses. In today we’ll use one to help clarify whether, in our rapidly emerging post-COVID-19 world, employees who were shifted to remote work as a result of the pandemic should shift back to working on premises.
Start with a typical scenario: Executive leadership wants employees back at their desks. Many of its employees, though, having grown accustomed to the flexibility working remotely provides, are unhappy with this direction and are pushing back.
Which brings us to Lewis’s Law #Beats me, I stopped counting a long time ago. The law states that if a decision hinges on personal preferences, everyone involved is engaged in the wrong conversation.
Possibly because I’m a founding member of Sarcastics Anonymous, whenever I hear someone start with the words “I want …” I have to restrain myself from answering, “Well, I want a pony. And a Robot Commando™, and a … ”
That the executives want employees back at their desks, just doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t matter, any more than it matters that employees will happily comply, so long as the desks they’re back at are comfortably located in their home office.
What does matter is the nature of the work each employee is responsible for. Which brings us to this week’s dreaded Quadrant o’ Doom.
In this quadrant, the vertical axis denotes the extent to which process management and oversight are important factors in what it takes for those in a given role to do their work. The horizontal axis represents the importance of relationships, trust, and team dynamics.
The chart suggests that:
- When neither process oversight nor relationships are important for an employee to get work done, it’s a role for which working remotely is a particularly good fit.
- When relationships aren’t particularly important but process oversight (and by implication, direct supervision) is important, working remotely still can make sense, but only to the extent that automated process monitoring is available so the responsible managers can make sure work is being done correctly and at speed.
- In situations where relationships are important but process management isn’t, employees need to be physically present for at least part of most work weeks. Not all, but enough to interact face to face. That provides a foundation for building the trust and alignment that are the heart of healthy team dynamics. This quadrant is labeled hoteled because in this situation, employees aren’t assigned to permanent cubicle locations. They park in an available cubicle when they’re on premise; someone else parks in that cubicle on a different day.
- And finally, when both process management and interpersonal relationships are essential to success, the employees who do this work are needed on premises.
Bob’s last word: Without a doubt, this Quadrant o’ Doom is oversimplified. It’s also entirely possible that its basic dimensions of analysis – process management and relationships – aren’t even the most important determinants.
But the underlying premise – that determining whether a given employee should be allowed to work remotely or required to work on premises must depend on the nature of the work, not the personal preferences of anyone involved in the decision – is fundamental.
As a fringe benefit, starting the decision process by building out a framework, whether it’s the one described here or something completely different, can de-escalate what can otherwise become dysfunctional conflicts between management and staff that can cripple the organization’s ability to function.
Bob’s sales pitch: Not really a sales pitch, but if you have a different framework for making decisions regarding remote vs on-premises employees and are willing to share it, please post it in the Comments so the KJR community can take it into account in their own workforce planning.