Recently two colleagues shared their tales of woe when they were forced to relocate to the Mothership of their companies. One had recently moved to a new company and the other had received a promotion to a global role.
Rarely is the location of the Mothership a desirable option, either because the location quite frankly sucks, or the existence of the Mothership has made property prices astronomical. In both cases, these were technology companies that should have known better. Why would you force people to uproot their lives when technology allows people, and the global world we live in requires people, to work from anywhere.
“Teleconferencing and other advances in communications technology make it easier to split up a workforce among several locations”
GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt in GE is huge, but its future headquarters will be anything but..
I have had my own tumultuous experiences with location dependent management.
While working at a technology law firm’s Palo Alto office (literally on Stanford’s campus) I was forced to commute on three of the busiest freeways in the area. Exhausted by the stress of it, I asked my partner (who by the way, although right down the hall, only came into my office once a week) if I could start working from our San Francisco office. He responded, “I don’t believe in telecommuting.” This was doubly ironic because our clients rarely came into our offices. All of our work, including deal closings, was done online or on the phone.
Later I worked for a biotechnology company that was obsessed with facetime. People spent at least an hour a day on shuttles going from building to building for meetings. When a senior leader, who had been performing brilliantly, failed to uproot his family and move to San Francisco within the deadline he’d been given the company let him go. “Seriously?” I asked, incredulous. I didn’t last there long either.
Basecamp founder David Heinemeier Hansson, a hero of remote workers, made fun of Reddit’s 2014 decision to force remote workers to relocate to the pricey San Francisco Bay area or face termination.
Employees Don’t Want to Move
According to a survey done by the Worldwide ERC there are many reasons employees are reluctant to relocate:
- 91% say it is because of slowed real estate appreciation and depressed housing market in old location
- 86% say their old location is in negative equity
- 28% say they and their family are resistant to the move
- 28% blame high housing cost in the new location
- 20% say their spouse is reluctant to leave their job
- 17% cite the high cost of living in the new location
- 13% say the new location is undesirable
There are far more Cons than Pros to forced relocation to the Mothership. Let’s take a look.
- Build Trust – facetime allows you to build trust more quickly.
- Spontaneous Innovation – co-location increases the likelihood that you will have impromptu meetings with partners and stakeholders
(think Steve Jobs’ circular building design – he was obsessed with this concept and moved the bathrooms as far away as possible to make employees walk about).
- Productivity Loss – most corporate headquarters have multiple buildings and massive campuses which means that increasing facetime requires significant shuttle time. You’ll get to know the van drivers by name. A massive loss of productivity.
- Lower Engagement – the reality of two career couples and the impact of employees having to uproot children makes this requirement especially painful. Engagement has to take a hit here.
- Expensive and Complicated – relocation is complicated and expensive, especially if companies are in a place where the location of several Motherships has priced common folk out of the market. Examples, Seattle/Redman, San Francisco Bay area, Boston, New York.
- Lost Opportunity to Build Critical Skill – your senior leaders are managing people all over the globe. Why do they need to do that from home office? Everyone needs to learn how to use technology to lead, manage and collaborate.
- Limits Your Talent Pool – the company limits its options because the high performing talent may not want to relocate. See statistics cited above.
Teach the Global Mobile Way
There are lots of resources to improve the way you work remotely. I’ve shared several in this blog and here is one more from my buddies at Hubstaff. So, don’t move your leaders – upskill them and the rest of your team to be prepared for the Global Mobile Workforce.