How Do You Manage an Off-Site Team? (HBR Case Study and Commentary)
In this fictitious case study, HBR editor Regina F. Maruca explores the challenges of managing employees in the alternative workplace. Allison Scher is threatening to quit. Penny Ryan wants to run the team. The manager of these off-site workers, Craig Bedell, feels blindsided by their conflict. And the whole mess has Maggie Pinto, the head of HR, wondering if she should cancel the companywide rollout of the telecommuting program. How did this situation get to the boiling point so quickly? Craig doesn't really know. From his vantage point--inside the office--his department is doing the best work it has ever done before. And the flexible work arrangements, designed on a case-by-case basis, have increased productivity and boosted morale at the same time. Or so Craig believed--until a few days ago, when the E-mail messages started to come. There was trouble between Penny and Allison. How serious was the situation? It was hard to tell. Craig responded with E-mail and voice-mail messages of his own. Couldn't it all be put on hold until Monday, when the team would come together for its biweekly meeting? Then he got the final E-mail from Allison--the one in which she threatened "to seek alternative employment." Is the breakdown in communication irrevocable? Can Craig, who learned how to manage during a time when people showed up at the office every day, adjust to the conditions of telecommuting? Four commentators offer their advice on how the company can patch up the short-term problem and lay the foundation for a successful future. In 98405 and 98405Z, Robert M. Egan, Wendy Miles, John R. Birstler, and Margaret Klayton-Mi offer their advice on how the company can patch up the short-term problem and lay the foundation for a successful future. THIS CASE STUDY INCLUDES BOTH THE CASE AND THE COMMENTARY. FOR TEACHING PURPOSES, THE REPRINT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN TWO OTHER VERSIONS: CASE STUDY-ONLY, reprint 98405X, AND COMMENTARY-ONLY, reprint 98405Z.