All bosses should telework

George MacGregor is atypical in many ways. A British father, a French mother, a first job in Germany… It seems that Brita’s boss for Southern Europe was predestined for an international career. Diverse horizons that perhaps explain its avant-garde aspect. He is a strong advocate of telework. For his employees but also for him. He explains all the advantages that this way of working has for him.

What made you decide to opt for teleworking?

Three elements. The first wish is to live in the South of France, in Nice, and to bring more comfort to my family. I was able to do so because since I took over the management of Brita France in 2000, the teams have become very structured. They have acquired a high degree of competence, which allows them greater autonomy. On the other hand, my work has recently changed. My responsibilities have been extended to Southern Europe. They are less focused on local operatives and geographically fit well with the South of France.

How is your telework organized?

I set up this teleworking two years ago. I go home on Thursday evening and divide the first four days of the week between Brita France and the other subsidiaries. Generally speaking, I try to have between two and three days in Paris.

In 90% of cases, I manage to work from home on Fridays except when there are meetings with the parent company in Germany.

What were the reactions of your employer and your teams to the implementation of this telework?

With regard to the parent company, it went well. It was a sign of trust that he was giving me because I had been in the company for eight years. If I had been there for three months, there is little doubt that he would not have let me take it.

To my teams, this elicited two concomitant reactions. On the one hand, there was some concern that they were wondering how the communication would proceed. But at the same time, they understood that it was a sign of trust in them because I knew they were autonomous enough to be able to work from home. It is rewarding for the teams.

What tips for successful teleworking as a boss?

I am in favour of a teleworking day during the week. When you are in managerial positions, there is an element of organization and reflection that does not require a physical presence in the offices and which on the contrary benefits from the distance.

But it is very important to get the right messages across to the teams. Show that you are present even when you are not there. I take even more care than in the past to show a presence. I answer very quickly so that no one feels that geographical distance causes a bottleneck. This requires great exemplarity.

I think my teams feel that my availability is even better at a distance than when I am physically present.

It is amazing to see how telework brings quality to the work of others. The organization is mechanically more square. I am not far from thinking that all bosses should telework, even though I am aware that this has its limits: physical meetings are irreplaceable for project follow-up. Things never progress exactly the way you want them to, and then you have to get the people back on track. In this case, direct contact makes it easier to accept the critical element.

In the end, the life balance provided by teleworking improves professional performance. If you are a little better in your head because you have seen a little more of your family, productivity is better.

You also encourage your employees to telework. Does this apply to all your employees?

In France, there are 70 of us and we still have very few teleworking. No more than a dozen. It hasn’t really become part of the way things are yet. Many of the members of the Executive Committee use telework but not systematically.

Nevertheless, for me, teleworking is all the more playable as you move up the hierarchy and gain experience.

It cannot concern all employees. It is important to know what the material implications of your work are. When you are taking orders in sales administration, it is not possible to work remotely. On the other hand, a marketing manager, for example, can do this. It is even an excellent thing. This will require it to improve its work structure, delegate better, find gaps either in the organization of its work or in the competence of its teams and resolve them.