Annual Meeting Reports

Remote Office: Experiments in Working Offsite

This session focused on new opportunities in publishing that allow publishing professionals to work remotely. Because our industry has adopted such tools as online peer-review and tracking systems, content is for the most part online, and editorial-board members are usually situated around the country and the world. Thus, it seems logical that the important business of journal editing, peer-review management, and even oversight of an editorial staff can also be managed from remote locations rather than a centralized office. To be sure, remote offices require new tools and technology and a new style of management; this session focused on these requirements.

Robert G Sumner, editorial coordinator of Clinical Chemistry, began by discussing the “cloud” in his presentation, “Life Above the Clouds”. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) has adopted cloud servers, which allow office workers to log in from any computer or smartphone. Employees’ personal desktops and all saved information are on a server. Thus, all work is mobile, and nearly all work requires Internet connectivity.

The drawbacks to the cloud lie in potential connectivity problems and bugs, such as printer and copy-and-paste issues, for which the help of IT staff is needed. The AACC servers are no longer housed at the society but are maintained by Citrix (some might see this as a potential problem). However, as Sumner pointed out, working from the cloud is more cost efficient than housing servers on site. In addition, the latest software is updated in the cloud, so users do not need to install it on their devices.

Glenn Landis, managing editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), discussed ASCO’s experiment with ROWE, Results Only Work Environment. ASCO began using ROWE in the middle of May 2011, and it has been successful to date.

Landis explained that ROWE has nothing to do with being a remote-only worker. The management strategy behind ROWE focuses on results. Employees have control over their time, but each job has concrete and measurable goals in addition to expected results. Performance is measured by results, not by time or physical presence. Employees can start late, leave early, and work in the office or at home. Landis explained that the advantages of “going ROWE” are an improved work–life balance, improved team capacity and efficiency, improved morale, and optimization of the latest technology. Another ROWE plus: It is a great way to attract and retain top talent. But how do you measure results in ROWE? Management must be clear about goals and is expected to monitor and determine whether goals and expectations of results are being met. It is also critical to monitor staff workloads.

Meetings are an interesting aspect of ROWE. Landis noted that all meetings are optional. The meeting planner has to be descriptive about the meeting topic; for example, the planner must note who is required and who is optional and must provide an agenda. All meetings are conducted via telephone and Webex. Landis observed that since ASCO began ROWE, the journal has had fewer meetings; some may consider this an added benefit of adopting ROWE!

Remote Office Experiments in Working Offsite