As the modern world of work continues to evolve, an increasingly distributed workforce has combined with cultural shifts and innovation in personal technology, blurring the lines between work and personal life, and accelerating the trend toward the “always on” work day, for better or for worse.
The connected worker has more authority and autonomy than ever before; however, their ability to succeed is tied to engagement with co-workers, workplace values, and company culture, as much as it is to the technology that enables them to do their job. In fact, 87% of employees are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and less likely to be productive (Gallup, 2013). As we move deeper into the 21st Century and adjust to the new pace of life created by social media and smart devices, we bear witness to a new “digital order” of sorts, marked by the shared benefit and burden of connectivity. Today’s modern workplace must empower workers to make greater use of flexible work options and tools. Teams must equally overcome the challenges of distance created by distributed organizations, championing new ways to get things done.
This brings me to my main point: timing is everything. Those who can manage their time well will thrive in an environment where teams may be asked to dive into a project regardless of location and their availability. And with the increasingly global nature of business today, they may be requested to do so “after hours.” There are tricks to getting it right, no matter what number the short hand of the clock is pointing to.
Those who understand their work styles and peak hours of productivity will find themselves at an advantage in our “always-on” world. Those who know the right resources to tap into will also be more likely to keep projects on track, and equally important, maintain their sanity. It’s an exciting time to be in the workforce. To be successful, leadership plays the important role of empowering teams to produce their best work, how and when it’s most effective to do so. Knowing a team’s strengths and giving them the collaboration tools to work together more fluidly is a win-win scenario, driving greater employee engagement, retention, and ultimately productivity.
But what does working on-demand really require? When thinking about some “rules to live by,” a few observations come to mind:
1) Think globally. Today’s middle manager may be leading projects across three, four, five+ time zones. NY to SF; Boston to Shanghai…and everywhere in between. Time-of-day sometimes plays second fiddle to project deadlines. The occasional compromise needs to be made – we’ve all done conference calls in our pajamas – but most importantly, meetings must be designed in such a way that helps a distributed workforce feel included and immersed. Connectivity at our fingertips is essential, be it with IM or a video conference call. One-click connections remove the burden of isolation and break down the figurative office walls, freeing up teams to focus on work worth doing.
2) Make jet-setting work for you. Consider the businessperson traveling three out of the four weeks in a given month. The car or the airport quickly become makeshift workspaces. Thanks to free WiFi in select airports and in the sky, with the right tools we can make the most of a few extra minutes here and there. UC capabilities are intended to make your remote work life easier, but too many steps, dial-ins, log-ins, and passwords to remember can quickly make work travel a huge hassle. A seamless, in-app experience – one that is friction-free, consistent, and reliable – can prevent downtime so that you can work wherever you are. We feel technology should get out of its own way sometimes, with click-and-go options that add value, not frustration. Too much time fumbling for a phone number or scrambling for a dial-in password results in lost opportunities and connections, leading to meetings not starting on time and delayed project timelines. Meanwhile, you’re preoccupied with finding the new gate for your flight. Imagine an app that presented all of your dial-in details, with professional contacts and access codes pre-programmed, so you didn’t have to toggle between your calendar and call screen. Just like that, you’re in! Now you can focus on the call at hand.
3) Embrace the new office space. And no, I’m not talking about a remake of the 1999 comedy (however classic). The new definition of mobility isn’t exclusively about voice accessibility; rather, it’s about connecting a distributed worker with ease. It’s about the big picture. Your office is as mobile as you – the modern worker – and you should be able to set up shop anywhere and with the device that it most relevant for the situation. With the right technology in tow – often your own personal devices – being tied to your desktop and landline is a thing of the past. Your work world can finally be where you make it.
4) Make meetings count. According to CNBC, 67% of meetings are unproductive. In today’s work environment, it’s easy to feel the pressure of being in two places at once; the push/pull of fast-paced activity, tight deadlines, and overlapping calendar invites cause stress and make it difficult to feel truly present. If the cubicle farm is getting you down or traversing large campuses stands in the way of punctuality, keep in mind the little ways that technology can give you a boost. Is there really a purpose to that meeting and does it need to be in person if you set up a video conference? What if you can co-edit that document ahead of time leveraging rich collaboration tools and reserving face-to-face meetings for final decision making? Embrace what’s available to you and you might just have a bit more time on your hands to grab a coffee, catch up with a coworker, or invest in your personal well-being. It’s all about creating balance, being effective, and choosing the right tools to re-take control of the workday.
Time and flexibility are everything. These tips will help you optimize every minute, giving you and your peers the ability to balance the priorities that matter most throughout the day.