Do you enjoy sitting in traffic for hours every day? Do you enjoy fitting your meetings around the public transportation schedule and outages? How about trying to arrange a doctor’s appointment around a work schedule, or missing your kids’ soccer games and ballet rehearsals?
If you answered yes to these questions, then keep living your life! But if you’re of the majority who I’m betting answered no, then maybe it’s time to join the flexible workforce.
The workplace of the future includes flexible working, and the benefits are clear. Not only does it align with our current lifestyles and priorities, but the reality is we live in a world where the 24/7 work week is the norm for knowledge workers. You can’t realistically be available 24/7, schedule global calls in the middle of the night, and meet that holiday weekend deadline without maintaining some level of flexible work. Your sanity is at stake! Our work schedules need to balance with our home lives as much as our home lives need to balance with work—that’s the reality of the future of work. Having that flexibility while still being able to collaborate with people and maintain a connected business is critical. Another value of working from home is increased productivity. Oftentimes there aren’t as many distractions in a home office environment, and the time you would usually spend commuting can be spent getting work done. In addition, lowering our carbon footprint, decreasing traffic congestion and lowering company real estate costs are all benefits to the individual.
However, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. As a flexible worker, you have the responsibility to take ownership and accountability over your work situation. You need to know your company’s policy, and set expectations with your manager, your peers, and your direct reports. And if you have the opportunity and ability, it’s a great idea to occasionally come into the office to continue to build relationships in person.
Discipline yourself to set a daily routine as if you were going into an office.
Increase commitments in terms of the work you can get done.
Raise your hand and volunteer more so you don’t slip through the cracks.
Over-communicate and be an uber-networker.
Set up your work space as you would a traditional office.
Make sure you have the tools and collaborative technologies you need to be successful. You can’t do this in a workforce that isn’t prepared to support it. Ideally, those tools will include a combination of audio, video, and collaboration technology so you can interact and collaborate with colleagues as efficiently as if you were face-to-face.
When it comes down to it, a remote workforce—and digital collaboration—can’t be effective without your company’s and your manager’s support.
As a leader, your responsibility is to not only deliver on your results but retain the best talent in the industry. With so many challenges—from the war on talent, to talent hubs being increasingly costly, an increasing cost of real estate and depreciation of IT resources—you need to increase your competitiveness for talent. Would you rather have a “C” player sitting next to you in the office or an “A” player sitting at home that you can work with over audio and video? The answer is a no-brainer!
And the reality is that new college grads are born with video-enabled smartphones in their hands and remote collaboration is an expectation. Study after study confirms that employee’s from each generation of today’s workers are working remot... Yet, some companies are likening workplace productivity with face time in the office. Ultimately, the reality is if you don’t offer that flexible working capability another company will, and to attract the best talent you need every advantage you can get. This is the office of the future.
Before you take the plunge into flexible working, it’s important to understand whether or not your work place has the tools and policies in place to enable mobile employees to be successful. If the answer is no, encourage your IT to pilot it. You can download a free trial of Polycom RealPresence software, or other free desktop sharing software tools or online productivity software.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to model what it means to be a successful flexible worker, and to communicate that it’s okay—and encouraged!—for others to follow suit. You can and should also be an advocate to other managers and executives around measuring productivity of the flexible work force, and putting in the extra work to make sure members of your team get the necessary visibility. You are the biggest advocate and enabler for your flexible work team, and you can help change and adapt behavior for your entire company.
If you can successfully make this change, not only will your workers be happier, more productive, more engaged, and retained longer, but for all those same reasons your job will be easier as well.