Thursday May 14, 2015
1984: I’m not describing the post-apocalyptic book by George Orwell, where big brother is ‘watching you’ at all times and no one has freedom of speech. I’m describing a throwback to the past. Leg warmers, Lionel Richie (Hello!) and an archaic workplace.
For those who remember the workplace of the early 1980s, history conjures up visions of tea ladies, typewriters, work cubicles and clocking in. And for those of who nostalgically remember ‘a simpler time’ before the advent of the iGeneration, it might be worth sparing a thought for the amount of time you would spend sending letters and leaving answering machine messages in a world before text messages and emails.
2015: While it seems almost every week a new social media trend hits the headlines and some new computer wizardry threatens to ‘revolutionise’ the workplace yet again, it’s time we took a moment to celebrate the technological innovations that have made our workplaces more efficient and enabled our businesses to grow as a result.
Work: a network as opposed to a physical place
The meteoric advancements in global connectivity, have brought with them the rise of remote working. Employees have been empowered to deliver their projects in an office, at a home office, in coffee shops or in the bath if they so desire, through the use of tablets, smartphones, laptops and the increasingly trusty internet. One of our Purple team has even worked in his holiday home in Turkey!
No longer are people required to clock in and clock out, and instead are free to work as they wish – whether that’s remotely, giving them headspace to concentrate on complicated projects without the distraction of a busy office, or flexibly, choosing the hours they are most productive to uphold a work/life balance. All the while keeping up to date with important work-related information via email or intranet. This allows businesses to save cost in work space through hot desking arrangements where those who work remotely can share a bank of desks. Small businesses, for instance, have been able to start up and grow efficiently, with lower amounts of capital by being able to employ colleagues remotely without the need for costly office space.
In larger companies, employees can freely visit other sites, meet new colleagues, share insights with other team members and see the bigger company picture away from their own desk.
Online communication: a global village
Marketing has, of course been drastically changed by the growth of blogging and social media, though platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, Skype, Pinterest and Vine have allowed international corporates (operating in more than one country) to become global companies (connected and aligned across borders).
Employees can talk to colleagues and contacts using these tools for free in many cases, share ideas, develop innovation forums, collaborate on projects and even conduct meetings. Remote teams are easier to engage and include in company culture and international business conversation no longer requires the hours of planning it once did.
Self-service: Empowering people within a lean structure
Through cloud-based technology, employees have been empowered to engage more with HR processes on their own terms, for example filling in their holiday details on online systems, recruiting new team members through social media and online recruitment solutions and even mapping their own career trajectory with their employer using online talent management technology. This in turn allows HR departments to outsource the admin to employees, freeing up HR teams to focus on exciting transformation strategies, developing and growing the business, while keeping headcount lean and effective.
The office: a collaborative innovation hub
You know the aforementioned forms of technology exist, but if they are used in a co-ordinated and strategic way, the opportunities are endless and while the idea of ‘work’ for many employees is a concept rather than a built office environment accessed via a commute, the idea of ‘the office’ has morphed into a collaborative hub for innovation.
When remote and flexible employees gather in the office (or any hub), this is when they can focus on working together as a team to brainstorm ideas, discuss tough decisions, help each other out on complex projects and catch up on one-to-one meetings with colleagues. If this can be arranged for set times – say one day a week – then the rest of employees’ time can be focused on delivering results without the usual distractions, meaning ‘collaboration days’ at base can be a scheduled event teams look forward to.
The challenge for more conservative employers in developing this flexible remote workforce, is trusting people to deliver on projects while not always being personally visible to management.
The simple solutions are nothing more than trust until proven wrong and measurement on outputs rather than face time.
There will always be managers who prefer a nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday, at-desk mentality, but they have to ask themselves truthfully: ‘If I can’t trust my team to use the wealth of technology at their fingertips to deliver, then does the issue lie with me?’…
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