Where do you work? When asked, many respondents would quickly spout the name of their employer (noun). The answer, though, is something completely different and over the past few years has changed dramatically. With the rising numbers of mobile and teleworkers becoming much of the norm, work is being viewed more as an action than a place. This transformation has employers moving to measure performance more by results than by employee attendance records. A paradigm shift, for sure.
What is causing this transformation? In this digital world, we are more connected than ever before in history. Corporate networks have become accessible via the web and virtual private networks. Early mornings and late nights at the office can be eliminated as workers can perform tasks from their home office (aka the dining room table or living room couch). Workers have even gained the ability to carry their workstation with them when they leave the office.
IP telephony, or Voice over Internet Protocol, allows business calls to be received from anywhere. Phone calls are transferred and routed just as they would be inside the office. All the functions of complex business communications systems are extended to unlimited points with “follow the sun” applications. Due to this increased flexibility, we have been able to increase our workforce to populations previously unreachable such as the home-bound, disabled and single parents. Large call centers are becoming virtual— distributing calls to homes throughout the country and the world.
The cell phones we carry have continued to shrink in size, but certainly not in functionality. Today’s devices offer all-in-one functionality, enabling the user to access the web, check email, text message, take pictures and place calls all at the same time.
Presence management (the next new thing) gives the ability to control how, when and where communications are completed. For instance, while in a meeting, a person’s calendar denotation will screen communications to allow the use of text messages, but block or reroute voice calls to voicemail. Exceptions can be set to allow calls from one’s boss or best client. Current status and future availability can be predefined by the user and communicated without any human intervention.
So work can be done anywhere, but what if the work involves more than one person? Today’s collaboration tools are enabling workers to have totally interactive same-time meetings with fellow employees or clients all over the world. These tools allow conversation along with the ability to see not only each other but also shared desktops and applications. Editing a word document or presentation for content with multiple users has never been easier. Meetings which would have taken a week—or even months—to coordinate and carried a hefty price tag, are now being completed in hours. The savings in time, resources and cost can be astounding to an employer as these tools can be deployed on a desktop for a few hundred dollars or a few dollars a month, whichever makes better business sense.
The impact on organizations in multiple regions that do not employ this technology will be astonishing. These organizations will be left behind by the competition. The empowerment available through technology tools, such as collaboration, can’t be ignored. It is not “if” competition will use these cost saving and efficiency tools, but “how often” and at what detrimental impact to the organization. We have to learn how we can become empowered by using these tools.
With this flexibility new challenges arise. Which technologies will have the most positive impact on my organization’s bottom line? Who will help me to deploy, support and train my staff to utilize tools to their maximum benefit? How well will my staff and client be able to interact with the tools of choice? How can I make sure that I get a return on my investment? Do I really need to own the tools or does a pay-per-use option make more sense for my situation? How will I help myself and my employees maintain a healthy work-life balance? How will I continue to measure productivity of staff and the use of these tools?
These questions deserve our attention. If we don’t pay attention to them we will find our organization being impacted in a very negative way. Help is there, we just need to pay attention and seek the advice of professionals in the industry. Is work a noun or a verb in my organization? There is no time like the present to start finding these answers. IBI