At the beginning of last year I claimed 2012 would be the year of the mobile worker. To some degree, it was true. This past year I heard more about mobility and mobile workers than telework and teleworkers. More and more discussions centered on the technical feasibility of untethering workers from one office location than around the merits of teleworking and flexible work arrangements. Distributed or virtual teams seem to have become the norm. More and more personal devices infiltrated the workplace thanks to growing Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies and enabled employees to work anywhere.
We can thank the slow economy for the trend in virtual work. Organizations looking for hard dollar savings through a reduction in real estate pushed work-from-home efforts. Others used more collaboration tools and video to cut back on traveling to face-to-face meetings. Some intentionally recruited outside their geographic area to find talent in lower cost of living locations or used flexible work arrangements to retain in-house talent.
Still, some organizations are struggling with the concept. Maybe it’s because of the stigma associated with words like telecommute and telework.
“Telework wouldn’t work in my company,” one person told me while I sat in the Chicago airport. He barely made eye contact me as balanced reading his email on his smartphone and conducting a few business calls.
Perhaps this year we can just talk about the best way to get work done. Many of the trends that we saw in 2012 will continue into this year. Organizational leaders are still talking about BYOD, but some now question its value. It’s not going away; people are just getting smarter about how and when to apply it, letting employees use personal devices when it makes sense. Work will continue to become more portable and localized. High relocation costs are hard to justify and employers are likely more willing to bring the work to the employee versus bringing employees to corporate headquarters. Workplace design, especially concepts like hoteling, will be a hot topic as employers still search for ways to reduce real estate costs. Work-life balance may become a bigger issue as the line between our work and personal lives completely disappears. Expect to hear more battles between employers and employees over use of social media and how far employers can peer into an employee’s life.
With all the change, there are still several constants. You still have a job to do. You will still rely on others to help get it done. Your challenge for you and your team is to find the best way to do it given the technology you have access to and the geographic dispersion of your team. Leadership will remain a key determinant to success. Hopefully, your New Year’s resolution will be to find a better way to work. Experiment more. Push people out of their comfort zones. Find and share best practices. Be a change agent. In short, be a leader.
All the best in the New Year!