Work & Workforce. Then & Now.

Laura Goodrich Posted by Laura Goodrich.

Laura is cofounder of On Impact, an integrated content company that specializes in creating and producing videos, television, and multimedia content delivered over time to create sustained change and adoption of important leadership concepts.


Work & Workforce. Then & Now.

A woman works in a call center.

Change is continuous but its pace varies. During past 2 decades technology has evolved at a pace never seen before. Technology does not evolve on its own. We need two important set of people – creators and early adopters.

During the current wave of technological evolution, creators created innovations like World Wide Web that helped move the information at a faster pace. This free flow of information made sure that new innovations reached a large number of early adopters and then many more mainstream customers, faster than ever before.

With this change – came new way of working. We have moved from pen and paper to typewriters to facsimile, to computers to mobile phones and now to tablets. Tomorrow we will have new gadgets with names and terms that are yet to be coined.

Use of new gadgets has made sure that communication preferences of people using them change. A person, who may be a company’s customer, expects a faster response for her customer service queries. Such changes are pushing companies to look for workforce that is efficient and can reply quickly.

It is hard to ignore the enormous shift in the way we work. Change at workplace can’t continue if both employers and employees do not believe that it is useful. Organizations are embracing it because obviously it works for them. Knowledge workers are also open to it – because it works for them too.

The Nature of Work Has Changed.

Work today has become increasingly:

  • Cognitively complex

  • Enabled by technology

  • Dependent on teamwork and collaboration

  • Flexible and less dependent on geography

Organizational Change Is Visible More than Ever.

Organizations today have:

  • Become less hierarchical

  • Increased focus on providing value to the customer

  • Less lifelong job security for employees

  • Attained agility to change or adapt to gain competitive advantage

There Is an Increased Emphasis on Work Life Balance.

The citizens of the world in 21st century lead a demanding lifestyle. They want to do more and have more –  more money and more time. In quest of “more” people stretch themselves and go out of balance. In situations like these they crave for work-life balance. Organizations also want their employees to be more productive so they make efforts to make sure that employees have enough flexibility and work-life balance.

Organizations offers more flexibility for women by providing benefits like on-site creche and longer maternity leaves. Some organizations allow people to bring their dogs to work. Then there are unusual perks like the ones offered by Bingham McCutchen. The law firm offers its Boston-based employees two box seats to a Red Sox game annually, including playoffs and championships.

Flexibility at Work – What It Means to Employers and Their Employees

Flexible pattern of work can help employers to:

  • Achieve optimum productivity

  • Reduce losses due to absenteeism, sickness and stress

  • Retain valuable employees

  • Boost employee commitment and loyalty

  • Increase the organization’s ability to deal with change

Employees also have their own reasons for preferring one pattern of work schedule over another. Some of them need to take care of the children, the sick or the elderly, and may not be available in certain shifts, or weekends. Other employees may want to study alongside work. For such people, the benefits of flexible patterns of work bring:

  • Greater sense of responsibility and control on work life

  • Improved well-being, less stressful life

  • Increased loyalty and commitment towards the organization

  • More time to focus on life outside work

  • Better relationships

The Role of Technology in Facilitating Telecommuting

The forward thinking companies understand that telecommuting is not only a perk for its employees but it is also beneficial for them as an employer. It can help reduce cost and improve employee productivity and happiness.

Automattic (creators of WordPress.com) and 37Signals (recently renamed as Basecamp) are the big telecommuting advocates. Both companies have inspired books about telecommuting as the future of work. 37Signals co-founders wrote “Remote: Office Not Required” and Automattic was the subject of the book “The Year Without Pants” by Scott Berkun.

They may be the biggest advocates but they are not the only ones. Several large organizations with much bigger employee base allow their employees to telecommute. Cisco, Baptist Health, Teach for America and Intel have more than 80% employees who telecommute on a regular basis.

The number of companies offering telecommuting options continue to grow.

As per a poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by independent research firm ORC International, a large majority of Americans believe telecommuting is a good idea for both workers and employers. The poll also found that 11% of Americans are currently telecommuting and another 16% have telecommuted in the past.

Telecommuting is powered by video conferencing, remote computing, cloud computing and several new innovative apps.

Remote computing software allows a person to control a computer from another computer at a different location.  Cloud computing helps a user access her files from any connected device. Small business owners can save money, and reduce maintenance hassles through cloud computing. This is why many small businesses are migrating to the cloud and experiencing benefits that were never imaginable. A recent study shows that in 2012, US-based small businesses used 4 cloud-based services on average, up from 1 in 2009. This number is expected to grow to an average of 7 cloud-based services by 2015.

Globalization – Benefits and Challenges

Today even the small businesses work and compete on a global stage. The key to survive and grow in such a scenario is to keep your team and consumers connected, even when they are in different time zones.

Globalization has advantages like the ability to hire the best of talent without geographical constraints.

At the same time, operating in an increasingly “flat world” is a challenge. The technological tools can help but only to an extent. Even with these tools, organizations need to communicate effectively across time zones.

For example, workers in different cultures may have different cultural beliefs and work practices. Virtual teams require new ways of working across geographical or cultural boundaries through systems, processes, and technology – guided by efficient and active leaders.

What Next?

Sooner or later, every organization will have to face this reality and embrace change. It makes sense to be an early mover and use technology to work with the best talent irrespective of their geographical location; and use it as a competitive advantage.

Are You a Part of This Change?

Do you lead an organization and believe in using technology and global talent as means of consistent growth?

If you are already moving ahead on this path then tell us about your story of transformation.

Image source: World Bank Photo Collection

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