Since last several years I have been consulting and advising my own clients. All this is while working remotely and often at my own timezones way beyond 9-5 . I never enjoyed working 9-5 or understood the concept of 40 hours work week. And since I have been doing my own work at my own schedule, I have realized I get more done, I am more satisfied, learning things faster, keeping my clients happier and I am hungry for more. Not to mention that money has followed, and family has been more contented seeing me around; did not have to worry about peer evaluations, annual bonuses, benefits and paid vacations.
My work / life style is not unique. I personally know many who are doing it and are happy. It is also not about the affordability. I know many who are stuck between work and life and wants to redesign their work-lifestyle. But theres a way of thinking that comes in the middle. Business are enabling and recognizing the mobility and what I am doing will be the future of how work culture will be around most of us. My friends who are focused on results, learning and personal growth will enjoy this new culture.
New technology has blurred the gap between working while vacationing, entertaining, traveling and many other private affairs. People get more work done without being co-located with teams, client or customers. I have been successfully working for clients whom I have yet to meet face to face. The new technologies have transformed how my work gets done and how my clients see the value of their investment. Although I and my clients have never met face to face, we are constantly connected, keep work at the core of our relationship, and meet (virtually) as often as work demands without feeling any phase lag, or challenges in between.
It won’t be a gross generalization to say that businesses today (than ever before) needs agility, flexibility and constant connectedness with their people, technology and customers. The pace of change, market demands, competitions is keeping everyone on high alert. Your employees should be very much part of the alert state, while liberated from old school work culture.
One particular moment that hit me personally about the mobile work style is while I was traveling/vacationing in Greek Islands last fall. This was a trip planned for many months in advance with friends and we had chartered an awesome sailboat for weeks to hop around the beautiful Greek Cyclades. It was hard at the time of planning to take a whole month off for this trip. I had never taken such a long trip away from work in my life. The psychological anxiety of staying out of loop has always made me keep the vacations shorter and close to home. But this time it was also important to stay connected because I have my own business where demands are unpredictable. But I took the chance.
I wanted to experience this once in a lifetime sailing trip with friends. At the back of mind I also wanted to experiment new ways of saying connected and doing the work. And I did. You can read more about the trip at — www.greekare.us.
I had no problem connecting from most of the Islands and communicating with my friends, family and clients. But surprisingly the coverage of internet was pretty adorable even when we were in the middle of water in our sailboat. I happened to sit on the deck with coffee and check my emails every morning. I would admit connectivity was not the perfect and price was not very cheap either, but this just shows the potential. I am sure time will bridge the gap by the time I visit Greek waters again next year.
My sailing trip to Greek Islands made me strongly believe that work can happen from anywhere and it will benefit individuals as well as businesses. I see offices mired with problems — group politics, status-quos, travel hassles, and unnecessary cost involved to both employees & businesses. My experience with remote working, especially while on vacation taught me something that is definitely coming up in future for everyone who admires work, but hates office culture. And, if you are considering enterprise mobility, you have to start with core — a new belief system.
While I was sailing and enjoying connectedness with the work, I came to realize many things. These are some of the points which fits the context —
Connected Intelligence: Most business today are in the business because of connected-intelligence that is balanced between customers, technologies and employees. You need to consider your employees connectedness as part of the whole portfolio and not just 9-5 and 40 hours a week concept.
Work Motivation: The need for employee connectedness does not necessary stop with those you have defined as “core-employees” to help you run the business operation. It must include those, if not all, who are required to be motivated, driven and have to think free and out-of-the-box.
Work & life blurry distinction: The distinction between work and fun is getting obsolete fast for people who are servicing knowledge economy which is 45% of the US work force as per some estimates. In this economy the work can hardly be defined as it used to be in the industrial era. Knowledge workers involve expertise, education or experience, and the primary job involves creation, distribution or application of knowledge. The quality standards, productivity and outcomes requires a very different drive and culture.
Poor experience from vacation: The conventional work culture and taking vacation (often forced one) does not work anymore. When an employee is off from work, he has to compensate when he gets back. This was the phenomenon why I hated being on the vacation, and hated coming back to work. Remember coming back to work after a week of vacation to open your inbox? This was dreadful for me.
Intrapreneurs: The concept of 9 – 5, and 40 hours a week is very old — industrial age old. It worked well on assembly lines when making widgets, and counting beans was the standard norm for productivity. People who are shaping the future and growing beyond their peers today are those who are constantly connected and know how to balance work/life balance. Employers are accepting more and more failures in order to learn fast. They expect more form employees and visa versa. Entrepreneurship is sought after quality (a.k.a. intrapreneurship) now then ever before from the individuals either working for self, or inside and establishment. And any organization that can’t provide these individuals the environment is ipso-facto obsolete.
Multi-tasking: The effects of multi-tasking and constant connectedness can adversely impact the performance if forced upon. There are recent studies criticizing the trend of multi-tasking and connectedness on individual performance. But these are gross generalization, and overrated. Worst, they undermine the potential of human evolution and gains by adoption of new technologies. As a business owner, one has to leave this choice to the individuals.
Psychological barriers: Connectedness means very different thing than what it meant 20 years ago — my old friends on the boat wondered how I work without being in the office and part of what people are talking around water cooler. Think again — this is not just a problem that some business managers think work happens only when people come together physically. There are also individuals who have psychological barriers justifying their contributions if they are not in the office.
Organizational dysfunction: If you are leading a team, here’s something to munch over– physical connectedness is becoming a problem and that is a cause of most of organizational dysfunctions. If you are dealing with organizational & cultural issues, experiment a mix with virtual connectedness. Try to find out what happens to the productivity (and organizational problems) when people are physically separated. You may realize why work is not getting done is because everyone is rubbing shoulders literally.
Business productivity: Most work can get done if businesses realize that conventional work rules (9-5/40 hours work week) needs to be broken down. They can take the advantage of time shifting work for 24 hours, 7 days a week around 365 days, by giving the freedom to their employees to work how they want to work. This can also be leveraged by having globally dispersed teams.
End goals: Allowing freedom to your employees can be liberating to both your business and individuals. This will solve some of the key problems — innovation, productivity and cultural issues; not to mention retaining employees while lowering cost.
I am different soul now after my discovery. I have been telling my friends and clients how to exploit technology in this new age and shape a better work culture. Everyone agrees that the end goals is freedom, work-life balance, doing things what we love. But there are few challenges — privacy & security, trust, and most of all the psychological mindset. I call it old school culture of work. But this is getting broken very very fast. Experts are giving it another 5-6 years, till 2020, when up to 50% of workforce will adopt this new work culture. I am bullish — it will be quite faster and will bring more people under its wrap. The technology and enterprise mobility trend will drive employers to not just recruit such professional (like me), but to groom their own employee base.
While researching for the topic, I would following sources to be very useful:
ARTICLE: Work-Life Balance Is A Lie, So Here’s a Better Way to Think About It. Read More.
ARTICLE: Pay People for Commitment, Not for Time or Results Read More.
IDEA: Travel with interesting people while working remotely http://www.remoteyear.com/
RESEARCH PAPER: Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials’ Organizational Relationships and Performance. Read more.
Prady is an UX consultant and advisor. He has helped many big organizations transform their business with modern technologies. He has helped building new products and modernize older technologies to help business grow. Prady been part of digital transformation of Sprint, Washington Post, World Bank, The Economist Group and many small & mid size firms. He advices clients on web, mobile & social media with strategies, product architecture and design.