The world is changing rapidly, especially in the workplace. As we move into the New Year, it’s a good time to consider the new ways of working that will be required for small business to survive and prosper.
Not long ago you could be born, live and die and never have to deal with anything new. You could live your whole life and never be exposed to a novel idea.
Now everything is changing. Even the rate of change is changing. Accelerating.
Do you think we’ll go back to the way things were, back to the good old days? Nope. The rapid pace of change is only going to continue. Every time you think you have something figured out, the rules of the game change.
That makes us anxious; that makes us want to have control over something. Workers have made that clear. The top non-financial benefit they want is flexible work arrangements.
And workers aren’t the only ones looking for ways to control their situations. A global, mobile economy with shifting market and financial forces—even changing decision-making processes—means companies have to shift their strategies.
In the 1800s people left their homes and farms to work in cities and factories. Today people are leaving downtown and offices for home. Occupancy studies show about 70 percent of workers are not at their desks. They're in meetings, with clients, checking email in coffee shops, finishing reports on an airplane or working at home.
Desk- and job-sharing, office hoteling, and other flexible work strategies are fundamentally changing the way we work. The focus has changed from work as a place to work as a result.
Corporate real estate visionaries, architects and even property managers are reinventing office buildings to accommodate the work that’s actually being done there. Offices are where people go to collaborate. Work that requires concentration is increasingly being done at home and “third places.”
The human resource folks have discovered that offering flexibility in where, when and even how people work is key to attracting and retaining talent.
Information technology leaders have found that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a new irresistible force. People want to use their own stuff—their iPads, iPhones and other devices. And if you don’t let them, they will anyway.
Managers, however, have been slow to adapt to this new way of working. Managing people in this brave new world requires more than “bed checks”—essentially assuming that presence and productivity are the same. Results-based management, something management experts have been encouraging us to use since the '50s, is the key to maximizing employee potential and the only real way to know if your people are productive. Without it, your managers are simply babysitting, not managing.
It's a Win-Win-Win
Getting people to change isn’t easy, but it’s a lot less scary if everyone, at all levels, can see what’s in it for them. So communicating the case for change goes a long way toward making a strategic shift less painful. Fortunately, everyone wins in these new ways of working.
Employees win. A typical employee can save from $2,000 to $7,000 a year by working remotely just half the time. They can reduce work-life conflict and stress, enjoy greater job satisfaction and a higher sense of accomplishment from increased productivity. They can improve their health and wellness, and reduce their environmental footprint. But perhaps the most valuable change comes from the new ways of measuring success that ensure results, not politics, determine advancement opportunities.
Managers win. New workplace strategies allow employers to significantly increase productivity. Industry experience shows productivity among employees with workplace flexibility is 15 to 55 percent higher than employees who are entirely office based. One Silicon Valley manager said it was like a “buy one, get three free” deal. Flexible work programs make it easier to provide 24/7 global coverage, help you find and keep the best people, reduce absenteeism and dramatically reduce space requirements.
Senior executives win. Continuity of operations in the face of storms, pandemics or terror is much easier to achieve with a dispersed workforce. But as the economy crashed, economics became key. Based on numerous studies, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that employers can save up to $18,000 per person per year with flexibility strategies that allow for remote work. The real payoff, though, is found in a Wharton School study that showed 3.5 percent higher equity returns in organizations with higher employee engagement.
As the year comes to an end, take a few moments to think—turn off the TV, put away your iPad, silence your phone, and think about what’s next. Worrying about today isn’t good enough.
Followers see what’s going on but stand idly by. Some people aren’t even watching. They’re the ones who’ll be scratching their heads in the years to come, wondering what happened. But leaders, successful business owners, see the handwriting on the cubicle wall and are implementing strategies to make their company agile.
Read more leadership and management articles.
Tom Harnish is a serial entrepreneur. Always on the bleeding edge of technology, he learned what works (and what doesn't) leading projects, products and companies to success (mostly). He can't play a lot of musical instruments.