Expert analyst shares unique insights on The Way We Work in 2018… and beyond
The Way We Work 2018 – Topics Worthy of Discussion Series. Guest blog with Tim Banting – Part One of Two.
As part of our ongoing thought leadership research into The Way We Work 2018, we caught up with Tim Banting, Principal Analyst for collaboration and communications at Global Data Plc. Tim has offered some insightful and engaging responses in this guest blog (Part One below – stay tuned for Part Two next week!).
UNIFY: Our recent research shows that two-thirds of respondents are more satisfied with their work lifestyle than they were 5 years ago. Do you agree with this finding? What are your observations?
TIM BANTING: I think there is a very little separation between “work” and “life”- it’s not a case of balance - it’s a case of integration. Balance essentially, means “equal” and our always-on culture makes it challenging to create boundaries. Work-life balance implies on clear boundaries between work and life, whereas work-life integration acknowledges that boundaries no longer exist. Take the recent French legislation that came into effect at the beginning of 2017 - French companies with more than 50 workers are required to guarantee employees a “right to disconnect” from their emails outside office hours, to reduce stress and improve their work-life balance. Tokyo’s governor has ordered municipal employees to finish work by 8pm and anyone still at their desks will be subjected to “strict monitoring” by overtime prevention teams. German managers are forbidden by law from contacting staff while they are on holiday and a few major companies (BMW and Volkswagen for example) have restricted out-of-hours emailing as a result.
ROWE (Results Oriented Work Environments) are still not commonplace. In ROWE, employees can work whenever and wherever they want as long as their work gets done. Allowing employees to work remotely can have a positive impact on employee engagement and work-life integration; however, a recent report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that, for some employees, the ease of anytime/anywhere work can actually backfire. Remote workers tend to work longer hours and tend to blend personal and professional life, which can lead to higher levels of stress.
UNIFY: A majority of respondents indicated higher work satisfaction associated with some exposure and access to a traditional office setting (ideally up to 25% of the time). This was even higher for Millennials (up to 50% of the time). What do you think is behind this factor?
TIM BANTING: I think that many Millennials need the face-to-face support of experienced workers and they also feel they need to be “seen” to be working hard. Most Millennials are just starting their careers and would value the mentoring that only really comes through building a relationship with people in the office. We have also seen companies such as Yahoo and IBM realize that working onsite oftentimes fosters innovation. Also, not all Millennials are home-owners, but rather rent! Sometimes rental properties have restrictions that prevent them from remote working, or Millennials may not have the room to convert an apartment into office space. I also think trust is easier to establish with colleagues when you meet them regularly face-to-face. That is vital early on in your career, as is guidance as you're developing.
UNIFY: Do you believe that circa 2018, with modern collaboration tools in use (audio, video, text conversations, content sharing), we have overcome the potential for social isolation to inhibit employee productivity, satisfaction, and collaboration?
TIM BANTING: No. I still think many companies have an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude to employees. Few managers will check in with remote workers just to see how they are doing. Work relationships significantly change with remote working. While there is data indicating that remote workers can be happier and more productive than office-based colleagues, this depends on the person and the circumstances. Remote working has the potential for isolation and dissatisfaction; consequently, managers need to establish better rapport - this can be maintained by regular video meetings or office-based catch ups. However, relying solely on technology to collaborate with colleagues can still leave workers feeling disconnected.
If company culture doesn't cultivate connectedness between remote workers and office-based colleagues, remote workers are likely to feel like afterthoughts within their companies.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO of Tim Banting’s guest blog, coming here next week!