The Way We Work 2018: Topics Worthy of Discussion Series
Guest blog with Atos Distinguished Expert Marianne Hewlett
As part of our ongoing thought leadership research into the way we work, we caught up with Marianne Hewlett, Senior Vice President and Member of the Scientific Community. Marianne has offered some insightful and engaging responses in this blog. Enjoy!
UNIFY: Our recent research shows that two-thirds of respondents are more satisfied with their work life style than they were five years ago. Do you agree with this finding?
MARIANNE: I would agree that in general more people are more satisfied with their work life style. However, to reach a better work life style, it is important that several key criteria are met:
- Time. You have the possibility to work flexibly, meaning that you can balance your time spending in the office (for face-to-face meetings) and working at home (for online calls and work that requires concentration, e.g. presentations, reports, etc.). It gives you the possibility to take care of personal stuff – for example picking up the kids from school, taking an elderly family member to the doctor, or doing your shopping.
- In an increasingly digital work environment the element of trust becomes even more important as you are no longer sit opposite each other at a desk and can see what each colleague is doing (or not doing). Therefor your manager needs to trust you to deliver the agreed output/work, you need to trust the team you work with for everyone to contribute to the project, and you need to trust your manager to acknowledge and appreciate your work.
- Having the right tools and support to enable a more flexible work life is key. Collaboration tools are great to work together remotely across functions and borders and offer a social chat to have a “virtual coffee moment” with your colleague. Digital workplace tools enable you to access files and information independent of location and device, allowing you to work on your projects at home, at work or “on the go” safely and securely.
UNIFY: Most 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?
MARIANNE: It is important to find the right balance between working remotely and in the office. We have seen some organizations switching to working 100% remote, only to change again to 100% back in the office. Neither is recommendable, a balanced approach will benefit both employee and organizations. However, work satisfaction means different things to different groups and individuals. Millennials are starting their career, and to progress they need to learn from others and be more visible. Spending more time in the office is therefore important, in order to meet people that can share knowledge and be seen by your peers and managers in order to be “spotted” when opportunities come along.
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?
MARIANNE: I believe modern collaboration tools really contribute to social collaboration and as a result increased productivity and wellbeing. By being able to work across time zones, country borders and functional silos productivity and creativity will thrive. However, it remains important to maintain a balance between digital and in person collaboration.
UNIFY: How do you see artificial intelligence and/or robots (software or hardware) influencing or impacting remote or home-based working? Or for those who monitor and manage remote workers?
MARIANNE: AI is going to have a very disruptive influence on the workplace, but it is not – like many fear – so much about job replacement. It is all about enhancing certain skills, increasing efficiencies and – most importantly – creating time. If AI can take care of the number crunching and providing insights, then that leaves time for humans what they do best; creative thinking and complex problem solving. It will be interesting to see what the impact will be on remote or home-based working. As AI and automation will remove most of the repetitive and administrative tasks, we have more time to be creative. And it is a well-known fact that creativity thrives when people come together. The environment where people come together (physically or virtually) will be a key success factor. Is it an inspiring environment, does it stimulate creativity, does it allow for brainstorm sessions? Perhaps physical environments will change from offices to nature; go for a team walk in the woods or have a brainstorm picnic in the park. Translating this into a virtual environment should be fun and interesting! I would imagine that virtual and augmented reality will have a key role to play here.
UNIFY: What do you think of the emergence of so-called “co-working spaces” for anywhere workers, freelancers, home-based and other sharing economy professionals to congregate?
MARIANNE: Great concept, it offers opportunities to network and to meet people from different backgrounds. Great melting pot for new and disruptive ideas and collaborations!
UNIFY: Are remote or home-based workers more vulnerable to security or hacking exposures? What are the implications for organizations to manage this potential exposure?
MARIANNE: The technology to do this is there, but most security issues arise due to human error. Therefor it is important to have clear security guidelines and procedures in place to allow for safe and secure home working. Training of staff is just as important as implementing the technology.
UNIFY: What unintended consequences of remote working have you seen?
MARIANNE: The best advice on remote working I received from a colleague and esteemed psychologist – if people find it difficult to work from home and create the “boundary” between now I am “at work” and now I am “at home” when physically you are in the same environment (e.g. at the kitchen table), then there is a simple action you could do. When starting work at home in the morning, put on your working clothes (not your lounge gear) and leave the house through the front door. A minute later you enter the house through the same door and make a mental note that now you are “at work”. Same thing at the end of the day. You leave the house through the front door and come back in a few minutes later. Now you change into your comfy clothes and are “at home”. It might seem funny but it does work!