The Way We Work 2018: Topics Worthy of Discussion Series
Unify Experts Panel Discussion - Part 1
For our final installment in the Topics Worthy of Discussion series, we’ve invited four of our esteemed Unify experts to offer their views on evolving work lifestyles and the future of work. Before we start, let’s meet our expert panel:
Paulo Graça, Lisbon, Portugal
“I help successful companies transform to create an agile and secure digital workplace in which employees can thrive”
Stephen Carr, Boca Raton, USA
“I provide Cloud Infrastructure Architecture and Design of next generation voice and multimedia switching products implementing Voiceover IP.”
Karen Miller, Chicago, USA
“I am a Solution Engineer serving Public Sector and Global Accounts. I’ve worked directly with our customers throughout my career to provide them with successful technology solutions for their business.”
Tony Rich, Hampshire, UK
“My role at Unify is Head of Vertical Solutions, with a love for the Healthcare sector.”
Topic 1: Our recent research shows that two-thirds of respondents are more satisfied with their work life style than they were 5 years ago. Do you agree with this finding? What are your observations?
Paulo: The world has changed a lot in the past years and the evolution of collaboration tools made it more practical and effective to be working in different environments outside the office space. For many companies, working from home is now considered the default while going to the office is the exception.
Stephen: I agree. The flexibility of work lifestyle is probably what people appreciate the most. For example, the ability to work from home when necessary means that I can be there to take a delivery, or have a plumber or electrician come, and not have to take time off work. Even though I prefer to go to the office 90% of the time, it’s useful to have that ability. Also, the ability to collaborate with colleagues in Europe is much easier if I can take conference calls at home at 6am, and then go to the office later - that really helps and is good for the company too.
Karen: Yes, I appreciate and enjoy being an anywhere worker more than ever, so I imagine others do as well.
Tony: I think yes, to a degree - but I also wonder is that more because of economic reasons?
Topic 2: 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 it behind this factor?
Paulo: I'm a full-time home worker because the Unify office is 500km away from where I live. But, I do feel the need for face to face interaction and going to the office at least once a week would be a nice option. Atos has an office in Lisbon, and although there is no one from my division there, I'm considering going there more often. And possibly, Millennials need more guidance and support, so they will go to the office searching for mentoring and feedback on their work.
Stephen: Personally, I could not be a 100% home worker. I'm sure most people appreciate the social aspect of work, which require access to an office setting. The ability to talk face-to-face, water cooler conversations, informal lunch conversations are all possible in the office, but much less so in a home worker setting. And, I'm pretty sure Millennials are also wanting that social aspect of work.
Karen: For many, there is joy in connecting with coworkers in person. Problem solving, white boarding and face-to-face sharing creates and reinforces bonds and can lead to more ideas and sharing. Access to an office part time also facilitates after work bonding, lunches out and through these, more experiences are shared. Although many of these can be done remotely, many feel bound to the calendar and feel that spending 15 minutes on a "non- scheduled" meeting a luxury.
Tony: Socializing among people in the office is important to the younger employees, and that does not occur as much with remote working. We tend to forget that the human being was a pack animal and that still exists in a social form today – we need contact with others (some more than others).
Topic 3: 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?
Paulo: Yes, but only partly overcome because empathy is something you can create when face to face very quickly but may be much more difficult over remote collaboration tools, regardless of how modern they are.
Stephen: I think for sure that collaboration tools such as Circuit overcome isolation, and Circuit really helps with the hybrid homeworker/office setting. For mobility – I like the ability to start a call at home, transfer to cell phone and get in the car to go to work and complete the call in the office. Collaboration tools really help to overcome the isolation, but I personally think the optimum will always be a balance between home working and office setting for the reasons above.
Karen: I don’t believe we have fully overcome the potential for social isolation yet. While collaboration tools are awesome, working remotely (usually at home) means longer days – I check my email first, then get coffee, and before you know it half the day is gone and still no shower. This is what I hear from many coworkers, so unless there is a "video" meeting scheduled some prefer not to use video on a regular basis. Home workers can work longer hours because there is no commute time and not as much employee chit-chat or scheduled lunch hours. And when working with multiple time zones, it’s very easy for one’s day to be fully scheduled. Remote workers may miss the fun events scheduled at corporate offices that they are not able to attend. However, like in office staff, we’ve started scheduling “virtual coffee” with coworkers which helps us to stay personally connected.
Tony: Collaboration tools are not really a replacement for the office, if only used to reduce cost and stop employees from integrating in physical office environment. There are times when a face to face is far more productive than a virtual collaboration, that room full of minds spark side conversations and then they come to the fore, that rarely happens virtually. The same applies to social isolation I occasionally just reach out to colleagues and have a virtual coffee break, but many won’t.
Read Part Two of this blog by clicking here.