I know I touched the matter of how we (will) work before, but this is a topic that I find very important, particularly in times where culture and productivity are being put to the test by current Economy news- particularly in the Eurozone.
The New York Times today talks about Work-Life balance and how this is very tricky to achieve in the workplace.
The article brings solutions around delivering an honest communication – not just to supervisors but also to peers and direct reports- and around de-parenting and de-gendering the issue- ultimately it’s not about what you need to do in your life, we all have to do stuff.
And then there’s the true interesting point: accessibility and flexibility.
‘An effective work-life program is one where an employee gains flexibility while continuing to be responsive and accessible to colleagues and clients.’
I think this is very true, and culture and technology play a big role in this. I noticed it in my transition from NY to London..
The European work culture has been very much built to protect employees’ rights. In some Countries companies have more duties towards employees than the other way round. And there are reasons for that.
So when an issue like work-life balance emerges the tendency is to go for the ‘structural’ and ‘legislative’ solution: part-time laws, maternity and paternity leave laws, vacation days regulations, etc..
However these solutions do not solve problems in reality, as employees who benefit from them oftentimes lose career advances, are frown upon at work and in general can be accused of being less productive.
And in a Global economy, productivity wins, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong.
But what if you could pick up your kid at school and once at home make up for the tasks you left behind with a call or some remote work?
What if you could work from a sick relative’s house and have your conference calls and meeting through Skype?
There isn’t yet a culture for this, but technology can play a big role in creating one.
When moving from NY to London I noticed how companies technology systems are not built to encourage flexibility. They allow it, if you ask it (like me) or if you proactively organize yourself for it (I have all my work docs in my Mac, my Time capsule or the Cloud, but I’m a big exception).
If companies designed their systems to encourage people to be accessible and productive in flexible locations and moments, employees would be more accessible and productive. Simply because it’s a win-win situation.
I’m not at all advocating the elimination of adequate work legislation, but I do believe that if systems are designed to facilitate solutions you don’t need the legislator.
Companies have now more ways to measure employees’ productivity and results than simple office hours, maybe it’s time that we all leverage them.