The End of the Workplace

August 15, 2018
“Can anyone tell me what a workplace – THE place where the work gets done – is these days?  The kitchen table can be a workplace. The coffee shop at 2 a.m. can be a workplace. The workplace is no longer a destination. It’s anywhere your people can do great work. And that work can also be done by people who aren’t traditional workers, who maybe freelancers and contractors living anywhere – people part of the Gig Economy. Today there is no monolithic workplace. And with unemployment at historically low levels, companies are really having to fight to recruit and retain talented workers. That means we have to accommodate that people work from any place and at any time. On my team, I have designers and writers and marketers – talented folks – who work all over the world. It’s fantastic, as long as I can keep everyone aligned around our goals. If I don’t do that often and clearly, things can get messy. The team can lose its way and begin spinning wheels. That’s why I work hard to keep everyone informed about what we’re doing and make sure they are collaborating effectively. Of course, we try to meet face-to-face, but those opportunities for in-person interactions are happening less often these days. So, all this means that we have to reimagine the workplace as a series of meet-ups with people largely working wherever they are most effective and comfortable. How terrific is that? And how much more productive this can be for the organization? Because the workplace has changed, we need to be flexible and allow employees to work in the ways that enable them to give us their best work – even if that happens at 2 a.m. We still want it. Now, that’s great for knowledge workers. But some jobs obviously don’t have a lot of flexibility like if you work in a factory or hospital floor, or have defined delivery schedules. Yet even there we’re seeing shift-trading and shift-sharing by people to better fit their lives. As long as the shift is covered, why should we care? But what doesn’t change is the need to convey information to those workers to make sure that everyone is focused. Things like: What are trying to accomplish? What are the new safety regulations? What are the new products or practices? This still all has to be covered – regardless of when people start or stop their shifts. The bottom line is that it’s still important to figure out how people can give us their best – and still live their lives. I am suggesting that you do not confine yourself to standards that come from a pre-mobile era. We now have all these wonderful digital resources available – resources that allow your company to become an employer of choice. When you are flexible and can accommodate your employees’ needs, you’ll get better performance from your people and they’ll stay with you longer. That’s a critical profitability driver at a time when talent has the upper-hand over employers. But there is one catch to this. To make it work, you and your C-suite team must be communicating with all of your people, regularly and effectively. You need to help drive success by defining goals. By articulating expectations. By honoring those workers who stand out. And by taking advantage of what our mobile age has made possible – to make the world your workforce. That means connecting with employees wherever they are, and in the manner that they prefer. If the workplace is wherever someone happens to be, then you better make sure you have a way to communicate with them. And today that usually that means on their mobile devices.
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