Workplace of the Future: Mobile Collaboration
By Tori Garten
The impact of Mobile technology can be seen popping up in a variety of places, first as one off successes, adding up to a tidal wave of change on how we do business, and how we expect to do business. As mobile technologies impact real world problems we should start to consider how we can take advantage of these tools in our everyday work lives.
As mobile technologies improve, so does the opportunity for greater teleworking opportunities. Recently supervisors were required to identify all employees’ telework status; the The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 actively encourages teleworking to provide “greater flexibility in managing our workforce.”
Moving from Portable to Collaborative
The emphasis in the past for teleworkers has been on identifying work that is portable, and to some extent individual or independent work. Looking backwards, this emphasis made sense. We had to trust employees to work when out of sight – managing by work product rather than by clock. The emphasis has been on work best done without interruption and to not negatively impact the work of others in the office. The work had to be individual and independent work and portable as well. The reality being that in the past it has been challenging to access internal systems that one might use during a “regular” day in the office.
It is fascinating that the push for telework comes in conjunction with a movement towards more collaborative work. No longer is the independent/individual /portal work the only work that needs to be accomplished while teleworking. Perhaps “mobile working” is a better word for what is starting to occur in the workforce. Telework implies a sense of separateness and detachment – that portable and independent aspect. But todays work requires collaboration. Works is done by teams solving complex problems – “They require a variety of skillsets, perspectives and approaches” (Harvard Business Review).
It is no coincidence that mobile working and the expectation for mobile working are increasing as the millennial or gen y’ers enter the workforce. It is the perfect storm impacting the workplace today. There is no doubt that the workplace of tomorrow will be significantly different.
So what do we need to do to ride the wave of this perfect storm without drowning? We need to recognize these forces bearing down on us, and help our agencies and our coworkers to take advantage of these new tools, to seek out new tools to support a virtual office environment, to not accept the status quo. We need to identify the issues and barriers to success and one by one knock them down.
A few ideas:
- Conference calls too hard to hear? Perhaps microphones hanging from the ceiling instead of the Polycom phone on the table that picks up every tapping finger and flipping of notes.
- Setting up a conference call burdensome and process heavy? What about checking out using Skype?
- Mobile worker can’t see the slides? Make it standard that a web meeting is used so screens can be shared.
- Develop an office norm that all documents, meeting notes, presentations, and other collateral resides on a collaboration environment where it can be accessed remotely and keeps email from becoming a filing cabinet.
- Provide for online chat functionality that substitutes for those office drop-ins and hallway conversations.
- Allow 5 minutes at the start of the conference call for chit chat and office banter.
- Take a look at mentoring programs – consider two mentors - older mentor for business wisdom and a younger mentor for how to use today’s technology in an everyday way.
- Take advantage of the knowledge of those younger workers and ask them to develop a mobile working toolkit for less tech savvy employees.
Our mission to improve the health of American citizens is not a 9-5 job, and health improvements don’t just take place in an office environment. We should be able to work efficiently, effectively and completely from anywhere, at any time.
Of course face time is important and we shouldn’t expect to work completely remotely. Virtual teams in the commercial world find value in getting teams together a few times a year. We need to keep that element, but we may need to supplement it with workplace social networking tools. Look for a future blog post on the topic of workplace social networking tools and maintaining office culture for mobile teams.
What are some ways you have found to improve the quality of mobile working? What tools are you using to support and improve mobile working and collaboration?
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