What will work look like as the world gradually returns to increasing degrees of normalcy?
Language is powerful. Today thanks to my friend Gordon Bull for prompting me to consider new language for us to consider when framing the questions to ask of ourselves and those we lead.
How about this new term? Sometimes it is valuable to use existing words in a fresh combination or context, so what if we start thinking about what “Connected Working” can mean for all of us?
Why “Connected Working” ?
A few days ago, I wrote: “What comes next – will you go back to the office?“. In that post, I explored the idea of “Remote vs “Working from Home””, noting: “We’ve heard so many people say they are “working from home”, yet this contains within it an unconscious thought that their reality is that work is something you normally don’t do at home, instead you go to an office or other place of work.”
My point was to consider a “remote first” mindset, feeling this was a great way of looking at it. However, my friend Gordon Bull reflected that the word “Remote” could feel to people like working remotely means working in isolation to others. At this time of lockdown we all feel isolated in different ways and it is not a pleasant feeling, so to use the term “remote working” may not be the right phrasing.
Instead, what do we really want in work, both as humans and as business leaders seeking the most effective ways to achieve results and goals. What we want is: Connected Working
All humans want connection, all business leaders want people connected to each other and the resources they need in the most effective way.
The journey to the possibility of Connected Working
I noted in that recent blog that I’ve been working without a fixed office for 27 years now, always ensuring I remained connected and using the tools available to achieve that.
Back in the 1990s, I lugged my heavy portable computer around, hooked into ethernet networks, moved disks of data around. Yes, the internet arrived in the mid-90s, but it wasn’t really “fit for work” away from offices for at least a decade after that, so I spent a lot of time travelling to and fro. At that time I was involved with leading lots of businesses at once, so there was a lot of moving around and plugging into networks!
By the early 2000s, Blackberry gave workers the revolution in connected working that was receiving emails on their phone, but it wasn’t until 2010 and the release of the iPhone4 when mobile internet truly started to become “ready for business”. By 2010, however, beyond mobile phones, a few key developments changed the ways we could continue “connected working” at our computers while going into offices less and less:
- Ubiquitous high speed internet
- Simple video conferencing tools
- Cloud based computing
Going back to 2010, then, I was able to spend a lot of time in my study at home, equipped with fast internet, using GoToMeeting or Skype for video meetings, my files backed up not on hard drives but in the cloud on services like Dropbox.
In the decade since then, all of those developments have accelerated radically, yet the lack of actual acceptance and widespread use by business was still low (yes, only 3% of workers in the US before this pandemic could be classified as “working from home”!)
Connected Working in the time or Coronavirus
As I wrote above about the journey to connected working, I thought about “what if Coronavirus had come ten years earlier?”. Well, that it came in 2020 means that we have had far more available tools for connected working.
I have felt frustrated in the past at the reticence of businesses and leaders to even consider changing their working practices to allow more working outside the office (remember, only 3% of people were working from home before this). The crisis forced this upon us, there was no choice.
With that catalyst, we have learned in the last month and more that many are able to achieve “Connected Working” highly effectively, so every business is now looking for what has been learned and what they can apply.
What might Connected Working look like in the future?
This question brings us back to the power of the term:
Yesterday I wrote: “What can you do better online than offline?“, recommending that, as we move forwards, that when you consider online connection tools you think of them: “to not simply replicate what you do offline, but instead look to how we do things better online“.
Today, in considering the idea of “Connected Working”, the phrase itself has me ask you to think differently again. I said earlier that: “we want our people connected to each other and the resources they need in the most effective way.”
Connected to each other, connected to the resources they need, all in the most effective way.
Is it most effective for people to meet in person rather than online, whether individually or in groups? What are the tools they need and what do they need to access them?
Sometimes it will still be key for people to travel into an office, to meet in person, to use tools and resources in that location. Let us consider what is most effective.
Also, consider how you can innovate (do things differently and do different things) whether we choose connecting working online or in person.
I encourage you to consider this framing of “Connected Working” as you start to look to the future.
Oh, and ask everybody in your organisation. I talked recently about the power of the question: “what can you do to help?“. Well, this is perfect. Every single person will have learnings and ideas to contribute.
Now, how to ask it? I recommend a simple framing around Connected Working for the organisation to learn from everyone. Simply ask:
- Well. What went well?
- Different. What could have been different?
- Missing. What was missing?
Also published on Medium.