Towards a better balance in the future of work

The temptation to make the new world of work a digital reflection of the old ways of working still exists, so it will take time to find the right balance. And really realizing the potential of asynchronous remote and hybrid working practices will take some imagination.

Digital presenteeism is not your friend

That’s the meaning I get from the latest report on the future of work to cross my desk. It’s from Qatarlog and GitLab and explains how employers who insist on a 9-5 hour workday in the digital age reduce productivity and increase turnover with little return on investment. Digital presenteeism, insisting that people are at their desks at set times, eats away at the work/life balance employees seek and doesn’t really get the job done.

Think of it this way. Once upon a time, workers would come to offices to sit quietly at their desks for eight hours a day while trying to look busy. Management could monitor what people were doing, call staff into ad hoc meetings to create a bit of friction and scare others into working harder, and sometimes even showed up to the office themselves.

That started to change as Apple, iPhone and iPad showed the potential of mobile technology to transform the way we work, but it took a leap forward when the pandemic hit. A decade of digital transformation unfolded in a matter of weeks.

Some employers continue to insist on a rigid 9-5 work culture, even when working remotely. Combined with strict hierarchies and the use of multiple remote work tools, this creates a “pervasive culture of digital presenteeism”.

At work 24/7? No thanks

The problem, according to the research, is that 54% of employees feel pressured to always appear online and visible. Yes, they may seem to work harder for recognition, but some of that effort, like attending extra meetings or answering emails late at night, means they add an average of 67 minutes to their workday ( most of which are unproductive). This effort, overtime, and the challenge of managing seemingly endless app notifications means workers are stressed, concentration is dulled, and productivity can plummet.

Don’t discount a recent Corel survey that suggested companies are relying on the wrong tools most of the time. Companies need to think hard to make sure the tools they provide are good enough for workers to use.

The authors of the report argue that employers should take their thinking a step further and learn to embrace flexibility, not only in terms of where people work, but also in terms of when. They point out that technology means workers can do their jobs almost any time of the day, which means coordinated hours are becoming an anachronism.

“Ten years from now, we’ll think back to that time and wonder why asynchronous work seemed so difficult. Those who succeed over the next decade will have an iterative mindset, an empowered team, and a penchant for action,” writes Darren Murph, GitLabs Remote lead.

Wake up and Embrace Change

It should be noted that the principle of coordinated working hours in offices grew out of work patterns in factories at a time when technology for business was primarily an in-person exercise. Yet, as anyone who’s been through the pandemic knows, knowledge workers don’t work that way anymore‚ we’re asynchronous, distant, and international.

In many ways, this change in expectations is not a change at all. Knowledge work has always been marked by a sense of asynchronicity. People meet, talk, come to an agreement, then go off to work in small groups or alone. What has changed is that 65% of workers now have and expect more flexibility to decide when they work.

[Also read: How to set up and use Focus modes on iOS 16]

It’s time to get the right apps

One of the most annoying and predictable challenges remote workers face is the tools they are asked to use. On average, workers have 6.2 apps sending them notifications at work, and 73% of them respond to those outside of work hours, further eroding the divide between (asynchronous) work time and work time. personal time. This means that more than half (52%) of workers struggle to disconnect, and this is compounded by habits of digital presenteeism. A worker may find that he is doing his job at the times most convenient for him, but still feel compelled to pretend to be present the rest of the time as well.

To be fair, managers are also feeling the pressure, with more 70% feel exhausted as they struggle to deal with so much change. One could argue that inflexible management practices constitute an inarticulate cry for help, although this may be overstated.

To reach these conclusions, the report’s authors spoke to 2,000 knowledge workers (those who use a computer or laptop more than 50% of the time for work) in the United States and the United Kingdom. “The concept of ‘time’ at work is dead. We don’t know yet,” the report explains.

The takeaway from all of this should really be clear: nowadays it’s less important to choose your time, and far more important to clearly define and communicate your goals if you want to deploy highly productive and highly motivated teams.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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