Re-Imagining Workflows and Business Processes

How adoption of virtual offices combined with workflow and system architecture improvements can help remote workers.

A few years ago Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer of Microsoft UK, published his ideas on his philosophy of “Flexible Work” in his book Business Reimagined. His thoughts, (which you can watch in a captivating RSA Animated short video below), center around the basic idea of empowering employees to choose the best location in which to perform their work. This doesn’t just mean working from home, either -- although home can potentially be the best place depending on the type of work. For those tasks that require a minimal level of distraction, or for which the employee needs an environment conducive to deep-thinking or meditation, a home kitchen or a library are excellent retreats. In other words, work requires collaboration with peers or interaction with clients. In these cases the office or a restaurant are more appropriate settings.

We no longer live in a world where employees must by necessity congregate to the same place at the same time in order to participate in work activities. For the average knowledge worker, work is no longer isolated to places wherein are housed the essential tools, networks, or infrastructure. Rather, work can be accessed from practically anywhere, and there are dozens of platforms and applications which connect employees in ways which were previously unimaginable. By implementing a culture of flexible work, corporations and employees alike reap the benefits. Employees are given the freedom and convenience to choose where and what work is appropriate at any given time or place, which improves morale and leads to a better work/life balance and improved happiness overall. The corporation at large benefits from these happier employees because happier employees are more loyal and productive. Beyond the happiness benefits, employers will appreciate the flexible work philosophy because more and better work is getting done. The right kind of work is being done in the right kind of place and that means both higher quantities and qualities of work.

Seems like a win-win, right? And yet many companies encounter obstacles in the implementation of this philosophy. As Coplin explains, all the disparate obstacles to implementing a culture of flexible work essentially boil down to issues of trust. These trust issues are experienced in different forms by employers, co-workers, and the individual employee. First, employers are wary because allowing their employees to work flexibly means that they can’t always see what their employees are doing. And if they can’t see their employees, how can employers know that their people aren’t just punching in and checking out? Similarly, employees tend to wonder about those that they can’t see, and are prone to suspect their fellows of lack of dedication. Perhaps worst of all is the guilt experienced by the employees who work outside the office. Coplin reports that one in three employees who work flexibly experience some level of guilt that they’re not in the office and compensate by making more phone calls and sending more email in effort to stay visible and appear busy. These are real problems that must be overcome if individuals and corporations ever want to reap the benefits that come from flexible working. At TECHeGO, we’ve implemented a few strategies that allow every member of our team to comfortably work from any location. These strategies range from culture to business architecture. They’re strategies that I didn’t fully understand when I first started as a Workflow Architect, but which I now can’t do without.

Having the right system architecture is incredibly important. Our internal Podio system is designed to provide maximum transparency into every aspect of our work. Every punch we make is organized by client, project, deliverable, billing cycle, and milestone. It is always clear exactly how much time is being spent on every aspect of every client’s projects. This not only means that we can report with incredible accuracy exactly how long we’re spending on architecture, buildout, automation, etc., but also that it’s always clear who’s doing what and when they’re doing it. Wanna know what someone’s working on? Check their punches. Want to check the progress of a client’s project? Check the punches. With this kind of a system in place, an employer need only activate notifications on employee punches to track how business is being done throughout the day. This kind of a system can also show the areas in which employees struggle. Simple reporting tables can tell an employer that hypothetical Bert spends 2.5 hours longer on automation per project than hypothetical Ernie. Training and performance reviews can then be tailored to address areas of the employee’s actual performance.

Some people might be a bit put off by this level of transparency. However, At TECHeGO, we have culture of full disclosure. We’re a Scrum company, which means that any employee is welcome to attend any meeting they want. We also have a daily stand-up meeting during which every employee discusses what work they did the previous day, what problems they encountered, and what they plan to complete before the next meeting. These strategies mean that everyone is always on the same page. Everyone knows what everyone else is working on. Everyone knows who needs help, who needs privacy, and where they can pitch in for the good of the company. Full disclosure gives everyone a chance to shine and to show their commitment to each other and TECHeGO. As professional problem-solvers, we often have to find creative ways to address situations. Our culture of flexible work helps each employee unlock their potential by allowing them to work wherever they need to and providing all the tools and help necessary. All employees, including our leadership, make themselves available at any time for any concern. In this way the full weight of our collective experience goes into every project and endeavor.

These are just a few of our strategies that afford our employees and leadership the trust in each other necessary to make flexible working both possible and profitable. If any of our processes or strategies interest you, please reach out to us -- we’d be happy to go over ways we can help implement similar changes in your business. We’d also be more than happy to hear your feedback. Let us know what you do that makes flexible working possible for your business. We look forward to hearing from you!

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