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January 18, 2017 By Jim Somers

The Future of Work: Change Starts with the Individual

January 18, 2017

By Jim Somers

Read More from Jim Somers

January 18, 2017

The Future of Work: Change Starts with the Individual

By Jim Somers
Vice President of Marketing, Collaboration at LogMeIn

The below originally appeared on HR.Com


The nature of work is changing. Where we work (cubicle or home office), the tools we use (desktop or smartphone), and especially how we work together — has been revolutionized over the last decade by technology. But this change goes beyond advances in social media and workflow apps. The nature of work is changing because our mindset on work is changing.

The number of hours people work used to be the measuring stick for how “good” an employee was. But, time invested doesn’t necessarily equate to quality work, and companies (and countries) are recognizing that. Take Sweden, for example. The country launched a six hour work day experiment, in which participating Swedish companies shortened their work day by two hours, or 10 hours a week. The result: companies saw notable financial improvements, happier staff and lower turnover rates after implementing shorter work days.

The six hour work day experiment was a large-scale national initiative to transform working culture. While it was idyllic, Americans, who historically work more hours per week than anyone, can learn from Sweden’s experiment. Change needs to start gradually — and grow from there. Instead of shortening the work day, companies are adjusting their actual workspace. Some American companies have adopted the concept of an “open office,” for one, and untraditional office designs that allow for more creative, collaborative work spaces or fun features like slides, coffee bars and basketball courts. Flexible schedules and the rise of “digital nomads,” people who leverage technology in order to work remotely, have challenged the idea that work must be conducted between 9:00 a.m and 5:00 p.m within cubicles. Even the proposed U.S. overtime laws challenge the status quo of what is considered fair compensation.

While these initiatives help poke holes in our traditional workplace culture, the real impact comes when businesses start small. Here are tips to keep in mind when implementing change:

Focus on the Individual
It may sound trivial, but the first step in transforming your workplace as a whole starts with listening to the individual employees. Leadership has the greatest impact on employee engagement, yet  a 2015 Gallup poll found that only 35 percent of leaders are in engaged with their teams. So, it comes as no surprise that it can be difficult to really know what employees are thinking, what’s troubling them or how leadership can help address their concerns if the time hasn’t been put in to build a rapport with the team, one-on-one.

Ensure Changes Actually Benefit Employees
Often overlooked, it is important to take into consideration employees’ unique work situations when implementing change in the workplace. For example, does an employees work remotely or commute regularly to the office? If the sales team is frequently on the road, then a shortened workday won’t benefit them, but technology that makes it easier to collaborate with their team from their smartphone or tablet will. Think of it this way: No one asks an architect to design a building without providing the specs first, or a surgeon to operate without sharing all X-rays and medical records prior to an operation. Each employee needs to feel that the changes that happen in their workplace actually benefit them, whether it’s small like additional collaboration and workflow tools, or larger changes like flexible schedules.

Give Your Employees a Voice
People manage change differently. Some see it as a natural force in business and something that should be embraced to move forward, while others more prefer stasis and equilibrium in the workplace. Change is inevitable in business, so if you’re in a leadership capacity, be mindful that sometimes the best way to implement change is by giving your team the freedom to choose what works best for them. Changes to team structure or tools and technology can actually can increase productivity and employee satisfaction if your team felt like they had a say in the final decision. If change needs to happen in the workplace, ensure everyone has a chance to have their opinion heard.

As I said upfront, the nature of work is changing. It has been inevitable, since over the past 20 years we have seen unprecedented advancement in networks, processors, devices and applications that has made us more connected and empowered than ever before. It has been both liberating and scary at the same time – for individuals and businesses because the speed at which we can work is starting to surpass the speed at which we are able to work. To make up for it, work days are being stretched to keep up with the pace and demands, which is why team collaboration has become a hot topic. When individuals feel stretched, they look to colleagues and business partners to drive towards a common goal, together. Supporting this new reality with technology that enable frictionless collaboration will benefit everyone and enable organizations to reach the next plateau of growth.

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