Mobile Technology and Its Effect on a Flexible Work Schedule
I would like to focus on a specific change that has led to serious friction between management and their staff: Mobile Connectivity.
Take a step back, for a moment, and try to remember that it hasn’t even been 10 years since the iPhone was introduced into our world.
The emergence of the smart phone and, more importantly, the freedoms its technology brings, has flipped the business world on its head, fundamentally changing the way we work.
It’s also pitted the old, reliable “Toyota Camry” of the current management world, against the shiny, new, “Tesla Model 3” of the up and coming leaders of tomorrow, in a philosophical, staffing and retention “Battle Royale”.
There are hundreds of examples of how having the all in one, all encompassing, mobile mini office in our pockets has changed the way we think about work, allowing us a flexible work schedule.
Believe it or not, there was once a time when, in order for you to check your emails and communicate with your staff, clients or coworkers, you had to be sitting at your desk; Bum in Seat (No, we aren’t going back to the days of overworked secretaries, taking dictation and snail mailing communications all day).
This invisible restraint system, as I’ll call it, started to extend its length with the advent of the mobile phone (ask your managers, I’m sure they would be happy to tell you of the wild west that was 1995).
It extended even further with the introduction of secure email exchanges through the 90’s and 00’s, seen most famously in the RIM Blackberry (or crackberry as some hilariously and accurately dubbed them).
But, the real game changer came with the wonders of the smart phone. However, with change came resistance, and one can clearly see that in today’s business world.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of people are barely through wiping the sleep from their eyes before they are on their device (checking emails, sending important documents or sending text messages) employers are hard pressed to recognize when a person started their work day.
It begs the question, “Where should an employee physically be in order to be counted as present or on the clock”?
Ask any employee if they are recognized and/or compensated for answering an email at 11 pm on a Tuesday, or dealing with an emergency phone call on a Sunday while at their kids’ soccer game, or even reviewing important documents at 6 am from their…err… bathroom. The answer is “no”.
Now, ask them if they can just take a day off when they want, or work from home during business hours and the answer is a resounding “no”, as well.
So, in here lies the problem.
We have arrived at a place where it is expected that we are reachable at all times, unrecognized for willingly staying available, AND expected to adhere to standard business hours, punching clocks for 40+ hours a week.
Innovative Staff Management
Now there are several examples of forward thinking companies, many of whom have been celebrated and covered in the media for their innovative staff management, wellness techniques, and flexible work schedule.
A great example is Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group. His philosophy is what the leaders of today should be endorsing.
“Flexible working gives people the freedom to take care of business the best way possible for them. It’s time for that all business leaders realize: if you treat people like the smart and capable adults they are, they will make smart and capable decisions that will benefit your business “.
Mobile Workplace Revolution
But the majority of companies are still struggling with the mobile work place revolution. The main reason for this issue is the philosophies of those who are currently in leadership positions.
Managers in today’s business world cut their teeth and developed their management techniques and expectations prior to the mobile technology revolution.
They struggle with new mobile work concepts expected from today’s workforce. The “If you ain’t at your desk, you ain’t working” mentality is still prevalent in today’s leaders.
In support of that long held belief, there are undoubtedly fantastic and measurable benefits to staff (especially young, inexperienced staff) being present in their work environments.
Socialization, sponge learning, mentorship, motivational influence, and more, are all relevant and necessary for the growth of an employee. Ask anyone what type of meeting is more powerful and valuable, and they will all tell you that “in-person” meetings are still, by far, the most valuable and productive.
I’m not saying that the value of being at a desk, in a work environment, surrounded by co-workers, doesn’t exist, I’m just saying that expectations need to adjust to accommodate the needs of today’s “freedom oriented” work force.
Freedom Oriented Workforce
On the other side of the argument, you have a generation of workers, who have grown up with technology, who have been utilizing the MANY mobile technology benefits for years.
They are a little taken back when dealing with co-workers and managers who have never used technology like DocuSign, Facetime or cloud based storage. They quickly figure out that much of their work doesn’t require them to be physically at work, or even worse, doesn’t require an 8-hour day and they are bored.
Some of them even work at companies where social media and YouTube are banned on their work computers.
The other group of disenfranchised workers are the tech savvy sophomores. They are confident and capable and can make excellent cases for wanting a more flexible work schedule. I often meet these types of people when they are looking for their next opportunity, and almost all of them are looking for a role that allows them more freedom to work remotely.
Many of these types of people are even willing to accept less salary or less opportunity in order to gain the flexible work schedule. There is an army of talented, educated and qualified candidates out there for companies to take advantage of.
Those that figure out how to utilize existing and future mobile technology AND develop management policies to match them will have a recruitment and retention advantage.
My prediction is that companies who find the balance and can adapt to the needs of today’s worker will end up attracting and securing the best and brightest talent.
By putting greater emphasis on work accomplished rather than hours served, employees are more likely to try to achieve targets rather than just watching the clock until closing time.
Those companies that don’t will suffer from hiring and retention issues.
This issue is only going to become more prevalent, and it is up to today’s top leaders to address it and start building policies that support it.