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Are you ready for new work styles?

Published July 27 2015
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A question comes up regularly in recent years, namely, why we still perpetuate the downtown model with office towers. The completely congested roadways that, like the Groundhog Day guide, all employees anxious to get to their office space every day. Find a crowded parking area, take the crowded elevator to occupy a few floors above the office space with neon lights. It is somewhat incomprehensible that this work style still exists in 2015.

Today, far more than we think, our children have joined the digital economy virtual spaces. Since a very young age, they play online games no matter where they are, share information via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or converse via Skype, FaceTime or using courier texts and all without having to travel or meet while the average worker has to travel every morning to get to the office.

Unlike their children, office workers know very little about how to use all this technology which already occupies a prominent place in their daily lives. They have barely negotiated the technological shift that is offered. They have not adhered to the new working styles that are emerging in certain places even though they do not operate machinery, do not work with motorized vehicles or handle industrial parts. In fact, office workers essentially manipulate data (names, addresses, numbers). Historically, data were filled on paper forms or documents. These were grouped in folders or binders stored in the famous metal cabinets or vaults. Technology has changed the data gathering, processing and storing, but work styles did not adapt to technology.

However, it is possible for these workers to do their job without physically report to the office. The technologies are now available and inexpensive to implement. They allow the performance of most tasks no matter where the workers are. Several small businesses have become virtual organizations by adopting new work styles. Large companies such as TELUS, Oracle, Best Buy also undertook this change and now offer their employees new work styles. The benefits are numerous: significant reduction of operating costs, positive impact on retention and attraction.

We are not talking here of working at home on Friday afternoon while maintaining an office in town! The direct annual savings are estimated at more than $10,000 per employee (reduced office space cost, improved absenteeism, increased productivity).

And the benefits for employees are many expense reductions related to transportation (between  $2,000 and $5,000 annually), reduced ecological footprint, lower commuting hours (between 1-2 hours a day) and especially improved quality of life.

Of course, there are several conditions to new working styles. First, senior management courage and, second, management maturity! Management should not believe that if they see their employees (I see you, you see me) then everybody is working!