Always on

clock watching

More for less – it’s been the holy grail of business for years. And yet – sometimes we don’t know it when we see it. Or rather when it’s there – it is the seeing that is the fundamental problem. Trust in management circles has generally relied on seeing what’s going on and reviewing what gets produced. The issue with a knowledge or virtual based economy is that the effective way to work is likely to be remotely, probably mobile and digital in nature, and hence invisible to the watching manager. And increasingly what matters, in a consumer world at least, is experience – it┬átrumps product or service and hence quite often outcome is more important than measureable output.

Why does all of this matter? Work – life balance – how to help people be more productive in work, and yet enjoy life. Mobile devices and enterprise apps are making this increasingly possible but the behavioural and cultural aspects are as ever the most intractable. Or at least they have been to date. For generations comfortable with texting their immediate neighbour rather than conversing, it shouldn’t really be a problem. Like so many things affected by digital we need to reappraise trust, metrics and accountability – after all the research has shown for years that except for mechanical tasks productivity increases with autonomy (Check out Dan Pink on the subject).

So fixing the old issue may be about technology and trust – but what about the new? Do we really understand what working remotely, when it suits you, without an office, really looks and feels like? I’m intrigued by Hoffice, a Swedish start up which is encouraging people to get groups of individuals at their homes – with a structured approach to working with timed breaks, coffee and encouragement to achieve rolled into the package.

As with so many things digital, the technology is only part of the issue – our own instincts and needs, the support and issues of working relationships, the trust and clarity of what good looks like in terms of outputs or outcomes are all key to long term success. And as the Internet of Things takes off I suspect that life is going to change again . . . .