Tonight on the HR Happy Hour show we will be talking about Work/Life 'Fit', and how organizations, specifically the HR professionals in organizations can better understand how to design, implement, and measure the success of workplace flexibility programs. Our guest will be Cali Yost, of the FlexStrategy Group and WorkLife Fit, Inc., writer at Fast Company, and an expert on workplace flexibility
In preparation for the show, I thought to write a 'Technology for Flexibility' kind of post, digging in to some of the many available technologies that organizations have and can bring to bear to better support more flexible, and in many cases more virtual work. Technologies like Google Apps for e-mail and office-type productivity, DimDim for fast and cheap screen sharing and web conferencing, and Socialtext for content creation and collaboration, internal microblogging, etc. There are scores of solutions ranging from crazy expensive, to 100% free, and everything in between.
But then I thought, the problem for (most) organizations and HR professionals that may be wrestling with the decision of how, or even why to implement more flexible working arrangements (that often have an element of remote working to them), has almost nothing to do with the technology. Even I, as a technology person, have to admit this. Most large organizations have already embraced the kinds of technology solutions necessary (VPN, company-issued smartphones, web conferencing, collaborative online workspaces) to encourage more workplace flexibility. In fact, some would argue that these solutions have indeed created the kind of flexibility that the organization desires, employees are 'working' when they are at work in the office, and they can continue to be tethered to 'work' when they are not in the office.
That is the ultimate in flexibility is it not? No matter where you are, work is right there too. Sort of like that nagging bug you pick up after you get stuck next to 'Mr. Coughing the Entire Flight Guy' on your last business trip.
To better underscore the point that technology is only a (small) part of better and more evolved workplace flexibility strategy and execution, consider this quote from author and speaker Gil Gordon in a speech given at a Telework conference:
The technology for telework is very good and continues to get better. This does not mean it is perfect, or that it is always the right price. But the best news is that we have plenty of technology - hardware, software, and telecommunications - to allow telework to be effective.
I have seen many of my US clients having a difficult time trying to select from among this big list of technology. There are too many laptops, too many kinds of remote-access solutions, and too many kinds of applications software. What is needed is a way to create packages of tested solutions for various kinds of telework situations.
Gordon goes on to note later in the speech that 'culture', not technology is the true barrier to increased adoption of telework in organizations:
In many cases we have failed to recognize this kind of integrated, connected aspect of telework, and we have also failed to recognize that the very culture of an organization changes when we start to change some of its parts. The very best telework programs I have seen are the ones that involve a lot of planning to consider these cultural changes, and also anticipate what else in the organization must change for telework to succeed in the long term.
By the way, these quotes was from a speech made by Gordon in 1999! We will figure it out eventually I am sure.
So if we believe the basic points of Gordon's talk, that increased adoption of flexibility (at least in the form of telework arrangements) as far back as 1999 presented not a technical barrier, but a behavioral one, then drawing up a list of all the myriad technologies that are available that could support increased flexibility adoption seems a bit like a waste of effort.
We know these technologies, we have them already, in fact we have too many of them. Many of you are walking around with 90% of the 'technology' you need for increased workplace flexibility in your back pocket, (or in a belt holster if you are this guy).
So for once, on a technology blog, I will agree that at least this time, it is not about technology at all.
I hope you can join in the fun, tonight at 8PM EDT on the HR Happy Hour show.