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Smart Leaders Don’t Just Tolerate Distributed Work; They Embrace It

Working RemotelyOne of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35 percent of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending almost as much time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, airports, and planes, trains, and automobiles.

Today, according to Forrester Research, more than thirty-four million U.S. workers are spending one or more days a week in nontraditional work locations. That’s over 24 percent of a nonfarm workforce that currently totals approximately 140 million. Forrester predicts that by the end of 2016 the distributed workforce could reach 63 million, or over 40% of the total nonfarm workforce. And it’s worth pointing out that many agricultural workers are also highly dependent on mobile technologies, even if we don’t normally think of them as part of the “remote” workforce.

Why is workforce mobility growing so rapidly and becoming the accepted way of working in so many industries? Read more

Five Simple Rules for Making Distributed Meetings more Effective

Know The RulesMost of us today spend more time in meetings with people who are somewhere else than we do with our colleagues down the hall. And while most of the “rules” for leading face-to-face meetings also apply equally well to distributed meetings, the situation is clearly different.

In many distributed team situations the members live far away from each other and/or the central office. They may never have met in person, or they may see each other only occasionally.

When team members are not co-located, they typically have relatively independent personal lives and social-support systems. Realistically, they just don’t have a lot in common beyond their work. They go to different churches, synagogues, and mosques; they participate in different local town events; their children attend different schools and participate in different sports programs. And they just don’t bump into each other at the grocery store or on commuter trains and buses.

If you are leading a distributed team you need to take that reality into account, and to plan and lead your conference calls differently than you do when everyone is in the same room.

Here are five simple rules that will make your distributed meetings both productive and popular: Read more

Making Distributed Meetings Matter

Distributed MeetingOn the eve of IFMA’s annual World Workplace conference, which I am attending this week in Denver, it seems appropriate to think for a moment about meetings that don’t take place in a “place.” I’m thinking of course of meetings where everyone is somewhere else – what most of us call “distributed” meetings.

One distributed meeting practice I hold very dear is this [New Rule]: Do not schedule a “mixed meeting” unless there is absolutely no alternative.

A mixed meeting is one that includes two or more people in the same place plus one or more others calling in from somewhere else.

I’ve almost never seen a mixed meeting go well; some organizations actively prohibit them – if anyone is participating remotely, everyone calls in, even when some participants are located close together. Read more

Andy Curry of Business Innovators Radio Interviews Jim Ware

Biz_Innovators_LogoJim Ware was  featured in a Business Innovators Radio interview by host Andrew Curry, published on September 22, 2015.

Our 17-minute conversation about flexible work, managing remote workers, and leading effective meetings is available at this link:

Business Innovators Radio – Interview with James Ware – Professional Speaker.

We welcome your comments, reactions, and further questions. [continue reading...]

How Can I Manage Them When I Can’t See Them?

Happy entrepreneur working with a phone and laptop in a coffee shop in the streetAs early as 2002 one of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35% of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending another 30% of their time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, and airports.

Think about that: a full two-thirds of knowledge work now takes place outside of corporate facilities. That sounds like a strikingly large number, but I and many others have conducted numerous studies clearly demonstrating that organizational work today is widely dispersed across many different kinds of locations. Most of us today act as if it doesn’t matter whether the people we are in conversation with are across a desk, across the room, across town, or on another continent.

Yet one of the most common complaints I hear about letting local employees work remotely even just a day or two a week is “How can I manage them if I can’t see them?” Read more

Creating Community

The most expensive part of a workplace is the salary of the person who occupies it.

(Kevin Kampschroer, Director, Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, General Services Administration)

Woman at desk

I am optimistic that the facilities world is gradually getting beyond purely physical measurements of workplace efficiency (eg, cost per square foot, square feet per occupant); we are in the early stages of learning to look at the relationship between workplace design and the employee experience, which is what ultimately drives organizational effectiveness.

At IFMA’s World Workplace conference in New Orleans in September I was pleased to hear David Karpook, Nancy Johnson Sanquist, and Joe Harris of Manhattan Software/Trimble discuss their research on “Workplace as Experience.” Drawing on The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, David, Nancy, and Joe educated all of us in attendance about just how powerful an impact place has on people.

And then my appreciation of how important that impact is rose several more notches when I heard Kristine Woolsey of Carrier-Johnson+Culture talk about the connection between workplaces and communities at the recent WorkTech14 summit in San Francisco. I was so impressed with Kristine’s insights that I invited her to meet and share her perspectives with my Talking About Tomorrow conversation group a few weeks later. Read more

The workplace IS strategic: take it from a CEO

Picture this: On the first day that a Chicago-based financial services company moved into a new – and dramatically redesigned – workplace, two employees bumped into each other in the hallway. One said to the other, “Who are you? Why are you walking around our office?” The other replied, “I work here – I’ve worked here for several years.”

They had never seen each other before, even though the company’s headquarters office is home to only about 115 employees.

Today that company – National Equity Fund (NEF), a nonprofit financial services organization that constructs deals to fund affordable housing projects across the United States – is an industry leader that enjoys low staff turnover, high productivity, and a reputation as a high-energy, compelling place to work. It’s characterized by open collaboration and a free-flowing, can-do culture.

Read more

Flexible work remains a hot topic…and the conversation continues

It’s almost impossible to keep up with the global debate on telecommuting and flexible work these days. As my good friend and colleague Chris Hood of CBRE put it recently, “Marissa Mayer [CEO of Yahoo!] has done all of us who believe in flexible working a big favor.”

More people than ever are talking about it, debating it, and thinking about the pros and cons of requiring people to come to the office (or enabling them to work from other locations, including their homes). [continue reading...]

Jim Ware interviewed by Turi Ryder on the Yahoo! telecommuting kerfuffle

WGN Radio logoOn Tuesday evening, February 26, 2013, Jim Ware was invited to speak with talk radio host Turi Ryder (WGN 720 radio in Chicago, Illinois) to discuss his perspectives on the mandate issued by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, that all Yahoo! employees would be required to come into the corporate offices every day rather than working from home.

That edict has clearly been highly controversial; it has generated an unusual, and unexpected, amount of press commentary. [continue reading...]

Free Webinar on “Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees”

When: Thursday, March 7, at Noon Pacific Standard Time

Registerhttps://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/476196598

Please join me and my colleague, Pi Wen Looi of Novacrea Research, for a lunch-and-learn session to learn about “Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees.” We’ll present our 2012 Mobile Workforce Survey findings and share ideas about how you can use these insights to engage and leverage your mobile workers. [continue reading...]