At a meeting I attended recently, someone asked two new members of the sales team (both in their mid-20s) how they felt about email. They both said that they would use it if they had to, but that they preferred to communicate via text message.
Now, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated many times in the past. But for these two employees at least, email is a sticking point — and if they have other ways of communicating and collaborating that are aligned with their preferences, they’ll likely be both happier and more productive.
In an economy where employees have plenty of options, and at a time when technology is enabling new ways of communicating and collaborating, it’s more important than ever for employers to give people freedom over how they do their jobs.
Here are five things organizations need to know about a choose-your-own-workstyle environment.
1. It Boosts Employee Retention
According to a report from Gartner, organizations that support a choose-your-own-workstyle culture will boost employee retention rates by more than 10 percent by 2020. Employee satisfaction is always important, of course, but when the economy is at full employment, improving retention by 10 percent is a huge win.
2. It’s Loosely Defined
In its research summary on choose-your-own-workstyle, Gartner never actually defines the term. Instead, the research firm focuses on different ways to provide facilities, technologies, processes and support that help employees to work how they choose. For instance, Gartner suggests that organizations incorporate the principles of activity-based working into their workspace design, providing employees with a variety of workspace types to fit different tasks and personal preferences.
Basically, organizations that want to support a choose-your-own-workstyle culture need to think about every aspect of how employees do their jobs — including devices, applications and physical workspaces — and provide as much choice as is practical.
3. Few Employees Are Very Happy with Their Workspace
According to Gartner, only 11 percent of employees say they are “completely satisfied” with their workspaces. This means that companies that take steps to improve physical and digital workspaces will set themselves apart from other employers. “The desire to attract the best talent, improve employee experience and increase employee retention presents an opportunity for application leaders of digital workplace programs to work with real-estate and facilities leaders to create inspiring workspaces,” Gartner writes in its research summary.
4. Location Matters
By adopting policies and technologies that support remote work, organizations can increase employee choice — and satisfaction. Nearly 70 percent of job seekers who are millennials say that an option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in specific employers.
5. ‘UC’ Is Finally Unified (Almost)
The IT industry spent nearly a decade talking about “unified communications” before the term largely fell out of favor, mostly giving way to the broader term “collaboration.” I think this happened because, for a long time, unified communications largely fell short of its name; until recently, technology vendors were incapable of truly unifying multiple methods of communication within in a single platform.
Ironically, now that the term is much less widely used, vendors really are beginning to fulfill the promise of unified communications. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams bring together communication and collaboration tools including text, voice, video, calendar and file sharing. And these platforms can be used across multiple employee devices, so workers aren’t tethered to a single device, such as a laptop or smartphone.
While choose-your-own-workstyle encompasses a broad range of technologies and other considerations, these platforms are what first comes to mind when I hear the term. They give users the ability to communicate and collaborate in almost any way they choose, without requiring people to switch between devices — or even switch between applications.
Those young sales team members from my meeting? They’ll still need to use email to stay in touch with clients. But when they’re exchanging information with each other, they can work in any style they choose.
This blog post brought to you by: