Today’s guest post is brought to us by Cali Yost, CEO & Founder of Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc.. She’s got a lot to say about how we work–and where–how the workplace has evolved, and how we need to change in order to keep up. Thanks, Cali! — NL

Twenty–maybe even as few as fifteen–years ago, clocks and watches and time cards told us when and where work ended and the other parts of life began. The boundaries between our lives, on and off the job, were clear.

We arrived at the same physical space, at the same time, on the same days as our colleagues. We did our jobs seated next to one another and then we went home only to reconnect again until we walked back into the office the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is no longer a reality for a significant percentage of the workforce. This rather large sect says it completes most of its work from a remote location, not on their employer’s site.  Flexibility, in the way work is done, is now embedded in the workplace. Updated practices and investment in the infrastructure and training have–and will continue to–unlock the full potential for businesses and their people.

The way we work today: two sources, same story.

According to a new survey of a national probability sample of full-time workers in the United States–commissioned by the Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc., co-sponsored by Citrix, and conducted by ORC International–employees are pretty evenly split on where they said they do most of their work: a remote location not on their employer’s site or on-site in an open office/cubicle or private office:

To confirm these results with another sample, Citrix conducted a follow up Twitter poll that asked, “Where do you do most of your work?” Not surprisingly, an even higher percentage of tech-savvy Twitter users reported they don’t come into the office most of the time.

Unlocking the potential for business and people.

Whether companies realized it at the time or not, they introduced flexibility into their operating models when they switched to more open and collaborative workspaces and gave workers the ability to log in from anywhere via laptops and smartphones. But modernizing the workplace is about more than new floorplans, shiny devices and mobility.  To fully leverage the opportunities inherent in an increasingly flexible workplace, we need to:

  • Update work and management practices that are stuck in the 1990’s. For example, encourage teams to take the lead and be accountable for coordinating how, when and where each person plans to work on any given day and time. According our research,  we aren’t really talking to the people with whom we work. When asked, “when you make those informal, occasional changes to how, when and where you work, do you discuss those changes with,” only 51% of our survey respondents said they talked to their colleagues. If flexible teams coordinated more regularly, they wouldn’t waste time tracking each other as often.
  • Provide the infrastructure and technology that allows for efficient communication and collaboration regardless of location. Not only did our research find that 60% of full-time U.S. workers use email, word documents or spreadsheets “frequently” to update colleagues about work progress and performance, but employees were inconsistent in where they saved and stored that work across company and personal platforms, which makes it hard for flexible teams to access the information they need.Additionally, despite widespread availability of video/web conferencing and project management technologies, we found frequent use of these tools was in the single digits. Again, this reinforces inefficiencies in communication and coordination that unnecessarily limit the potential of the flexible workplace.
  • Give people training and guidance. To leverage the infrastructure and technology and use the flexibility in how, when and where work is done, as needed, to be your most productive, you need to think and behave differently. Training and guidance will help people make that shift in mindset and behavior, as well as help teams coordinate with each other and support the ongoing planning and performance dialogue between managers and employees that ensures the work will done.

Two surveys with two different samples tell the same story: flexibility in the way we do our jobs is the norm, whether you are one of the 33% to 43% who said they already do most of their work from a remote location or whether you who work with them onsite in an open or private office.

The clocks and walls that used to clearly differentiate work and the other parts of life are gone and are never coming back. It’s time to acknowledge that and embrace the work practices, infrastructure and training people need to succeed when “flexible” is the way work is done today.

Cali YostCali Williams Yost
CEO and Founder
Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc.

An internationally recognized exible workplace strategy consultant, speaker and author, Cali Williams Yost has pioneered new ways to manage work, life and business in the modern economy for nearly two decades.

As CEO and founder of Flex Strategy Group/Work Life Fit— and one of Mashable’s Top 14 Career Experts on Twitter— she’s shown hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals how to partner for award-winning exible work success. Clients have ranged from Ernst & Young, BDO USA, J.P. Morgan Chase, Novo Nordisk, to the U.S. Navy and the United Nations.