Can you remember over the last decade how many times you have heard people proclaim that the office will be paper free? And how many times have you ever seen an office which was truly said to be paper free? I’m guessing that the first proclamation, you’ve heard a million times and the second you’ve never actually seen. Looking around, there are still filling cabinets in many offices, desks scattered with papers and notepads and printers everywhere you look. Despite what tech leaders say, actually writing stuff down is a lot quicker and easier in that moment than getting our tablets out and typing away.
But should this mean that the old ways are always the best? As I’m sat here at my desk, I’m looking out across the room and there are 4 other people all sat at pretty similar desks staring at a screen clicking away on keyboards. There is the odd chat but most of the time we are just getting on with our work. This is how the 20th Century office was. A room filled with desks where people came in the morning, sat down for 8 hours and then went home at the end of the day. There is no recognition that people are more productive when the working day works for them. Sure, we have flexitime where we can come in early or stay late, but the convention is that we still come and sit in a room and do our work. In some cases this is simply the way it has to be; people need to work in a secure area or have to be physically near to other people to do their jobs, but in many offices up and down the country there could be a better way.
Getting back to the paperless office, what generally happens after a meeting is the papers get filed away and forgotten about until they are needed and then there is a rush to try and find what we’ve done with them. Lets take this into the 21st Century. In this idea, we get back to the office and use our device to photograph the papers, documents etc that we created and store them online using something like Evernote. Now, when we need to find that agenda item, we can search online for exactly what we need. No rushing around, no having to go to the filing cabinet digging through reams of paper. Just get online and your whole filing cabinet is there on your tablet.
Lets now look again at the office and try and see how we can bring that into the 21st Century. Firstly, why do we all need to be sat in the same room all the time? In the team I lead, we all use cloud storage and instant message/video calling anyway. It is only convention and rules that mean we have to be in this room together. Not everyone works to their fullest potential when told how and where they need to be. The advent of constant fast wifi now means that I can be just as productive drinking a coffee in Starbucks as I am here in the office. So why is this not being embraced more by senior management? I think it comes down to 2 things. Firstly some management have a lack of trust in staff to actually do work when they aren’t watching them or want to show up and see what they are up to. This is in the most part something which should be put to bed. Most people if they are in a job which allows them to work how they want will be just as productive if not more so because they are seen as valued and trusted to get on with their job. It is moving away from a time based work day to an productivity led work day. Is it better for a worker to do half as much work sat in an office all day, or twice as much work where they are comfortable and at ease? The Second reason and the one which is the most annoying one is
Well this is the way that its always been
This is ridiculous. If people thought like this we would never evolve and move forward with anything.
So how do we achieve this? Management need to let go and listen to staff more and give them responsibility for their own jobs. Pride should keep staff wanting to work well and because it is productivity that is being measured and not time then it is a win-win situation. Management could get higher output and staff are happier being able to work how they want. Technology has a large role to play in this. As I said earlier, our team use Instant Messaging and also make use of applications such as Google Hangouts for online chats. We keep an eye on projects and what we are working on using Trello which is an online task manager. We can all add things onto it and measure how we are working. We schedule in a face to face team meeting once every 2 weeks where we can all be in the same place and discuss anything we need to then. Our team is capable of working anywhere we want to. Lets try and make that happen. Technology is the driving force behind this and we need to understand that bringing more technology into the working day is not just tech for tech’s sake. It makes a real difference. It allows us to move on from the old ways and create new paradigms of what a work day should be.
I’d be interested to know about other teams and companies how you could make your work 21st Century.