my world of work and user experiences

March 30, 2014

Roads are blocked? We can still work in our digital workplace!

Filed under: Digital Workplace,New world of work — frederique @ 17:06

The Netherlands hosted the Nuclear Security Summit this week. To safely accommodate and transport 58 world leaders and associate crowds of delegates, a lot of roads were blocked. We were all advised not to commute in this area. So could we all please work from home or anywhere except the offices in the NSS area? Yes, we can, in our digital workplace in the New World of Work!

This is not just a theoretical answer, but an empirical one. As it turned out, a lot of people did work from home during the summit. As a result, there were actually less traffic jams on the roads and the trains were less full than during a normal rush hour…

A lot of people concluded on Twitter and other social media that now we have proven that working from home in the New World of Word does work and we saw a lot of “workplace selfies” of people working from home in a very professional home office, or for example

Digital workplace on a train

…on a train….

Digital Workplace outdoors

… outdoors, grabbing some fresh air (it’s spring time!)…

So how about the messages we get from companies like Yahoo, who are asking their employees to stop working from home and get back to the office? Well, nobody said that the New World of Work implied working from home all the time. We can work anytime and anywhere and we should pick the time and place that suits the job at hand. For me, working from home is often more efficient and productive, while working at our own offices or a client’s offices may be more effective and innovative, depending on the day’s tasks. For example:

  • I work from home when I need to focus on writing documentation, configuring a lot of sites, performing administrative tasks, or something else for which I don’t want to be distracted or waste time on traveling.
  • I go to our office when I want to be inspired by my colleagues and inspire them to be innovative: serendipity works better if you can simply join a discussion at the coffee machine or ask colleagues sitting near you if they have an idea when you are stuck.
  • For working or training sessions with a group of clients, I prefer to be at the client’s location, to make sure we communicate seamlessly. We can look each other in the eye and pick up non-verbal clues, for example, when we are putting together the requirements for a solution, or when we start building and we think that some requirements needs to be discussed on the spot.
  • But when my clients are dispersed over a wide geographical area, then we do our session online and use the video conferencing options to look each other in the eye. It would simply be impractical to gather in real life for more than an initial kick-off or at most a once-a-year joint session with the key people, if even that can be managed given the budget and everybody’s agenda.
  • Usually I start from home and commute a bit later, to avoid the rush hour.
  • And when I go and see a client at their location in the afternoon, I work from home in the morning, to save traveling time.
  • En route to a presentation or meeting elsewhere, I do the last minute preparations on the train, so that I make productive use of my traveling time and have everything at my fingertips when I arrive.
  • And while I am waiting for my train or anywhere else, I can deal with my e-mail, check my to do list, manage my calendar, join in on discussion forums and of course talk to people on my smartphone.
  • Plus of course: I can keep working when something happens on the roads or rail roads, like a Nuclear Security Summit or a bad snowstorm. I work from home, so I don’t get trapped in traffic.

The thing is, that I am and feel responsible for my own work, so I can decide for myself where and how I can perform it optimally. My managers and colleagues trust me to do my job; they don’t have to see me in person do it. And they support me by placing an open and powerful digital workplace at my disposal.

In a way, my main workplace is digital, regardless of where I am physically. At our company and at clients, we use Office 365 in the cloud or SharePoint and Office on-premises versions, from laptops and other devices. Jasper Oosterveld has recently published a series of blogs on Office 365 from mobile devices. Tools in my digital workplace that I use a lot include:

  • SharePoint team sites for projects and ongoing department work, where we share information systematically: one version of the truth. We collaborate on documents with versioning and, for example, assign tasks and issues and track their status using lists. We can always get to these sites, wherever we have an internet connection. When I am traveling light with my iPad, I can still do the basics in my team sites. The screen is big enough to read and work comfortably. Site management and heavy-duty contributions can be a tricky on non-Microsoft devices.
  • Classic Office software like Word, PowerPoint and Excel integrate with these team sites: I can open a document from a team site, edit it, and save it back to the team site as the latest version. The options keep improving: the 2013 version allows for multiple authors to work in the same document at the same time in the browser, so you don’t even need Office on the device you are working on.
  • OneDrive and the sync option in SharePoint 2013 sites allow me to take documents offline (to work on while I am traveling by train for example) and synchronise them back to the site as soon as I am back online. I have some issues with this synchronization, maybe because I have connected too many different clouds to my laptop. But I hope this sync option gets more stable, as it can be very useful to me.
  • Outlook is a very powerful tool to manage my e-mail, calendar, tasks and address book. I have customized it with views, rules, short cuts and other options to suit my needs, and the search allows me find any item. When I am working on a client’s computer, inside their firewall, I can still access the online version. And I when I am away from any “big” computer, I can do all of this on my smartphone.
  • Lync enables me to chat with colleagues and clients who are also on Lync: see if they are available, ask a quick question, and then share my screen with them if I want to show them what I am talking about. A lot of my meetings take place in Lync, because for those meetings it is not worth the travel time and we can work more efficiently in the digital workplace. I don’t have to go to the Instant Messaging client separately, because it is integrated with the rest: it’s one integrated platform.
  • OneNote is getting more and more interesting as a tool to take notes and gather information as a team and share them in a team site: offline and online are integrated seamlessly. And the Office integration allows me also to, for example, add relevant mail messages or contacts to the notes in two clicks.
  • Yammer is becoming the discussion forum of choice for informal announcements, Q&A and brainstorming within the company. So far, it is only partly integrated with SharePoint, but as we move forward, it is getting better.
My digital workplace

My digital workplace: Office 365

Actually, I’ve been doing this for years and not just because of the Nuclear Security Summit that blocked the roads. We talk about the New World of Work or the New Way of Working, but it is not all that new.  But it is getting more and more relevant: easier because our digital workplace is getting better and better, and more and more widespread. We can work any time, any place and on any device and get the job done….

So when people ask if the Digital Workplace in the New World of Work actually works, we can answer with a resounding YES, we have seen it work!

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