Committing your company to a workshifting strategy means going beyond the current trends of the day. Many companies are replacing closed offices with open offices and moving from company-issued-device-only policies to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs. These are, in most cases, surface-only strategies that don’t really get to the heart of what workshifting is about.
At its core, workshifting is a strategy of empowering employees to be not only more flexible in choosing how, when and where they work but also more free in reshaping their contribution to the company’s progress. This strategic aspect is what separates workshifting dramatically from the tactics we often think of on their own: flexible working, telework and so forth. Put differently, workshifting employees shouldn’t just be as productive as their “traditional” counterparts; they should be both more productive and more transformative to the organization.
Here are three essential workshifting techniques that you can use to gain the greatest impact from your commitment to workshifting across the company:
1. Allow working from home, but support working near home
Many employees begin the workshifting journey by working from home, whether due to practical reasons (for example, taking care of an aging adult parent or a young child) or simply because it’s easy to do once reporting to the office has been eliminated as a necessary daily task. Workshifting CEOs should indeed allow this, but be prepared to encourage and support a step beyond that — working near home.
Many workers take this step on their own by landing at a nearby Starbucks with (hopefully) a good seat and speedy Wi-Fi. You can enable these employees to take yet another step by providing them with access to additional resources and options. These could include a Regus Businessworld card (instant access to professional business lounges worldwide), a ClubCorp business club membership or even a Marriott Rewards card. (Did you know that most Marriott hotels now offer free lobby Wi-Fi?)
2. Meet in the field and vary the spaces and places
If one of the major differences between workshifting and just working outside of the office is the strategic and creative energy it allows, then create opportunities for that strategic and creative energy to blossom. Encourage office-based employees to meet with workshifting colleagues in the field — at “third places” such as office centers, hotel meeting rooms and collaboration rooms (see Tangent at Westin for an outstanding example). One team even met at a Regus center atop a major skyscraper in Baltimore and used the opportunity to visualize the new market opportunities available to them right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows.
In addition to formal locations, out-of-the-way nooks can be extremely valuable resources. One global nonprofit found that its most productive managers were regularly holding unofficial offsite strategy meetings at a quiet Ethiopian coffee shop that boasted a hidden garden in the back.
Other ideas include making day trips between workshifting areas, such as alternating team meetings between Los Angeles and San Diego, or for those in the Northeast, reserving a meeting table on the Amtrak Acela and bringing a team together for dynamic discussions while the world flies by at over 100 miles per hour. In addition to opening the mind with new views, vistas and experiences, varying meeting locations also encourages employees to host one another and share their own experiences of the place — which often leads to new ideas and insights that can drive innovation.
3. Harness localization as a growth opportunity
Where your employees choose to work can be as valuable to your business growth as it can be to your employees themselves. For example, one law firm that practices workshifting faced the predicament of a senior associate having to move out of town unexpectedly due to her spouse’s change in jobs. Instead of just working remotely or finding a new employer altogether, she was asked to use the move as an opportunity to continue her current work while also laying the groundwork for a new office. A few years later, the law firm found that its greatest year-over-year new growth had come from allowing the workshifting employee to set up a new location.
Each of these three strategies is iterative. One builds upon another, and collectively, they take the mechanics of workshifting (getting work done out of the office) and move into the methodology of workshifting (rethinking how employees work, engage, interact and excel both individually and together).
When you decide as a CEO to move your workshifting strategy forward, make sure to incorporate these progressive components so that you get the greatest value out of your new transformation and build a more dynamic, creative and productive work culture.