Intelligence magazine (South Africa), April 2005, published extract from a report by the Gartner Group (2005) which highlighted forces which will enhance or hamper workforce performance, productivity and leadership. Here follows a brief extract (not available online, subscriptions available here):
Disruptive Effect: Excessive E-Contact

Strategic Planning Assumption: by 2010, knowledge workers will spend 80% of their time working collaboratively and not necessarily face-to-face.
Globalisation, innovation-focused knowledge work, web-enabled business processes and digital communication have theoretically freed knowledge work from physical location. Work becomes space-neutral, and collaboration becomes defined by virtual partnerships rather than by physical proximity. However, advantages are matched by disadvantages. The flexibility and convenience that virtual work affords are offset by a lack of connection, missed opportunities and brainstorming by appointment. As people become accustomed to the low-proximity electronic world rather than the high-proximity physical world, another odd behaviour emerges: People prefer to communicate by low-risk e-mails rather than speak face-to-face. Social skills and leadership skills evaporate.
Certain guidelines should be followed when managing the electronically intensive business environment:

  • When people work with others who are located elsewhere, they are all working “virtually,” regardless of whether they work at home, in hotels, in satellite offices or in headquarters. In other words, not all virtual workers are sitting at home in their pyjamas.
  • Virtual work requires the redesign of many traditional services, including training, workspace management and conferencing. Delivery of services and tools must change from place-dependent to place-independent.
  • Collaboration and brainstorming need well-designed, intuitive tools. Every time people must invoke another application, into another sign-on or hunt for another password to set up a brainstorming session, organisational collaboration and innovation lose out.
  • Action Item: Analyse the various work styles in the company, and build a portfolio of processors, services, systems and settings that will sustain social and knowledge networks and cultural affiliation. Seek assistance from internal and external sources to understand and classify the type of work.

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