There is no doubt about it, the workforce has significantly changed around the world in the past 20 years. Experts agree that we are in the middle of a fundamental change in our offices, especially in the way our teams are structured and how we communicate with each other.
Our own team is spread across the globe. We have a designer working from South America, team members who are regularly travelling and several partners we work with closely in Australia and the UK. Globally, we are seeing an increase in part time work and flexible work arrangements as people look to better fit work, family and personal lives into busy schedules. As how we work changes, the technology we need to succeed has also changed. Meetings need to span both locations and time zones, and teams need to access their work outside of the physical office. So how is technology helping to create better modern-day workplaces?
Booking and running meetings
No matter how much the workplace changes, it is impossible to imagine companies completely doing away with meetings. Verbal communication is collaborative, and we find it effective both when brainstorming and reaching decisions (and much faster than an email chain). We use Calendly to allow our customers to see our calendars and automatically book in a time themselves, and this generates a zoom meeting for us all to hop into.
We also use zoom for our internal meetings, meaning we can see and hear our team members who are working remote. This technology makes it much easier for people to work from home, or from halfway across the world, without sacrificing communication. Also the ability to easily see someone’s calendar means employees can block out time when they are working flexibly, knowing someone would not ask them to take a call at the same time they are picking up the kids.
Ensuring communication across teams and locations
Even if everyone within your team was always in the office, it is easy to miss communication that is spoken across desks or even in a meeting. Technology rose to the occasion and has created greater visibility of what is being said, and what needs to be done, than ever before.
Task management software like Asana and Trello allow your team to see what everyone is working on, and due dates across projects, while Slack has made internal office communication simple through the use of channels, which allows anyone who needs to know about a certain topic communicate in the same place, also eliminating unnecessary email. Software like Harvest and Deputy make keeping track of hours easy, and their integrations into Xero mean that you do not need to physically have eyes on someone to see their hours.
Allowing remote access to work information and files
With fewer people working 9 to 5, and more global work occurring across time zones, employees often need to access documents outside of the office. The physical server is a thing of the past, and cloud document management enables our team to keep working while travelling. SuiteFiles means that our team can work on a document together even when not physically in office. It also allows us to access documents while we are on the move, in airports or even just from the couch at home.
Functionality such as allowing multiple users to work on a single document at one, online document signing and integrations with XPM (Xero Practice Manager) and Workflow Max make it easy to maintain a single source of truth, and our automatic backups mean it is impossible to lose a file. These small things make a massive difference to how we work day-to-day. Sometimes it is so simple, we forget that everyone isn’t in the same location.
The downside of the changes in how we work is that it is become much harder to shut off as the physical barriers of the office and the home start to blur. This issue has been heavily documented in the past couple of years, and there are some creative solutions starting to come to light. For our SuiteFiles’ team, keeping our calendars up to date has played a huge part in managing downtime. Having leave, hours that we are out of office, and other ‘life administration’ time blocked out means that colleagues can be respectful and not book meetings or call during these times. Utilising the Xero ecosystem and automations through partner apps helps to save time and energy on tasks that used to be incredibly labour-intensive, allowing more time for what really matters. The most effective for tactic in office however has been a combination of communication and simply switching our phones off (or at least to silent) during our ‘out of office’ time.
Flexible work came about because people needed a better balance between their personal lives and their jobs, and the technology created to enable that often also makes it harder to disconnect from work.
When you’re finished working, be finished, and switch off your notifications to make time for what matters. It is the reason flexible work exists after all!