Distributed Work

Happy new year!Welcome to 2017!

I am committed to making this year a positive one on many fronts. As I wrote last month, I am starting it off not by making “Resolutions,” but by committing to develop new habits.

And my first commitment is to pay more explicit attention to the future of work. Despite the headline above, I don’t claim to have any unique insights into what the future will look like. However, I do have some expectations – and some warnings.

Let’s focus first on expectations. It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that, long term, the future of work will be:

  • technology-dependent (duh!)
  • globally distributed;
  • hyper-connected; and
  • massively collaborative.

In addition, I am convinced that much of what we call work will become more and more invisible. That’s a more complex and less obvious idea, but let me briefly address those first four facets of the future before I describe what I mean by invisible work. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Making YOUR Meetings Matter

February 15, 2016

Permit me a bit of shameless self-promotion. My new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age, just became available on Amazon.com, and I am in a giddy celebratory mode.

In fact, I just got my very first copy of the paperback edition (I ordered it from Amazon on Friday). Yes, I’ve read it all before, but there is something very visceral about seeing the actual book. Here’s a picture my wife took of me admiring it. There is nothing like finally holding your “baby” in your own hands!

JIm Ware pondering his new book

I am particularly proud of the testimonials I’ve already received from a number of very smart people. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Working RemotelyOne of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35 percent of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending almost as much time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, airports, and planes, trains, and automobiles.

Today, according to Forrester Research, more than thirty-four million U.S. workers are spending one or more days a week in nontraditional work locations. That’s over 24 percent of a nonfarm workforce that currently totals approximately 140 million. Forrester predicts that by the end of 2016 the distributed workforce could reach 63 million, or over 40% of the total nonfarm workforce. And it’s worth pointing out that many agricultural workers are also highly dependent on mobile technologies, even if we don’t normally think of them as part of the “remote” workforce.

Why is workforce mobility growing so rapidly and becoming the accepted way of working in so many industries? [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Know The RulesMost of us today spend more time in meetings with people who are somewhere else than we do with our colleagues down the hall. And while most of the “rules” for leading face-to-face meetings also apply equally well to distributed meetings, the situation is clearly different.

In many distributed team situations the members live far away from each other and/or the central office. They may never have met in person, or they may see each other only occasionally.

When team members are not co-located, they typically have relatively independent personal lives and social-support systems. Realistically, they just don’t have a lot in common beyond their work. They go to different churches, synagogues, and mosques; they participate in different local town events; their children attend different schools and participate in different sports programs. And they just don’t bump into each other at the grocery store or on commuter trains and buses.

If you are leading a distributed team you need to take that reality into account, and to plan and lead your conference calls differently than you do when everyone is in the same room.

Here are five simple rules that will make your distributed meetings both productive and popular: [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

WORKTECH15-West-Coast-Marketing-Image2-720x305WorkTech is one of the best one-day opportunities you can find anywhere for learning the latest insights about the future of work and networking with fellow workplace futurists. And if you register at this link  as a friend of The Future of Work…unlimited you will get a $100 discount off the registration fee.

Phillip Ross and his Unwired Ventures team always assemble a mind-bending and eye-opening program filled with success stories, thought leaders, and provocative insights. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Distributed MeetingOn the eve of IFMA’s annual World Workplace conference, which I am attending this week in Denver, it seems appropriate to think for a moment about meetings that don’t take place in a “place.” I’m thinking of course of meetings where everyone is somewhere else – what most of us call “distributed” meetings.

One distributed meeting practice I hold very dear is this [New Rule]: Do not schedule a “mixed meeting” unless there is absolutely no alternative.

A mixed meeting is one that includes two or more people in the same place plus one or more others calling in from somewhere else.

I’ve almost never seen a mixed meeting go well; some organizations actively prohibit them – if anyone is participating remotely, everyone calls in, even when some participants are located close together. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Biz_Innovators_LogoJim Ware was  featured in a Business Innovators Radio interview by host Andrew Curry, published on September 22, 2015.

Our 17-minute conversation about flexible work, managing remote workers, and leading effective meetings is available at this link:

Business Innovators Radio – Interview with James Ware – Professional Speaker.

We welcome your comments, reactions, and further questions.

{ 0 comments }

Happy entrepreneur working with a phone and laptop in a coffee shop in the streetAs early as 2002 one of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35% of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending another 30% of their time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, and airports.

Think about that: a full two-thirds of knowledge work now takes place outside of corporate facilities. That sounds like a strikingly large number, but I and many others have conducted numerous studies clearly demonstrating that organizational work today is widely dispersed across many different kinds of locations. Most of us today act as if it doesn’t matter whether the people we are in conversation with are across a desk, across the room, across town, or on another continent.

Yet one of the most common complaints I hear about letting local employees work remotely even just a day or two a week is “How can I manage them if I can’t see them?” [click to continue…]

{ 5 comments }

Future Exit Sign 000018627375XSmallWe have just celebrated Memorial Day weekend in the United States. It has been an opportunity to reflect on our good fortune as a country, but more importantly to give thanks for the millions of servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives to protect us in way too many wars.

But this time of pausing and reflecting also got me thinking about how the working environments where most of us spend most of our waking hours have changed over the past twenty years – and will change even more going forward.

Those of us of a certain age can remember when our families sat down in front of the big box in our living rooms that brought us the 6 o’clock evening news. We shared that experience with our neighbors near and far; most of the country absorbed that information at the same time, and from one or the other of the three major networks that brought us all the television news and entertainment.

And most of us had one telephone somewhere in the front hall or living room; but we only used it for short, functional conversations with our neighbors and nearby relatives (calls were billed by the minute, after all). Once a year we might call a distant grandparent for a short “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Holidays” message; long distance calls were prohibitively expensive and the sound was often tinny and full of static.

In short, we didn’t have much choice in how we got our information or stayed in touch with out-of-town family and friends. Our world was relatively limited.

And the way we worked was very similar. [click to continue…]

{ 4 comments }

worktechWorkTech is one of the best one-day opportunities you can find for learning the latest insights about the future of work. Phillip Ross and his Unwired Ventures team always  assemble a mind-bending and eye-opening program filled with success stories, thought leaders, and provocative insights.

Architect, industrial designer, and visionary thinker Robert Luchetti will be keynoting the annual WORKTECH15 New York City conference on May 13 & 14, Time and Life Building in Midtown Manhattan (The one-day event is May 14, preceded on the 13th by a special Master Class featuring intensive interaction).

Robert Luchetti and Phillip Stone published “Your Office is Where You Are” in the Harvard Business Review in 1985. In this seminal article, they presented their creation of and predicted the concept of “activity based working.” In his keynote presentation at WORKTECH15, Robert Luchetti will revisit their predictions and take a critical look at what they got right and wrong and present a critique of the current state of the workplace.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }