Like all technology, connected tech has both its positives and negatives. Connected tech is allowing more and more employees the ability to work from home, which can in turn allow them to be more present in the lives of their families. It can also cut down the need for business travel, which can also help both employees and business owners be more present with their loved ones. It can also allow employees and business owners to stay more connected to both their work and their loved ones when they do need to travel. Conversely, however, connected tech can also have a downside. Like all business tools, connected tech requires careful management and that also means careful managing of your connected workforce. Here are 5 steps to managing today’s hyper-connected workforce.
1. Set and Respect Boundaries
People love having the comfort and security of knowing that no matter where they are, they can be reached in an emergency. When it comes to business, however, this same accessibility also creates a conundrum. When your boss emails you in the evening, it can be difficult for many employees to feel they have the freedom to simply ignore it until the next day. This is where setting boundaries for yourself is highly important. Just because you can send an email to your employees or direct reports at 10:00 pm doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t actually need an immediate response, a far better course of action is to set it to automatically send early the next morning.
2. Encourage Your Employees to Unplug
It is an interesting conundrum that it is often businesses that expect employees to be accessible at all times during working hours. Yet, conversely, the need to be accessible at all times may actually cause employees to be less productive than ever before. A recent study showed that in the last two decades, the amount of time spent by employees in collaborative activities of some kind with their managers has increased to 50% of the workday and in some cases as much as 80%. Employees are spending so much time in collaborative activities, that it often leaves them little to no time to actually get their own work done. Allowing (and even encouraging) your employees to turn off their phones or put them on “do not disturb” may actually be one of the best things you can do for your business.
3. Take a Digital Detox
Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the World Health Organization believes that “The wealth of business depends on the health of workers.” Workers who are drained, exhausted and spent can’t give their best to anything, let alone your business. Sometimes just the vast number of ways in which we are expected to be “available” can get overwhelming. Therefore, we just need to shut everything down and reconnect with what really matters to us. Whether you take a corporate digital detox retreat or simply encourage employees to take a digital vacation now and again, encouraging a digital detox may be one of the best things you can do for your employees and your business.
4. Don’t Forget the Importance of Real Connection
In a world of Skype, IM’s, group chat, emails and video conferencing, the importance of face-to-face communication can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. The truth is, however, that while we may believe that words are all we need to communicate, real communication is actually a compilation of hundreds and thousands of small cues and gestures that we interpret largely unconsciously. Emojis were actually designed to help infuse textual communication with some of these cues we rely on to interpret the meaning of words. Emojis will never be an adequate replacement for what you learn about a person by speaking to them face-to-face, however. If you want to be a master of heading off impending disaster before it happens, try and get in the same room with your employees as often as possible.
5. Learn to Use Their Preferred Means of Communication
Every generation is going to be more comfortable using a different means of communication. If you have older staff in your company or business, they will most likely prefer to communicate face-to-face or at least talk on the phone. Gen X will most likely prefer email,Xenials and Millennials are more likely to IM or text, while Gen Z is more likely to want to video chat or conference. The likelihood is, you yourself will have a preferred means of communication and may actually unknowingly force everyone else into using it. Like so many other things, while you certainly can do this, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You will probably get far further with your employees if you learn what means of communication they prefer and use it – at least when you need to communicate individually.
No matter what type of business you run, regardless of whether your employees are on-site or off, your business most likely involves a great deal of connected tech and digital communication. While both of these can certainly be invaluable tools, they can also quickly become instruments of destruction if they are not managed carefully. Just remember, it is actually in your own best interest to help your employees achieve good work life balance. Managing your connected tech wisely can go a long way towards helping them do just that.
About the Author
Jeff E. Brown is a freelance writer, self-taught lifehacking teacher, DIY home improvement specialist, owner of two happy dogs and a barbeque master. He loves learning through experience and writing about all the cool things he has learned since he moved out of a compact apartment into a comfortable house. You can reach him @jeff8rown