The work-life balance has shifted – and business applications must keep up

We all hear a lot about the importance of work-life balance, and most of us would agree that leaving enough space in our lives for family and interests is vital to our wellbeing, and affects how we feel about our jobs. The reality of the way we achieve this, though, is increasingly less about balance and more about what has been called “work-life integration”.

Work-life boundaries are blurring

Until a few years ago, there was a clear distinction between work time and leisure, with most people working fixed hours in a dedicated workplace. Now flexible and home-based working have become the norm. At Google – admittedly an extreme case – only 31% of employees clearly separate work from their personal lives, recent research reported by the Harvard Business Review showed. This blurring of boundaries has further implications for the way we use technology. It’s remote access and mobile technology that allow so much work to take place away from the official workplace, and outside official working hours. Many of us now have 24-hour access to work emails via smartphones, tablets or home PCs. At the same time, the distinction between the technology used for work and personal life is vanishing. It’s becoming common to use the same device for both – a tendency related to the increased popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD).

Collaboration is the future

Given the integration of work and personal life, and the adoption of the same technology platforms for both, employees naturally expect that the applications provided for work will have the same simplicity, power and ease of access as the consumer applications they are used to. An important part of that expectation is online collaboration, which has become second nature in a world where people live a large part of their lives through social media. Although we’re at work to work, not socialize, organizations are learning that they can increase productivity and more successfully solve problems by adopting techniques that harness people’s natural drive to collaborate.

Everyone gains from collaboration

Research suggests that collaboration will transform the effectiveness of business. For example, Aberdeen Group’s recent Next-Generation Communications study found that the organizations identifying business collaboration as a top goal had achieved more than double the rate of improvement in customer retention rates, more than seven times the rate of improvement in employee productivity, and comparable results in other key business areas. Encouraging collaboration around problem-solving, in particular, has enormous benefit, particularly in larger organizations. It helps people to engage with colleagues in parts of the business that they might not normally come into contact with, breaking down functional and geographical boundaries. Even language need not be a barrier if your applications have inbuilt translation capabilities.

What does collaboration mean for service management?

Your service management function stands to gain from this trend: after all, service management is all about problem-solving. Whether you’re providing services to internal or external customers, people are coming together to collaborate and find solutions. To realize the rewards of collaboration and meet today’s expectations, your service management solution needs integrated collaborative capability at its core. Simply bolting collaboration on to a traditional business application does not work, because collaboration is not a separate activity from service management: it’s the way we need to do service management.

Help staff work smarter instead of longer

For your staff, the blurring of the balance between work and personal life has advantages and disadvantages. It’s good to be able to leave the office early to collect the kids from school, but not so good to be working late into the evening to make up for it. Collaborative working means people can work the way that comes naturally and that makes them most productive – so there should be less need to burn the candle at both ends.

Please comment below, or email me, if you’ve got any questions or comments. In my next blog post, I plan to look at some of the business problems that collaboration can help you solve.


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