Companies limited to physical locations are missing the point. Use this checklist to find out when it’s time for office technology to free your human capital from the fences of the traditional office.

Free_Range_Humans_blog_feature_image_w_bannerThe world has changed, and most people haven’t noticed yet. A couple centuries ago, working meant laboring on a farm, in a factory, or in a local shop. The output of human labor was physical, so it required physical presence. Last century, with the rise of the office worker, many of our collective contributions to society came from cubicles, where companies that produced things other than physical goods collocated employees to do things like sell new customers, service existing customers, and invent things.

Even today, where many workers are now knowledgeworkers and our output is more ephemeral, workspaces continue to center around the physical. Many rejoice when we lower cube walls or even remove them. Yet they’re completely missing the point.

Today’s work doesn’t have to take place in a specific location – or even within a set time period. Modern companies are discovering the value of free range humans and will out-invent, out-recruit, and outperform their competitors. If you’re not on this train, you’re going to be left behind.

Get your Free Range Human checklist

When will it be too late? Let’s use the early warning signs – the leading indicators – as tea leaves to try to predict your future. Download the full checklist here to dive into four criteria for evaluating whether it's time to move beyond your cubicle culture:

  1. Time to fill open positions. Are industry or workplace trends impacting how long it takes to fill key positions? For example, a recent PwC study found flexibility and work life balance top the list of job satisfaction and retention for Millennials.

  2. A-player turnover. Consider industry and company trends when evaluating why key players are leaving. 

  3. Salary spikes for so-so staff. Are “middle of the road” employees suddenly demanding A-player salaries?

  4. Industry trends. Office technology is changine. Analysts we respect like Forrester and Gartner put the percentage of companies with a cloud-based virtual phone system at somewhere between 8 to 12 percent in the U.S. It won’t be long until this number reaches 25 percent. 
Depending on your business, one or more of these factors might outweigh the others. I can’t tell you one single variable or combination is the answer. There’s probably some kind of multivariate relationship between them that someone with deep analytical chops could divine.

I prefer a shortcut. It would be pretty cumbersome to do the calculus required to figure out where to place your hand to catch a ball, yet my eight-year-old daughter instinctively figures it out in milliseconds in flight. In other words, trust your gut on some of this stuff. Look at the data, but just catch the ball. Your brain will figure it out 99% of the time for you. When I stick my finger in the air, my best guess is we have about a decade before it’s too late for your company to adjust to the new way of working.

Tearing down fences for your workforce

What does your company need to do to adapt? It’s probably both easier, and more difficult, than you expect. The easy part is investing in technologies that allow people to work from anywhere at any time, which also coincidentally has some financial benefits as well (less CapEx spending on infrastructure, more “pay as you go” spending on cloud-based services).

I know this works because we’ve done it at Fonality. Our VoIP business phone systems are full “unified communications” cloud services. We can make and take phone calls, see our employee directory and whether or not any particular employee is available at any moment, instant message or chat with coworkers, share files, conduct video meetings, share screens, or manage remote employees – all from either a web browser or mobile app. We built this stuff for companies just like us.

Thinking about office phone systems beyond the dial tone has some very real business benefits, too. Gone are the hassles and cost of managing telecom vendor contracts, running a local PBX, and wasting time with changes and maintenance.

The hardest part, however, is leading a culture change at your company. Yes, you can put in the technology to set the stage, but your company also has to be ready for the change. Recruiting, managing, and motivating highly productive employees takes a success story or two and an executive sponsor to work well.

What will the workplace of tomorrow look like? It probably won’t look like a workplace at all, and if you prepare yourself today, your company can be part of that future as well.