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Tag Archives: workshift

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to WORKshift.

Working Remotely — An Opportunity and a Challenge!

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

What Working Remotely Means to Eagle:

It has been over 5 years since Eagle formalized a distributed work strategy — WORKshift.  It is now a fully integrated part of our company’s DNA and is part of the reason that Eagle has been recognized as one of Canada’s “Great Places To Work” for the past 4 years.  Our staff appreciate the flexibility it provides and allows our team to contribute wherever and whenever they can be most productive.  Our WORKshift program incorporates a number of different scenarios including: Time Shifting (working outside of non-core hours, either earlier or later in the day), Work from Home, Mobile Working (accessing the full suite of corporate tools when out on calls), and Distributed Teams (we build functional teams between office and across Canada for projects).  WORKshift means happy, productive staff members and the ability to accomplish things more quickly than we could without this ability.  It has been very good for our business.

What It Means to You, the Contractor:

There has been a lot of information about Remote Work online, in the news, and around boardroom tables.  Technology has progressed to the point where standard, mainstream applications allow companies and people to work in a distributed sense without the need for customization or special processes and protocols.  It’s available to the masses and is becoming more mainstream in business.  As a contractor, you can benefit by being able to work for organizations in other cities or manage between multiple contracts as you no longer need to be physically present to contribute.  Travel time can be greatly reduced, meaning more billable hours available.  It also may allow you to collaborate with other independent contractors to form virtual teams to provide deeper value for your clients.

Challenges That Working Remotely Raise:

Of course anything this valuable comes with its share of challenges.  Security, for example, is a big issue.  Some companies allow for VPN access but many are extremely sensitive to allowing non-employees access to corporate resources.

Being able to compete for work regardless of location is a two-edged sword.  Certainly that can open new opportunities to capable contractors.  However, it also means that competition for jobs/roles can come from practically anywhere if the job to be completed is truly irrespective of the work location.  In the future, certain roles may be bid on by a global labour market.  Already we see off-shoring in the mainstream, but individual contracts have the potential of being next.

Team management and oversight is another hurdle to successful remote work arrangements.  There are new skill sets required to be an effective leader (or worker) in a distributed work environment.  Some people are better suited to working remotely than others; and managers/project managers also can be taxed by the requirements of managing a virtual team.  Managing to deliverables vs. direct observation is a big cultural change for many companies.  Anyone familiar with the concept of presenteeism understands the fallacy of assuming people are working just because they happen to physically be at work.  The world is quickly moving towards deliverable-based evaluation, which is something already very familiar to the contractor community.

The following chart from Work EvOHlution shows key attributes of leaders for distributed work strategies:

chart from Work EvOHlution shows key attributes of leaders for distributed work strategies
Source: Work EvOHlution

In academia and consulting firms, more and more research is being completed to prepare companies and people for the realities and complexities of distributed work.  In Eagle’s experience, we partnered with CED (Calgary Economic Development) who was pioneering the business application of WORKshift, and also with “The Leadership Store”, a research-focused company affiliated with the University of Calgary that specialized in distributed work systems.  They are now operating under the name Work EvOHlution and provide a number of assessments, readiness strategies and coaching options to companies, teams, trainers and individual workers who wish to maximize the effectiveness of remote-work business practices.  Both organizations – CED and EvOHlution – were invaluable to Eagle as we set up our own WORKshift strategy.

Setting Yourself Apart:

Regardless of your own personal work-location preferences, the world is moving towards this work-from-anywhere/anytime paradigm.  Consideration should be given as to your own preparedness for this shift.  Most everyone should be able to work as part of a remote work force, but only those who are most prepared and have the necessary skills, communication and work habits will be able to flourish.  It just may be a way to differentiate yourself from others who are muddling through these newer changes to the work environment.

BONUS: Tips for Working on a Distributed Team (From Work EvOHlution):

  • Not everyone is suited to working remotely on a full-time basis, but most people can do a mix of office and remote work.
  • Kick-off new teams face-to-face.
  • Learn communication preferences of each team member.
  • Don’t over-rely on any one communication method (e.g., e-mail).
  • Avoid communicating constructive feedback or frustration through e-mail/instant messaging.
  • Set response time deadlines verbally and in writing and stick to them.
  • Match the communication medium to the purpose.
  • Create goals and measures that are accessible and achievable.
  • Set up mechanisms for feedback.
  • Celebrate and reward successes. Find creative ways to celebrate from a distance.
  • Develop a distributed team charter.
  • Use technology (video conferencing, teleconference, chat, email) and train your team on the software being used; when introducing a new software have a pilot period where everyone is expected to give it their best shot and report back on pros and cons.

Working Remotely… How to Make it Happen

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

We live in a rapidly changing work world and one of the biggest changes is the concept of working remotely or “telecommuting”.  More companies are offering this kind of arrangement and for a variety of reasons.  It may be part of a “flexibility” perk to save their employees time and money on an especially long commute or the firm may decide to save money on real estate or leasing costs by having a percentage of their staff work at home.

For independent contractors though, it may be a different story altogether.  If you possess a rare skillset, chances are you will find clients much more willing to accept you doing the work in a location other than where the project is taking place, especially when they cannot find someone locally with the pertinent qualifications.  But there is still a lot of reluctance amongst some clients who worry that if they don’t have you onsite, they won’t be able to supervise and monitor your work.  It may be that your duties require you to be there during normal work hours every day for interactions with other project members such as meetings or facilitation sessions.  But so often, it seems to boil down to the simple issue of trust. Perhaps they didn’t find that it worked for them and so how could it work for anyone else.  Or maybe they’ve had a bad experience with an employee or contractor previously.

So, how then do we change the narrative and ensure our clients feel comfortable with this alternative method of delivering work?  The simple answer is by changing perceptions and when it comes down to it, the responsibility lies with you.  So what, then, can you do to show that you are able to meet contract deliverables when working remotely?  Here are some simple ways to set yourself up for success:

  1. Contact is the key – as a remote worker it’s critical that you stay connected, Working Remotelyespecially from a client accessibility standpoint. Today’s technology makes working from anywhere that much easier—but it is still up to you to demonstrate that you are equipped with the fastest Internet connection possible and latest communication gear that enables a variety of ways for clients to reach you. Phone, email, Skype.  Dropped or missed calls, bad connections will only cast doubt on your ability to deliver so invest in your infrastructure.
  2. Establish regular work hours – While you may enjoy the freedom of deciding when to work, you need to decide when you’re “on the clock” so that clients can reach you and personal contacts know when to leave you alone.  Getting in a regular routine keeps you productive and without that discipline you may find that one of two things happen:  You procrastinate and find yourself in a stressful crunch to get things done with an unhappy client or work gets spread out throughout the day and you feel like there’s never any downtime.
  3. Set boundaries and limit distractions – With no one looking over your shoulder, it is up to you to stay focused and motivated and to keep others from interrupting your work time. Friends, family, pets, YouTube etc., can all compete for your time if you let them. Remember, not only do you have a contractual obligation but you are also trying to change perceptions so you need to be strict with yourself and demonstrate your professionalism and ability to deliver.
  4. Create a work-friendly space – One way to limit distractions is to dedicate an area as your “work area” when not at the client site.  A home office that will give you privacy and keep you away from interruptions is essential.   Even if you live in a small apartment, dedicate a corner where all your tools, materials, media connections, and papers are at the ready. This will serve as a visual and psychological signal that it’s time to get to work.  Or as an independent consultant, perhaps it’s time to rent an office space where you can have business mail delivered and a place to go every morning.  Besides being a great way to establish your credibility as a professional, having somewhere to go can often stave off those feelings of isolation when working on your own.

Working remotely can be an advantageous scenario for both the independent consultant and their clients — as long as both parties are comfortable with the arrangement.  Taking steps to increase the likelihood that you’ll stay engaged, focused and professional and building trust and setting yourself up for success is essential and will ultimately improve your work performance and inspire confidence in your ability to deliver remotely.

Do you work remotely?  If so, have you had clients who were apprehensive about it?  How did you work past it?  We’d love to hear from you.  Share your comments below.

Self Discipline for Working At Home

Depending on your project, working from home may be an option and, depending on your client’s requirements, you may have some flexibility with your time.  It’s still important, though, to maintain self-discipline and ensure you get everything done, without giving in to those distractions.  Here’s a fun video by Matt Abraxas that gives some tips about how to stay focused when you work from home.

The Benefits with Flexible Work Logistics

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

How Contractors are Poised to Reap the Benefits of WORKShift and Other Similar Programs

Flexwork, also known as WORKshift, allows people to work where and when they are most productive.  Many companies, organizations and even communities are latching onto the WORKshift strategy as a solution for all sorts of issues – from scarce office space, to recruiting and retention, to leveraging non-local experts and everything in between.  Our cities are taking up the flexwork banner in a big way hoping to reduce traffic stress on our cities’ roads and downtown parking and to develop “greener” communities.   Led by Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax have recently developed and launched community strategies for encouraging their local companies to embrace this concept; and if other Canadian and US cities aren’t actively pursuing this approach, it’s definitely on their radar.

In Calgary, home of the WORKshift civic movement, early corporate adopters are validating the concept.  Provincial companies such as ATB Financial, national companies like Eagle Professional Resources and large international organizations such as TransCanada Pipelines are also on board.  They’ve found reasons to leverage technology, carefully adjust and re-align their business and workgroup processes and have rolled WORKshift out to their staff in significant ways.    Workshift: Future-Proof Your Organization for the 21st CenturyTheir stories can be read in Robyn Bews’ book Workshift: Future-Proof Your Organization for the 21st Century. Robyn is Calgary Economic Development’s Executive Director of WORKshift and a key consultant who supported Eagle’s own readiness assessment and preparation for WORKshift.  The benefits are huge and include harder to measure soft-wins such as increased levels of engagement, instilling a results-oriented work environment and enabling staff autonomy.  Through WORKshift, workers are able to enjoy what has been called “Work-Life Fusion”.

How does this new trend impact the contractor community?  Well, for one, contractors are already well positioned to take advantage of the move toward increased telework.  As they already operate their own businesses, most have home office space and own the technology needed to support a remote working environment.  They are autonomous by nature and may not be working full time hours on their clients’ sites.  Many have multiple clients and by carefully managing WORKshift strategies, contractors can avoid unproductive travel between clients and increase their billable hours.  In many ways companies, organizations and communities are just beginning to catch up to savvy contractors and their use of remote access, internet and security technologies to support a virtual office.

As both big and small business embrace the concept of WORKshift, the environment will become more conducive to the contractor model.  It won’t come without its challenges – security concerns will have to be addressed to enable contractors to connect to their clients’ private networks.  While the technology to enable this has existed for some time, companies will need to further consider and expand their security and network access policies to accommodate access to contractors and other 3rd party business partners.  The line between employee and contractor may also be further blurred as employees begin to work in ways more typically associated with contractors.

Time will tell, but history has shown that progress marches on and it’s difficult to imagine a future that doesn’t allow people to “fuse” their personal and professional lives and allow them to achieve more in both.  To quote Telus:  “The future is friendly”.  Perhaps even friendlier to contractors who embrace the new opportunity that is WORKshift!

Are you a contractor that has worked in a flexwork environment?  What are the benefits? Challenges?  Leave us a comment below.