Today, March 17th 2013, is St. Patrick’s Day. So while the rest of the world has already embarked on a massive celebration (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way!!), I am also celebrating something rather special, so I thought I would let folks out there know about it, since I keep getting asked time and time again. No, it’s *not* my birthday, as the Social Web keeps proclaiming to the world and beyond. Actually, I have lied on the Social InterWebs, because my birthday already took place a few weeks back. However, on the Web, and a few years ago already, I updated all of my social networking profiles to put an incorrect birth date, just because I didn’t feel the world needed to know that personal detail. Oh, not to worry, I am not too fussed about my age, 41 this year, but it’s the principle that with that accurate date and a couple of other details people could impersonate you and steal your identity. So I thought I would lie about it and instead pick up a date that still is rather special and dear to me: St. Patrick’s Day.
Why is March 17th such an important date to yours truly?, you may be wondering, right? Well, mainly because 9 years ago, exactly today, I moved from The Netherlands to Gran Canaria, my home base, making it by now the second longest time that I have ever lived in a place, outside of my parents home. So, in a way, it is my home, don’t you think? That’s right! I wasn’t really sure whether I was going to be able to make it for that long, but I guess that once you settle in a place and you decide that’s going to be it, it kind of becomes a special place. One that is part of you, and you are part of it. And that, to me, is Gran Canaria.
I guess time flies pretty quickly when you are having fun, right? Because even though it looks like as if it was yesterday, with the odd blink here and there, it’s already been 9 years since I moved to the island. And I wouldn’t change a single one of those years. It does feel like a re-birth, for sure, since when it happened I was going through one of those life changing experiences that you know you are going to bump into at some point in your life that makes you question and wonder about the small things, i.e. you know, the things that matter. So, perhaps in a way, I am celebrating today my re-birthday after all. Who knows…
The thing is that life works in mysterious ways and does magical and wonderful things, because how ironic it is that today I’m celebrating that 9th year anniversary of having moved to Gran Canaria, in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where I am staying for a couple of days to participate and present at the Congres Intranet 2013 (#intra13 is the Twitter hash tag, if you would want to follow it up over the next couple of days…). Yes, I know, very ironic, isn’t it?
Anyway, it’s still a wonderful celebration and I just couldn’t help dropping by over here in this blog and, like every year, share a short note of appreciation for how much of an impact such a tiny island can have in a person, like myself and everyone else who may have lived or visited there. So perhaps I thought I would share over here a couple of snapshots that would give you a glimpse of why Gran Canaria has got a special place in my heart for over the last 9 years and still going strong …
And those pictures surely remind me of the warm weather that I am already missing while over here in Utrecht, where it’s rather cold [Brrr] despite spring being just around the corner! So I guess it will also help me as an incentive of what awaits me in a couple of weeks when I return back home. Yes, that’s right, Utrecht is not the only city I’m going to visit during this business trip. I’m going to be on a little bit of a European Tour that will take me in a couple of days to Paris (Where I will be attending and presenting at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit - Follow the hash tag #e20s on Twitter, if you would be interested), then from there onwards on to Leuven, Belgium, to present at BLUG (#blug) and over the coming weekend onto Prague, to present as well at the Heutagogy Conference event on March 27th.
Goodness! I told you, a little bit of a European Tour, wasn’t it? I am excited already and I haven’t started it just yet! Either way, like I said, in two weeks time I will be enjoying the lovely warm weather, the lovely people, the lovely food from the one island that decided to become my new home 9 years ago: Gran Canaria.
Thus happy re-birthday to me!
PS: As usual, if you are going to be around any of those cities while I’m on the road, throughout this business trip, and would want to meet up for a drink or a coffee, or even a quick “Hi!”, feel free to reach out through the usual social spaces … I’m just about to end the self-inflicted Twitter and G+ silence, provoked by something I talked about a little while ago …
A few days back Scott Edinger put together a very insightful article on the topic of whether remote knowledge workers are more engaged, or not, than people working at the traditional office. The interesting thing though is how the whole concept of teleworking has been all along with us for several decades now, specially, since the emergence of groupware, collaboration and knowledge sharing solutions came about. And it looks like with the opportunity of embracing social networking tools for business that we are enjoying nowadays, there is a new rush in trying to figure out whether social technologies can finally free up knowledge workers from the yoke of the traditional office, resulting, if anything, on what I feel has been one of the main mantras behind both Social Business and the future of work meme: work is no longer a physical space, but a state of mind.
Work happens, indeed, wherever you are, whenever you need, with whatever the tools you have at your disposal, with whoever the connections you may collaborate with in getting the job done. Never before have we been capable of realising that dream of the fully empowered knowledge worker to work virtually in a more than ever distributed world than thanks to the emergence of all of these social networking tools. To the point where, finally, we are starting to see how it’s helping employees become more engaged, more participative, more collaborative, taking on a fair bit of co-ownership and responsibility for their work to levels we haven’t seen in the past just yet. And it makes perfect sense, specially, if you take into consideration how initiatives like BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) have taken the corporate world by storm. However, there may well be perhaps a couple of other additional reasons altogether than those Scott has talked about on that article itself that should probably be added into the mix.
But before we go into that and explore it a bit more in detail, and perhaps as good background for this topic of discussion, on teleworking, that is, we should not forget about the huge amount of literature, in the form of blog posts , articles, studies, research, infographics, white papers, etc. etc. that we have seen over the course of the last few months talking about the various different benefits, the perks, the advantages, the good practices and lessons learned of working remotely thanks to the extensive use of social networking tools. It’s definitely noteworthy to state how it’s perhaps, finally, moving forward in the right direction, raising the right questions: does remote working help you improve your productivity and effectiveness at what you already do? The answer seems to be on the positive side of things. Yes! And I would wholeheartedly have to agree with that assertion, at least, based on my own experience as a remote knowledge (Web) worker from over the last 10 years and counting…
We have seen as well though a few folks talking about some of the various disadvantages; nonetheless, if there is anything clear out of the whole discussion taking place is that working remotely, while remaining productive and effective enough at what you do, still raises questions, concerns and whatever other issues that have certainly kept challenging the relevance of the traditional office as well as the potential place for the virtual workplace of the future we are moving forward to. This time around, nothing to do with technology, apparently, as it’s just an enabler, as usual, but more from the perspective of culture and how in a good number of different environments teleworking not only doesn’t it get promoted nor encouraged, but eventually it gets turned off, to the point of not tolerating it, because both knowledge workers and managers have got that presumption that if you can’t see, or can’t be seen, you can’t be productive, you can’t measure the results. You see? Apparently, we are still very much inclined to measure our productivity by our sheer presence at the office rather than the results and deliverables you produce, in whatever the timeframe, wherever you may well be.
Well, that presumption may well have its days numbered, thanks to the emergence of these social networking tools, because if there is anything out there that they are very good at is at helping generate enough visibility, openness and transparency to continue working out loud, narrating your work. In short, becoming comfortable with observable work (a.k.a. #owork) by which we are seeing a fundamental shift from measuring individual performance by your mere presence at the office cubicle to measuring network / community / team performance based on the results you get to produce in a collaborative and open manner. And this is, indeed, when work is no longer considered a physical place, i.e. the traditional office, but more that state of mind: work happens around you and your networks (physical or virtual) who collaboratively share your knowledge to achieve a common goal. That is, getting the job done.
However, with all of that said, I still think Scott missed a couple of interesting insights that I have seen over the last few years in that transition towards adopting and embracing teleworking. The vast majority of knowledge workers who are still skeptic about it are mainly so, because they haven’t experienced it themselves. They keep saying that they wouldn’t be able to do it; that they need to be in contact with other people face to face, that they lack the discipline to stick to work related stuff, they would instead do the shopping, or the laundry or just keep the kids buzzing around. They just can’t possibly see themselves working remotely, never mind their managers, specially, those who are still living that illusion of command and control or those other managers who thrive on micro-managing their employees. Yet, they keep feeling that way, because, in reality, they haven’t tried it out themselves for a good number of weeks, months. Versus just perhaps a couple of days.
Yes, indeed, you would need plenty of discipline, motivation, encouragement and commitment to make it work. There is no denying that. It’s not easy. Just like commuting to the physical office, one has got to set one’s mind up towards understanding that work is work and the rest is … life. And this is exactly what I think Scott is missing from his article. Two of the main key motivators for which remote workers excel at engagement, participation and collaboration with their fellow colleagues, customers and business partners: flexibility and work / life integration.
Flexibility from the prospective that the traditional 9-5 work schedule is a thing of the past. Long gone are the traditional 8-ish working hours per day (Although we know that every knowledge worker works, sadly, more than 8 hours per day, contrary to what studies have shown as the perfect work week schedule) and instead knowledge workers, through the use of these social networking tools have become more flexible, understanding that depending on the kind of work at hand there would be times when they would be chipping in 14, 15 or 16 hours of work, but then there would be other times when things may be slowing down a bit, and they may just work 2 to 3 hours. And it would be totally fine, because thanks to that flexibility they just focus on the task at hand, versus having to keep working even if the task is completed already. That flexibility is a huge motivator and incentive for remote knowledge workers, because right there they are starting to grasp the notion of how they are in much better control of their workflows, according to their needs & wants and those of their networks. Eventually, working together to finish the job even faster and with perhaps much more quality, thanks to that network effort.
With regards to Work Life Integration, there is very little that I can add, since I have blogged about it recently as well. But I can certainly add one other key aspect related to such integration. Notice how I am no longer talking about work life balance, since I think it’s a myth. It’s always been a myth. It’s never worked. Despite corporations trying really hard for knowledge workers to embrace such balance, in almost all cases there isn’t such a thing: work always wins. Regardless. However, with integration it is different, very different. Because what you introduce into the equation is a new key concept that’s finally making its way into the business world: choice.
In particular, your choice to become a remote worker. In the vast majority of cases, it’s the knowledge workers themselves the ones who request from their managers and their day to day work to become remote workers. They are the ones who have got that initial urge to become remote employees. Some times it doesn’t get granted easily, depending on the nature of your job, whether you have got direct customer exposure, or not, whether your team is all collocated, etc. etc. Whatever the reason. But the vast majority of times it is granted. That’s when flexibility kicks in. That’s when the motivation is huge! That’s when micro-managers become servant leaders helping facilitate interactions and connections, even remotely, in order to facilitate more openness, transparency, trustworthier exchanges, etc. etc. to get work done even more effectively.
And it just works! Why? For something that most people don’t seem to realise just yet. And that’s the fact that those remote knowledge workers are the very first ones who are truly interested in being allowed to continue working remotely in the first place. So they are the first interested party in keeping up that status. For their own good, never mind that one of their teams, networks or communities. They are the first ones who will work really hard on it, because they realise that thanks to that very same flexibility and work life integration they are much more effective and engaged employees than as if they would be working from the physical office.
That’s why whenever someone asks me how I can keep up working throughout my work week from Gran Canaria, you know, paradise island, they are still surprised they can reach me any which way thanks to those various different social networking tools, instead of, say, just being on the beach. Yes, I know, I could well do that, but then again, for how long? How long would you think I would be allowed to keep such status if I weren’t the first interested party in remaining a fully empowered, networked, engaged, motivated knowledge worker?
Even more, do you think I would be allowed to work remotely, where I live, by just making use of corporate email, instead of Living “A World Without eMail“, by making an even heavier use of social networking tools? I probably wouldn’t. And understandably given that lack of openness, visibility and transparency that email provides. That, on its own, is the main reason why I keep walking the talk on becoming an engaged remote knowledge (Web) worker, because thanks to that very same flexibility and work life integration I get to enjoy, every so often, things in life like this …
And that’s not too bad for a professional, remote, networked knowledge worker, don’t you think?
Happy Saint Patricks Day!!, for those folks who may be celebrating it anyway… Today surely is a special day for a whole bunch of people all over the world. Well, for me, too! No, it’s not because on the Internet apparently it’s my birthday today, which it isn’t (Thanks ever so much everyone for those kind and warm wishes shared across though!). Once again, and like I have been doing for a couple of years now, I *lied*. My actual birthday date is in February (Yes, I am a true Aquarian!), as I have hinted elsewhere already, but in a way it is my birthday today as well. At least, what I would consider having been reborn again into the current life I have been enjoying for the last 8 years and counting… Indeed, 8 years ago, on March 17th, 2004, on such a special occasion as St. Patrick’s Day, I moved to Gran Canaria, as my permanent home. And I haven’t gone back anywhere else ever since!
If you have been reading this blog for a long while you will notice how, despite the odd and awkward experiences here and there with my business travelling, I do enjoy traveling all over the place quite a bit. It’s probably the best option out there to get to know places, people, their languages, their customs, their traditions, their cultural traits, and whatever else. Amongst one of the best learning experiences in life. It’s also probably the best option to meet up a good bunch of close friends who no longer live near you in the same city, country or whatever, but that thanks to the wonderful world of the Social Web they are scattered all over. But, to be honest, the main reason why I love traveling, is because every time that I do it gives me an opportunity to treasure and appreciate why I work and live in Gran Canaria. My home.
You know, time and time again, when I get to present at conference events, summits, workshops, seminars and whatever else on the initiative I started over 4 years ago on living “A World Without Email“, and how the world of Social is helping us transform the corporate world of the 21st century as well as our societies as a whole, it surprises plenty of people how I can still get away with having ditched corporate email, rely quite heavily on social networks for business and still live and work in Gran Canaria. Even more when my own boss is thousands of kilometers away from me… Well, that’s my story. And I am surely grateful to my current employer, IBM, as they have been employing me for the last 15 years to give me an opportunity to demonstrate there are other ways to contribute, make yourself useful, have an impact, and enjoy with a passion what you do on a daily basis. Regardless of where you are in the world. It no longer makes a difference. Remember the blog post I put together a couple of days ago on “Everything is connected to everything“?
That’s what I have been trying to prove all along. That with the emergence of much more effective and efficient collaborative, knowledge sharing and social networking tools we now have an opportunity to redesign how we do work, where we do it and with whom. And how it’s that flexibility and work life integration that would surely help knowledge workers become a lot more attached to the work they do, with a rather strong sense of belonging, ownership and co-responsibility for wanting things to work out just all right. To always want to improve the way your business does business, even if that means facing as well the ugly parts, to try to solve them in a meaningful and purposeful manner. All in all, to become more engaged, transparent, open, nimble, in short, sustainable and smart enough to carry on for a few decades more in perhaps one of the most complex, yet exciting, times in our lifetime as a species.
That’s why I am celebrating today my 8th year anniversary since I arrived in Gran Canaria. I never expected I would be staying over here that long. In fact, after my family’s home, it’s the place in the world I have lived the longest in a row. And while I don’t know how much longer I would be living over here, since that’s something that you can never plan anymore these days (Welcome to the world of uncertainty! hehe), I can certainly assure you all that, to me, it’s all about enjoying every single minute of it, yes, the good old carpe diem, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Oh, well, hang on, yes, I know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Actually, beginning of next week, when I am on the road again for a couple of business trips to Belgium and London (again!) and where you can imagine how much I would be looking forward to coming back home and be greeted with something special , something that 8 years ago welcomed me to be part of its family, its extensive community, and still accepts me to be there for who I am. Yes, that’s Gran Canaria. That’s my home. That’s my life. We may as well enjoy it, don’t you think?
Again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, for those celebrating it, and happy 8th year anniversary, @elsua 4.0! Time to go off now and enjoy plenty of the beauty this paradise on earth island has got to offer! Ohhh, and if you ever come to pay a visit on your holidays or next business trip, get in touch! I would be delighted to show and guide you around … Or check my Foursquare’s checkins for some of the best places to hang out, as well as enjoy some of the most beautiful surroundings with incredibly friendly people and superb food. Oh, yes, I am a #foodie, too! But I am sure you have noticed that already, haven’t you?