How to build a company – Work2.0

July 13, 2011

The easiest way to implement “the New Way of Working”, “Work2.0” or however we call the modern, web-enabled, collaborative, flexible work environment is to start from scratch. The easiest way to start from scratch is to begin with a purpose (the Why, or the Plan), than start thinking about the How, than the What. Office space, flexibility, result-oriented working all fall in place. Usually a startup grows from home or from the garage. In our case, in a converted horse stable.

The Qhuba Boardroom2.0

The Qhuba Boardroom2.0

We did not want to own an IT infrastructure, so we outsourced everything from Day 1. Everyone could pick his own device, arrange his own internet access, and share applications, files, collaboration tools online. After one year we began hiring some staff, and needed a place for them to work physically together. We hired a room and a meeting room at a law firm upgraded the internet connection and that was that. At the moment, with fifty people, we share eight workspaces, we have a meeting room for interviews and a boardroom for sixteen. I bet when we have a hundred people, we won’t need more than this.

We have  a clearly defined strategy, we have goals, we have people responsible for those goals, and we all go to work. Whenever, however and wherever we want. Work2.0 is a reality for us.

How different is this for most of our clients. They usually have more workspaces than staff, they cringe for reduction, a greener footprint, increased productivity, and more collaboration and innovation.

Recently we organised and hosted an open discussion about this New Way of Working (or Het Nieuwe Werken) as most companies call it, with participant from companies such as Alliander, KLM, KPN. Not having any ready made solution for their challenges, the first question we asked was to share what they expected to take away from the discussion, as well as to indicate which discipline they represented in their company. Of course, for each participant the definition of NWW and the reasons for their companies to embark in a NWW project were different, so we agreed

  • to try to come to a shared understanding of what work2.0 really stands for
  • to get an insight in the real goals and gains of implementing work2.0

The common denominator for starting a work2.0 transition seemed to be to radically decrease to number of workspaces and office space (and save money), and meanwhile to unleash the full potential of the Human Capital of the company. The Dutch Government believes that the New Way of Working can “give a positive impulse to stimulation of entrepreneurial behavior, innovation and competitiveness in a globalizing economy”. Read if we want to beat the Chinese we have to change the way we work. No doubt logistical challenges (traffic, gridlock) and environmental considerations (COx, pollution, noise) have also played a role.

Willem de Jager

Willem de Jager

Willem de Jager (from the Government sponsored Teleworkforum) gave us a historical perspective and some hands-on insights.
The starting point for this should be:

 

 

  • a discussion about the goal of someone’s job: why does this job exists and what do you think you need to accomplish in relation to the company’s strategy. Once this has been established, the resource should be free to
  • decide what he needs to accomplish that
  • who he needs
  • the employee and his manager should agree on how the result is measured, and what relation there should be between the goals he aims for and the way he is compensated
  • Where and when he works to accomplish his goals can than be up to the individual employee.

As long as employees are rewarded purely based on time (as in: based on the fact that they spend forty hours a week in the office), it makes very little sense to force the employee to spend this time in a location of his choice. In this case the only benefit can be a reduction of office space, but there are a lot of potentially negative effects, such as decreased productivity, employers liability for work related injury at home, et cetera.

Whereas most employment contracts are a balance between authority and instruction, it is dangerous to give up authority over place and time. This should be agreed, on a temporary basis, outside the employment contract.

Conclusions: Work2.0 has many potential benefits, but is first and foremost a change in management culture. Once staff is not hired based on time (presence), but on the basis of goals (output), or even contribution or change (outcome) in relation to an agreed strategy the positive effects have a good chance of outweighing the costs and disruptive effects.

Work2.0 is a daily reality for independent contractors, who are contracted based on results, even though they are sometimes compensated on a time basis.

If part of the transition in to create office spaces with the same quality of environment as people are used to at home, all the better. Employees will be motivated to come to the office and spend time with colleagues, but they will choose to work from other locations or from home when this make more economic sense. interaction with co-workers is important, not only for the company, but also for society. Forty percent of all office workers have dated a colleague, and thirty-one percent have married a colleague.

The nett result can be: happy motivated people, more productive time, less pollution, less office space.

If the research was correct, with fifty people, we some twenty should be dating, and we expect seven marriages. I would be surprised…