“O.K. Holger, I’ve found your New Ways of Working blogs highly interesting and even eye-opening at times. But I’m wondering…. Is this concept based on some kind of scientific theory – or is it something you just came up with?”
I’ve been blogging about what we at Jabra call New Ways of Working for more than a year-and-a-half, and of the many questions and comments I’ve received, the one above really stood out. I appreciate honesty, and it’s one of the most to-the-point emails I’ve received since we started this journey!
So I thought I’d use this blog to explain the underlying framework behind New Ways of Working (yes, there is one, Amy!) and introduce a tool to help managers and knowledge workers plan their workdays for increased efficiency, productivity and job satisfaction.
At its core, New Ways of Working is all about organizing work for better productivity and making conscious choices and better decisions about the culture and technology we surround ourselves with at Work. These, in turn, lead to greater worker engagement and more fulfillment in our jobs. Why? We spend the majority of our waking hours each day on the job, so why shouldn’t work be enjoyable? Equally important, it’s critical that our organizations be successful. We know that greater employee engagement leads to higher job satisfaction, which results in improved productivity and greater company success.
The foundation of the New Ways of Working concept is the Productivity Cube, a behavioral model developed by our New Ways of Working research partner, Louise Harder. The Productivity Cube is a graphic representation of everything knowledge workers need to be most productive on the job.
The Cube in Three Dimensions
As you can see from the illustration, the cube features three dimensions: behaviors, technology and workplace culture. Technology is, of course, the tools we employ to do our work. Workplace culture includes the agreed-upon norms that are woven into the fabric of the organization. The final and most dynamic dimension, behavior, defines the ways we connect to people and information.
There are four primary behaviors – the “Four C’s” – we engage in while performing our job duties each workday:
- Concentration – A real-time activity where we’re zeroed in on task by reflecting, conceptualizing, synthesizing and decision making.
- Conversation – Talking with others, in real time, to solve or clarify issues, usually in person, by phone or instant message.
- Communication – Sending and receiving written, text- or sound based messages from one person to another or others, often not in real-time.
For maximum productivity while completing our daily tasks, it’s imperative that each of the Four C’s of behavior be supported by the right technology and workplace culture.
For example, let’s say you’re tasked with producing an important financial report, and, as such, are in concentration mode. The supporting technologies you need to be fully productive could include access to the organization’s financial database, a laptop with the most current Excel capabilities and a noise-canceling headset that enables you to work without interruption, among others. The required workplace culture could include the freedom to work remotely or coworkers who respect a “busy” light indicating that you’re tackling a critical task and cannot be disturbed.
Having lesser supporting technologies – say, access only to paper reports rather than the corporate database – or different workplace cultural norms, such as a culture where it’s permissible to disturb workers who have requested privacy, would reduce your productivity.
While the example I used above focuses only on the concentration behavior, it of course applies to conversation, collaboration and communication as well.
The Cube as Planning Tool
The Productivity Cube also helps us complete our everyday tasks as efficiently as possible. In fact, it’s the “how-to-do” list that I described in a previous blog. I use it every day and ask that my colleagues do the same.
If you’ve read this far (and, if so, thank you!), you can spot an obvious question: What if you don’t have the right technologies or culture to support the tasks you need to perform?
In that case, you need to make some organizational changes, either by obtaining the necessary technologies or working to change your corporate culture. Just as we wouldn’t expect a carpenter to complete a job without the necessary hammer and saw, we shouldn’t expect knowledge workers to perform their jobs without the right tools either.
So there you have it, Amy. The Productivity Cube is the tool we use to address our New Ways of Working objective of increasing productivity and job satisfaction. It works for me, and I hope it will work for you too.