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The Future of Work: How Your Agency Can Usher in a New Era of Workplace Productivity


The typical office cubicle. The typical office cubicle.

Does this look familar? For many people, an office packed with cubicles has been the reality of a workplace for decades. Cubicles shut you off from the rest of the team, giving you a false sense of privacy and creating office "silos". Even in offices where collaboration and creativity are paramount (such as agencies), the cubicle has reigned supreme.

But the world of work is changing, and the modern office is driven by the needs of the staff. In 2020, half of the workforce in the US is going to comprise of Millenials (Gen Y) – the digital natives who are comfortable with technology use in every facet of their lives. The influx of millenials will continue to have a profound impact on the way the office of the future will operate.

People over productivity – and companies embracing this principle are reaping the rewards. Staff are requiring work to fit around their lives, and not the other way around.

In May 2013, Chess Media Group surveyed 605 employees – more than half from multi-national companies – about their use of collaboration and social technology at work. The results identified three key areas of workplace life that are changing – and are most in demand for change. We'll discuss these below:

1. The Future Agency Uses Enterprise Social and Collaboration Tools


Collaboration is everything. Collaboration is everything.

Imagine your agency in 10 years time. Chances are, things are drastically different. For one thing, the types of campaigns you work on will have changed. You may be working on realistic projected holograms, on advertising signage for space shuttles, or packaging for 3D-printed food. But the way you work will also be different; do you imagine your staff are still sitting at desks, headphones jammed in their ears, working quietly away on their own individual projects?

The change to a more collaborative workplace has already begun. Two-thirds of workers use some kind of social/collaborative tool in the workplace, and 64% have been using these tools for more than 18 months. So an astonishing amount of collaboration between employees already goes on. But what are employees using these tools for?

In the Chess survey, workers were asked why they use social and collaboration technology. The top ten reasons were:

  • General communication (76%)

  • Peer-to-peer collaboration (69%)

  • To ask and answer questions (64%)

  • Share and retrieve files (52%)

  • Ideal generation and innovation (51%)

  • Project management (47%)

  • Reduce reliance on email (46%)

  • Stay current on what co-workers and partners are working on (46%)

  • Find subject matter experts (44%)

  • Stay current on company news and announcements (43%)

Workers need a quick way to connect with others in their team, with external contractors and stakeholders, and share information and resources that help them get their jobs done. With more people being away from the office (either telecommuting from home or working while "on the road", it is also good to have a form of collaborative communication that is easily accessible and usable from any device.

Email is no longer the best, or the only, way to communicate and collaborate in a work environment. Email clutter has meant that emails will often go unanswered or unseen, whereas social platforms that pop and beep and jump on your screen will be easy to spot and respond to instantly. Emails don’t contain dynamic elements, enabling multiple participants to make notes on a document, for example. Email is also more cumbersome and difficult to answer on mobile devices. For this reason, chat services like Yammer are much more accessible than email.

And there are other uses for this type of social technology. Many companies use collaborative channels to deliver training materials or link employees to interesting stories and podcasts online.

Bring Collaboration to Your Creative Agency Today.

  • Be a Collaboration Cheerleader – For your team to embrace collaborative working, they need a leader, and that leader must come from management. I nominate YOU. 49% of workers surveyed said that it’s important for them to see their managers engaging with their content shared on social sites, and 48% agree it’s important to see managers actively using the tools.

  • Create the Infrastructure – this means some deep-level understanding of exactly what you want to achieve with collaboration tools, and a good IT crew who understand how to make this happen.

  • Gain Feedback - work with your employees to figure out how they want to use collaboration technology, and which tools they want to use.

  • Find Ways to Work Collaboratively Within Current Tools - one of the biggest issues any company faces when introducing new technology is getting staff to use it. Instead of convincing staff they need to learn yet ANOTHER programme, why not find out if any of your current programs include collaborative technology. For example, in WorkflowMax, staff, clients and contractors working on a job are able to see all the job information, and add notes and other files against a job.

  • Keep it SImple - most of your staff will be used to consumer social tools like Facebook and Twitter, which are all about sharing ideas and updates, linking to interesting content, and commenting on other’s feeds. Asking them to do significantly more will result in confusion and resistance.

  • Use a Single-Sign-On platform - this links to the point above, about using the tools and technology you already have. Staff will resist tools that require them to sign in to yet more accounts, update yet more systems and create yet another profile. Figure out a way to create ONE integrated office solution that will meet the majority of people’s collaboration needs.

  • Get Started! - Don’t delay any longer. If your agency is NOT using collaborative tools, then dive in and give it a try!

2. The Future Agency Has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy


Just a sample of the devices your staff could be using to access work data. Just a sample of the devices your staff could be using to access work data.

Bring-Your-Own-Device is a concept that, ten years ago, would've been terrifying to company directors. Workers bring in their own personal devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones, and use these to access, work from and sync with company infrastructure and files. BYOD fits in with a more flexible workforce that wants to be easily transition from home to office, and also enables workers more flexibility in managing collaborative and social tools (such as using a smartphone to capture images in the field and upload those images directly to your team).

BYOD offers other benefits for a creative agency - it enables staff to quickly make changes on a tight deadline, wherever they are. It also enables staff to view websites, designs and applications on a wide range of devices (simply by sending a proof out to the rest of the team). Testing of ads, sites and apps can be done quickly and cheaply in-house.

BYOD is also seen as a benefit by potential employees, so offering BYOD will make your agency appear even more desirable to work for. You’ll be able to attract top talent by enabling them to use whatever tools will best suit their needs.

The Sage SMB Survey showed that for remote-access workers, the preferred devices are: Smartphone (81%), laptop (80%) and tablet (57%). It seems that people generally own more than one of these types of devices (eg. a cellphone and a laptop) and will use each for a different purpose. This will be particularly true in an agency situation, where emails and messages can be checked on a smartphone, but complex design work will need a laptop or tablet.

Initially, it can seem daunting for in-house IT to have to manage such a diverse array of devices, but over time the load on IT should theoretically lesson, as people understand their own devices and gain help from their own social networks to solve issues. Where IT and creative staff need to work together is on creating a BYOD policy that works for everybody.

In order for BYOD to work smoothly at your agency, you need to have a solid policy in place. This not only offers you more control over the types of devices used (eliminating extremely out-of-date devices or pirated software, for example), but also works to protect you and your clients information from malicious spyware/viruses/bots/hacking that 54% of companies now offer BYOD policies. A policy protects company data and provides some level of recourse if anyone is found abusing the trust of the firm. Added to this, you need to think about how to protect / separate an employees personal data from your company files. I tell you from experience that this can be difficult if you’re the person in charge of the company Twitter account!

How to Bring BYOD into your creative agency:

  • Create Your BYOD Policy … Together – talk about bringing together collaboration and technology. Have everyone on staff contribute their ideas to a BYOD policy you can all get excited about.

  • Get IT Involved Early On - This is going to be a major pain-in-the-ass for your IT department initially, so get them involved from the get-go in brainstorming ways to get BYOD working effectively.

  • Focus on Important Tasks - what are employees DOING for the agency on each device? Figure out the most important activities to be mobile, and focus on providing solutions for these first.

  • Constantly Update and Inform Employees Regarding the BYOD Policy - All workers using BYOD should be signing a policy agreement, and they should understand the consequences of misuse. Continuous education and training on helping staff manage their data will ensure you don’t have any issues.

3. The Future Agency Offers Flexible Work Arrangements


How flexible is your workplace? How flexible is your workplace?

Do you offer some kind of flexible work arrangements for your staff? Can your designer work from a beach in Bali? Do you allow a new mother to telecommute from home? Have you told your top account manager he can work 10 hour days 4 days a week and have Friday off?

81% of firms involved in the Chess survey offer flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements are no longer perks: They are part of a company’s business strategy. We’ve talked before about the benefits to agencies of offering flexible work arrangements to staff, and the Chess survey gives some solid numbers behind the types of arragnements commonly employed by companies.

Of those companies surveyed:

  • 77% use flexiplace – enabling them to work from a remote location.

  • 64% use flexitime – they come and go from the office outside of the standard 9-5 work day.

  • 25% utilize a compressed workweek – for example, working 4 10-hour days instead of 5 8-hour days.

Flexible work arrangements offer numerous benefits to employees, with the survey reporting the following results.

  • Improved productivity at work (85%)

  • Improve work/life balance (80%)

  • Improved job satisfaction (77%)

  • Greater personal happiness (68%)

  • Reduced stress and burnout (59%)

  • Greater commitment to the job (49%)

  • Improved company culture and morale (48%)

  • Reduced absenteeism (44%)

  • Enhanced employee recruitment and retention (41%)

  • Feel more valued by employer (37%)

  • More open and transparent company culture (33%)

These benefits have a direct positive impact on productivity, workflow and morale at your agency. Happier workers = more inspiration and creativity = the best agency in town.

How to Implement or Improve Flexible Work Arrangements In Your Agency:

  • Provide the Tools To Get the Job Done - in order to work remotely and flexibly, staff will need certain tools. Work with staff to solve their software/data issues, and implement a BYOD policy to help them manage their work and personal files on the same device.

  • Review Contracts and Policies - check that your flexible work arrangements are carefully outlined in full in your policies and contracts. Place information about flexible arrangements on the staff intranet or other community space. This ensures all the information required is easy to access for all staff.

  • Promote Flexible Arrangements as a Staff Benefit - Don’t just offer flexible arrangements to the few staff who ask about them, ensure all staff know that flexibility is one of the benefits of working at your agency. Let everyone have equal chance to enjoy the benefits of flexible arrangements and demonstrate the improvement they make.

So what is the future of work and the workplace? What will the agency of 2024 look like? There’s no real way to tell, but by looking at three of the current prevalent workplace trends - collaborative technologies, Bring-Your-Own-Device, and flexible work arrangements - we can begin to paint a picture of what that workplace may look like. Dynamic, exciting, and flexible, work fits around the lives of staff (instead of the other way around), and everyone in the team is invested in creating the best possible result for the client. Staff are spread all over the globe, working around-the-cloth on client projects before sending out a message to their team via yammer to say what they’re up to. And yes, there are probably robots, but they mostly fetch the coffee.

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Steff Green
Steff Green is one of WorkflowMax's resident wordsmiths, writing everything from website pages to blog posts, ebooks, emails and everything in between. Steff is also an award-winning author, with several fantasy novels available on Amazon. When she’s not writing up a storm, Steff lives on a lifestyle block with her musician husband, two cantankerous cats, several sheep and chickens and her medieval sword collection.

Steff Green