Work and flexibility.
I was recently talking with a sales representative from a freight forwarder and noticed that his mobile phone was not switched off for our conversation. I asked if the mobile phone was also on in the evening and he replied that the phone was never off and that he was expected to respond whenever it rang.
For logistics professionals who are not tied to fixed workplaces, such as a warehouse, will this approach to working hours will be normal? Smart-phones, networks and cloud computing means that information is always available and can be updated as required, so meetings can happen at any time. The need for an office is redundant. While this sounds very positive to senior executives, the consequences of technology development is that if staff can work anywhere and at any time, when do they stop working?
Through our evolution, humans have been social beings who find interaction with others in a workplace to be positive. But for staff who mainly interact through IT, how to build this sense of community? It can apply to those in planning and scheduling, customer service and procurement; working flexible hours and independently (although always in electronic contact) and not having a collective office environment. In both shippers and logistics service provider businesses that work across borders, the challenges of solving problems or brainstorming an idea among teams are enhanced with different time zones and cultures.
The danger for businesses is that implementing a more flexible work structure appears to be technically easy. The real challenge is the people factor; a common theme for all new technologies and applications.
Work and performance
For those in a flexible working environment, performance measures should be aligned to results; but how will managers accept that successful outcomes can be achieved at any time and in coffee shops or on the beach?
Another challenge is the agreement or understanding between managers and staff about when members of the team are ‘at work’ and ‘not at work’. And how is ‘not at work’ signalled to colleagues, customers and suppliers without any offence being caused?
Changing work patterns that involve technology and include flexible hours and working from home or remotely offer opportunities to improve the work/life balance for logistics professionals. The challenge for management is to understand and implement processes that overcome concerns about the impact of technology, while improving the productivity of staff.