Digital communication is making way for new working models

Digital forms of communication are increasingly becoming the norm in social and economic areas. Mobile devices, in particular, are increasingly changing the landscape. When it comes to retail sales, this development is particularly seen in the increasing shift of purchases to the internet, whereas industrial applications primarily comprise the progressive digitalization of production processes.

“Digital business” now theoretically enables everyone to work from anywhere in the world provided they have a good Internet connection and power supply. There are hardly any limitations due to collaboration tools and Enterprise 2.0 applications for online based teamwork, virtual PBX, video meetings, messenger systems and secure connections to corporate networks via VPN. The workplace is being transformed into a virtual workspace. Even in the business sector the generation change keeps on going. Soon the majority of employees will consist of a generation that is characterized by its natural use of digital communication media.

BITKOM (Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien e.V.) formulates concrete courses of action in its study “Arbeit 3.0” (Work 3.0). According to this study, almost every second person (45%) sometimes works from home in addition to checking their email and calendar on the way to work and one-third of all workers even do this on a regular basis. Of course this is a two-sided coin. On one side, employees are gaining personal freedom and are more motivated. On the other side, flexible working models make it harder to climb the career ladder and inhibit communication with colleagues. Most importantly, they force a blending of work and private lives.

This mixing is almost unavoidable, especially when it comes to international business. When communication is necessary even at unusual times, it doesn’t help much to switch off the server in the evening or formulate rules pertaining to the “right to be unavailable”, which in effect limit the newly gained flexibility. Employees are expected to be highly personally responsible and self-organized in the same way as when taking on a social role as a team member. Those who, in the face of digitization, still want to be perceived as a colleague along with all the results of their work, have to actively ensure that this is the case.

On the other hand, employers have to provide the appropriate IT tools for social exchange and clearly define the expectations they have of their employees with regard to permanent availability and activity. Performance should be measured objectively based on achievement of goals and not on presence or availability. Otherwise, they run this risk of overwhelming and possibly even losing their most important resource – namely motivated employees.

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