On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy
International and Cultural Trends in Telework Receptivity
Upon first receiving Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work, by Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson, I was a bit disappointed to see how skinny it was. After diving into it however, I realized that the information here is more about quality rather than quantity. In this book, Maitland and Thomson answered some lingering questions I had that I couldn’t seem to find answers to elsewhere. Are there any attempts to measure employee sentiment about telework internationally? Which countries and/or cultures are more receptive to a work anywhere-anytime system? Which aren’t?
It turns out that there are attempts to assess employees’ opinions as well as to parse out cultural aspects of various nations and organizations facilitating a remote work system. Consider the following points:
- According to Cisco Systems’ international survey of employees’ expectations, 60% of people believe they don’t need to work in an office in order to be productive, and this perspective is strongest in India, China, and Brazil (p. 80)
- With respect to a shift to future working styles, Gonnie Been, manager of corporate communications and social innovation at Microsoft, states that northern Europe is generally more accepting than southern Europe; resistance in the United States (where there is a culture of “presenteeism” or long hours) is also noted (p. 83, p. 103)
- Organizations open to innovating work styles (e.g., remote working) place value on creativity, trust, and self-motivation (p. 95)
- In comparing nations with advanced economies, Caroline Waters, director of people and policy at BT, states: the UK is furthest along in terms of workplace flexibility; the U.S. doesn’t have as sophisticated of a model as the U.K. while Germany’s tax legislation is largely prohibitive; France “hasn’t had great take-up nationally” with unions focusing on working week length instead of when and how people want to work. However, she sees the situation changing for these latter nations with more understanding of possibilities introduced by flexibility (p. 103-104).
The take-away message here is that the rate at which future work styles are adopted depends a lot on national cultural norms and that organizations are taking notice of the larger trends in employee sentiment at both national and international levels. Thus, our opinions are important. As I’ve talked about this subject with various people, I’ve come to realize that there are many out there who haven’t yet realized that this possibility exists. Consider the benefits. If the possibility of moving towards a remote work system is important to you, make sure to talk about it with others.