Matrix Monday: Virtually Collaborative Workpaces

Continuing our Matrix Monday summaries of the limited literature available focussing on matrix organizations, today we look at a very recent paper, Seizing Opportunities, Overcoming Productivity Challenges in the Virtually Collaborative Workplace, by Alain Pirard, a Manager within Cognizant Business Consulting’s Strategic Services Practice in Amsterdam, and Rob Konterman, a Consultant within Cognizant Business Consulting’s Strategic Services Practice in Amsterdam.

literature on matrix management, matrix structuresThis paper argues that virtual team working can help advance individual and collective business performance.

If the common pitfalls include short-term thinking, distractions, personal detachment and business disruption, this needs, the paper argues, to be balanced with the benefits: virtually collaborative workplaces help ease traffic jams, reduce carbon footprints and save money spent on infrastructure and energy. At the individual employee level, studies demonstrate improvements in work/life balance and job satisfaction.

The concerns, however, are very real. The paper reports that the annual cost of reduced efficiency (in the form of time lost to handling unnecessary interruptions and recovering from information overload) is estimated at nearly $1 billion for chip manufacturer Intel, for example. The very real risks to workers, performance issues, as well as some practical technology issues are also discussed.

The paper looks at how organizations can:

–        ensure employees have the right collaboration tools and devices;

–        offer communications guidelines and training;

–        stimulate face-time between knowledge workers;

–        find ways to let knowledge workers focus on core tasks;

–        manage a workforce based on results rather than on time spent.

Space is also devoted to some practical ideas and solutions from both a worker’s and organization’s perspective, and the paper includes a look at some successful programmes. In Microsoft Netherlands, productivity as a result of their virtual working programme “soared” by 25%; employee satisfaction rose by over a third; sickness leave fell; and real estate costs declined 30%. (The paper notes, however, that Microsoft is particularly well based to deliver the technology piece of the equation, something other companies might be less adept at.)  Pfizer’s “PfizerWorks” programme saved around 60 thousand hours of unproductive time. ROWE reduced staff attrition by 90%.

Previous ‘Matrix Monday’ summaries on literature related to matrix working can be found here: Matrix Monday 

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