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Workplace Flexibility: What’s Your Workstyle?

I’ve been talking a lot about workstyle. For those of you new to the term workstyle, let me step back and explain.

If someone asked you to talk about your lifestyle, you might say one of the following:

“I have a fast-paced lifestyle and my career is my top priority. I work hard at my job and do everything I can to advance at my company. On the weekends, I focus on trying new fitness regimens and socializing with people in similar lines of work.”

“I am a wanderer and world traveler. I work only to get the money I need to cover my travel expenses. I work for 6 months a year and then spend the rest of the time exploring.”

If your lifestyle is the set of habits about your life, workstyle is the set of habits and preferences for how you work. Some of us work best as part of a team and want to collaborate on every product launch, document, or site redesign. Others prefer more solitude; give us the task and we’ll get it done on our own, without disruptions. All of us want to use the technology we’re most comfortable with to increase our productivity. Whatever workstyle we settle on, it fits our personality and lifestyle so we can perform at our best. Just as no lifestyle is good or bad, workstyles are individual—no one is right or wrong.

Today I wanted to share the workstyle of a few customers and Jivers.

For Doug MacKay of Critical Mass, a global marketing agency in Calgary, Alberta, workstyle is all about location. He’ll do his work wherever he can be successful. As Doug explains, “Mostly I work in the office but it seems lately that I’m working all the time: at home and mobile. The interesting thing is that the idea of work is changing. While it’s pervasive, the load sometimes diminishes to the point where I can enjoy the outdoors AND keep working.”

To balance work and life, Doug makes sure the IT team can work remotely, “After all, if we can’t do it right for a digital agency then we’re not doing our jobs. So that means I split my time between office and home. It keeps my family happy even though I might be on the deck with my laptop. I also make sure to silence my phone for non-work hours and only let emergency calls come through. It streamlines life.” The ability to work where he wants isn’t just good for Doug, he explains, “This culture ensures an always up approach to support and reduces the need to have too much pressure on back-filling expertise during vacations or conferences. The business has relaxed, effective experts on hand wherever they may — or need to — be.”

Then there’s Will Rose, enterprise community manager for T-Mobile, who focuses on getting work done at times that fit his family’s lifestyle. He explains, “I come in late and leave early. Seriously. I have a two-year old and try to maximize my time with him vs. maximizing the time the daycare has with him. That might mean I get to the office around 9 and try to start wrapping things up around 4. After he goes to bed, though, I pull the laptop back out and finish anything up I didn’t get to or simply get a jump on the next day.” He also ascribes to a “help myself and help others” workstyle. T-Mobile is a Windows shop but he prefers a Mac. Since few people at T-Mobile use Macs and IT provides them little support, he started a Mac Users group in his community where users could connect and share workarounds: “That VPN setup IT didn’t know how to set up on a Mac? Documented! That cloud printing service that we were told would only work with a PC? Documented!” Even though Will doesn’t keep long hours in the office, T-Mobile community members benefit from the fact that he’s available–and fully engaged–at times when others are not.

For others, tools are central to enabling workstyle. Ryan Rutan, the Jive developer evangelist, looks at no fewer than three screens during the day: a fully loaded 3.4Ghz Quad-Core Ivy Bridge iMac with 3 x 27″ Monitors. It suits him. He explains, “When I travel, I have to use my laptop, an iPad and iPhone in tandem to feel as though I’m not being 1/3 less productive.” He’s also a multitasker; on average he has 118 Jive tabs open on his home computer on any different day. His workspace reflects his activity during each day. Ryan notes, “My workspace goes from immaculate to cluttered, to stacked to unbalanced, to messy to just enough room, to time to push it all off into a box, to digging through the box, to putting things from the box in their right place and back to immaculate. It’s a vicious cycle!” Ryan’s set-up might not work for everyone but I will say he is the the most productive, creative, and effective evangelist I have ever known.

ryan rutan workstyle

Workstyles are as individual as human beings. How you prefer to work compared to others isn’t what matters. What matters is that we, as leaders, recognize the key to success is embracing the differences and creating an environment that supports all types of workstyles.

I’d love to hear about your workstyle! What habits, devices and apps have made you successful in your job?