Chess Media Group ,social business, enterprise collaborationFrom the Chess Media Group's "The Future of Work" report

Virtually everyone reading this article has heard, for years, that the way we work is changing. Now, a new report tries to quantify the changes through a survey of employees actually using the new collaboration technologies.

The report, “The Future of Work: Reshaping the Workplace Today/Building for Tomorrow” by the Chess Media Group, presents three main insights into how people are working in organizations that use social and collaboration technologies. ( was a media partner for the survey.)

More Effective Workers, BYOD

One insight is that collaboration is creating stronger growth and more effective workers, through a virtual expansion of the workplace and more effective methods of communication. The reasons most frequently cited by the surveyed employees for using social and collaborative tools include general communication, peer-to-peer communication, asking or answering questions, sharing and retrieving files, generating ideas and innovation, project management and reducing reliance on email -- all of which help an organization get things done.

The report noted that a Chess Media Group survey in 2011 found that many of the responding organizations were then just getting started in collaboration, but now 64% of responding workers say that their organizations have been investing in collaboration for more than 18 months, and 36 percent say their companies have been doing this for three years or more. An overwhelming majority -- 86 per cent -- of responding workers said that social and collaborative tools are enabling them to work more effectively than before.

The second insight, which more than one report has noted, is that the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend is permanent, with 54 percent of responding organizations noting that they offer BYOD policies. BYOD not only makes the lives of IT departments both harder and easier, but it is also a big driver of social interaction and collaboration in the workplace, and is a key enabler of workers being able to do their jobs virtually anywhere or anytime.

Flexibility a Key Business Strategy

Third, flexible work arrangements have become a key business strategy, not just a perk for employees, with 81 percent of organizations saying that they offer flexible work arrangements. The most common flexible work arrangement is telecommuting, and the vast majority of workers report that flexible working improves their work productivity, their balance of work and family life, and their personal happiness, and it reduces stress and burnout.

The report noted that, as we head to 2020 when half of the workforce will be Millennials who have been using these communication technologies all of their lives, there are certain basic efforts companies can undertake to support these workplace trends. For instance, the most basic capabilities of collaboration tools are also the most common ones, which the report attributes to the fact of their similarity to basic capabilities in consumer-grade social tools, although other enterprise-grade functions might actually better improve productivity.

Additionally, the report points out that collaboration platforms still need to be integrated with core software applications used on a daily basis, such as by providing single sign-on access.

Perhaps the most far-reaching development in the report is that flexible work arrangements have become very popular. Seventy-seven percent of employees in organizations that offer flexible work arrangements utilize flex place, or the ability to work anywhere, and 64 percent use flex time. Twenty-four percent take advantage of a compressed work week. Flexible work arrangements, the report said, "are no longer the exception but the rule."

Not Just Success, But Personal Gratification

Flexible work arrangements mean that the new technologies are not only creating new forms of collaboration and communication within the workplace, but are actually creating a new standard beyond the 40-hour, five-day, in-the-office work life that is distinct from a personal life. Just as the new technologies have dramatically altered company hierarchies and even physical layouts in offices, they have now clearly changed the work-life balance.

Some could argue this means that work never goes away, thus eroding personal lives. But the report says that this trend means "the workplace has now become a vehicle for not only professional success but personal gratification."

To prepare for the modern workplace, the Chess Media Group recommends a variety of initiatives relating to collaboration, BYOD and flexible work arrangements. For instance, the executive team should act as role models, single sign-on should be implemented, and flexible work arrangements can be used to attract and retain workers.

Perhaps at some point the Chess Media Group can look at such concerns as which kinds of work are best for flexible work arrangements, or if there are issues relating to managing such workers. But, for the moment, this offers a promising view of why all these communication and collaboration technologies really matter in people's lives.