At Social Slam 2012 last week, one of my big ideas about community management was that it’s a lifestyle, not a job. It’s not revolutionary, but it does bear repeating, considering that so many companies continue to operate between the hours of 9-5, with little regard for how they will engage with users in the evenings, on the weekends and across the world. A recent report by Forbes Insights surveyed more than 500 executives to better understand the changing landscape of the workplace.

More than a State of Mind

The @Work State of Mind report declares that “Work has changed -- and people at work have changed profoundly.” Because being at work is a state of mind -- no longer a place or even a fixed period of the day, the way companies work is shifting, or should be evolving to accommodate the state of mind of its employees.

The report’s key finding highlights some of the disconnect we’ve been witnessing for awhile, including

  • Information Overload is Real: More than half the respondents (52%) said they receive information related to business decisions round-the-clock, including weekends.
  • Business Decisions Aren’t Limited to the Office: Almost three in five respondents (59%) said they made business decisions at home, while almost two in three (64%) said they made decisions while traveling on business and an additional one in three (30%) said they made business decisions while traveling with family.
  • Work is Social: About two in three respondents (67%) said that such work-related  networks play a significant role in business, and 56% said that personal social networks influence their determinations.

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Always On, Not Always Mobilized

While the report asserts that executives are always on and “ready to parachute into any pressing issue,” how they go about it isn't always clear. The report does a good job of lamenting the reasons (free wifi, advanced technology, popularity of social networks) why we are expected to be available and accessible no matter where we go, but it does little to show what executives are doing to empower their employees to engage proactively around the clock. It seems like executives are taking on the role of universal CEO without leveraging their networks. Additionally, the reports shows that executives regularly confuse checking email with engagement.

The emergence of the @Work State of Mind necessitates some wholesale reconsideration of how marketing communications programs are planned and executed. New best practices must emerge to accommodate such radical reconfiguration of the business decision maker’s time and space."

The report also doesn’t address the recent work-life balance mantras put forth by Sheryl Sandberg at Google about the merits of leaving work at 5:30 p.m. and working 40 hours a week. To adapt to the @Work State of Mind means that that employees alone shouldn’t be expected to carry the burden of an always-on workplace. Rather, companies need to expand the depth and breadth of departments and employees need to embrace collaborative workspace so that many people can deliver and manage communication in real time.