A good many of us regularly work with contacts in every corner of the world and are constantly pursued by the new ‘follow the sun’ attitude to global 24-hour contact. Personally, working left to right (so to speak) I am regularly connected to Jerry in Seattle, Mike in Ohio, Terry-Lynn in Baltimore. I then connect to my fellow Brits and other Europeans. After that it’s Bashar in Dubai, James in Hong-Kong and finally the guys I know over in Sydney before finally rounding up with Tony in Tasmania. Actually, they wake up in reverse order to that don’t they – but you get the point.
On paper, we’re supposed to be able to “leverage” (sorry, that slipped in) this global network and all work together to create a sum greater than the parts. New collaborative workgroup tools enable us to work in new virtual worlds at any time of day anywhere in the world. Online document sharing is out there on Google and workers everywhere are quite used to the new ‘always-on’ mantra that we must all chant.
But is it all good news I wonder? I asked my pal in Tasmania, Tony Stevenson, from MKD Software whether he found his remote location and time zone challenge a good thing or a bad thing.
“Personally I'm a strong believer in developing the art of 'time lag' communication,” said Tony. “Of course this means that you send off an email at 5 pm your time, it instantly arrives (or as close to instantly as possible) on the recipient's computer at 2 am their time (or whatever time it is in their time zone) and then you wait for a reasonable 'time lag' period to elapse before you expect a reply. I like this as it gives me time to think about what I'm going to say when they eventually get back to me!”
Of course we’re able to keep constantly connected as a result of the wide proliferation of broadband connectivity – a reality compounded by the plethora of handsets such as the BlackBerry that keep those of us with cyber-dependency happily satiated.
So with that in mind – I asked the RIM guys exactly what they thought. "Advancements in mobile technology now mean people have greater freedom of choice as to when and where they want to work. Users can also maximise productivity during fixed office hours giving them more free time to enjoy life outside of the office. Furthermore, it's not just about staying connected via phone or email. Mobile applications from CRM and SAP, to cameras and fitness calculators are helping people to make the most out of their work and personal lives, wherever they are," said Tyler Lessard, Director of ISV Alliances, RIM.
So is follow-the-sun all good news? For the most part it has to be, just don’t expect any sleep.