I'm the founder of FutureWork IQ where I spend my time assisting businesses to design digital workplaces or “offices in the cloud.” These environments enable companies to allow flexible and remote working for their teams. I also teach the digital literacy, fluency, communication and collaboration skills needed to work in these modern technology-rich workplaces.

Work out loud
Image credit: Tanmay Vora

As organizations adopt digital workplaces in order to remain competitive and improve efficiencies there are digital literacy skills needed from individuals in order to be able to work in these environments.

The one skill I would like to briefly discuss is something called “working-out-loud” or “observable work.”

A component of most digital workplaces would be an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) and the above skill is the ability to use the ESN to make your “in-progress” work visible. So in practice, the flow would be that instead of using phone calls and emails and private messages (ie siloed conversations) to commit to working on the ESN in the open (where applicable of course) to move work along until its completion. The backward and forward discussions, would, for example, happen in a group that has been created for the project. These “discussions” would be made up of text status updates, discussions about various elements of the project, shared files, videos etc.

What this means is, everyone with an interest or stake in the project, can at anytime click on the group and quickly stay up-to-date as the project progresses. Many companies are finding that working like this gets rid of the the daily or weekly “update meeting” allowing teams more time to actually do the work! Also managers don’t have to repeatedly ask what the status of the project is because it’s now visible in ESN and they can see by following the group discussion where the project is. It also allows them to ask any questions or make valuable suggestions if necessary – all without having to call a meeting.

This way of working also removes the necessity for teams to be in the same location at the same time.

We have used many ESN’s with this kind of capability and can attest to the efficiency this creates. Currently our ESN is a combination of G-Suite (Docs in particular) and Facebook Workplace. So with Workplace for example, we have dedicated groups for all the projects we are working on and share relevant content regarding that in the groups. The amazing thing about Workplace is the video capability in groups. So it is easy to quickly go Live and have a quick live interaction on a topic or a team leader can upload a quick video for asynchronous consumption and comment. It’s extremely powerful. When information is in the open like this, in other words not siloed, the business is smarter. If a new team member is added during the project for whatever reason, that person can quickly see the history and how certain decisions were made etc. Everyone who is involved has what I like to call an ambient awareness of processes being followed etc.

However, as mentioned in order for this to work the team must be comfortable to work-out-loud and produce content in these environments as they work. It is the skill to give commentary on your work as you work, whether that be in the written form, via video, images or shared documents.

There is no question that digital workplaces unlock huge potential for teams, like the ability to have remote digital employees. However these benefits are only realised if those having to work in them have the skill to do so.