As you would probably agree, the quest for productivity, especially for work, can feel like an ongoing saga. You’ve probably tried so many different things that the gurus or your buddies recommend with no luck.

What would you say if I told you that your environment could be conspiring against you? Yup-the external factors around you will have an impact on your productivity, no matter how good you are about setting goals, using your calendar or tracking your task list.

When it comes to improving the way you manage your workload, there are trends and factors in the workplace that can impact your ability to function effectively. You first have to understand what you’re dealing with and then come up with a battle plan.

Let’s look at a few workplace trends and how they might be impacting you.


The name gives you a hint. Instead of having a dedicated workspace or an assigned desk, employees reserve a workspace based on availability. They schedule time for a desk, cubicle and equipment as needed. This works great for an organization that has a high number of teleworking employees and provides flexibility in how space and resources are allocated. The American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau reports that about 4.3 million employees are now rocking from home at least half of the time. That’s about 3.2% of the workforce. With that many people potentially not in the workplace on a given day, companies are realizing the benefit from saving expenditures on furnishings, space and equipment.

But what does that mean for the employee who has to reserve their spot in the office? Well it will definitely take some pre-planning. Employees coming into the office have to think ahead to consider what resources they will need on the days they are coming into the office. Need a conference room? Book that. Need a workspace big enough to spread out your project papers? Plan ahead. Need access to specific team members or resources? Work it out before you get there.

For those who prefer continuity and stability, the uncertainty of what resources will be available when they get in, may prove stressful. For those who aren’t known for thinking ahead, last minute scrambles to find the equipment or space they need may prove challenging.

Open Workspace

Companies call it the “open-plan office” but employees think of it as moving from cubicle hell to living in purgatory. 70% of US companies use a version of the open office plan, whether with partitions, cubicles or low partitioned tables. The rationale is that it not only cuts down on expenses, but it will improve collaboration by removing barriers and lead to more face-to-face interactions. Employees find it hard to focus and concentrate because of increased noise levels, interruptions, lack of privacy and distractions.

Studies are supporting employee concerns. Not only is productivity being impacted, but so are the quality of conversations and interactions. Teams actual have less meaningful conversation  due to concerns that others will overhear or judge their interaction.

Noise cancelling headsets can be helpful but now the barriers are back in place. Employees and companies are now struggling with the realities of an open workspace they are committed to.


Ask any prospective employee one benefit they are hoping for and telework is usually at the top of the list. Telework has numerous benefits for both the organization and employees, but require adjustments and accommodations to make it effective.

For the organization, it can alleviate the impact on resources and serve as a great retention tool. In some areas it’s a win in the commuting battle. For employees it lets them work towards a healthier blend of home and work responsibilities.

The big win with telework is that it has been shown to boost productivity. Teleworkers deal with fewer work related interruptions, achieve better focus and get more done than when they are in the office. They actually go above and beyond to be in “work mode” to make sure they are available when needed by those in the office.

Employers need to be mindful of creating ways to engage teleworkers in the social aspects of the workday. Teleworkers report feeling a loss of “passive-face time” with supervisors and become concerned that it may impact opportunities.  

Cross Functional Teams

My professional career started in an environment that is based on a cross functional team approach-working in advertising agencies where each team member brought unique specialties and skill sets to work on achieving a client’s marketing goals.

Cross functional teams let you pull on different areas of expertise. Team members bring unique perspectives, resources and capabilities to problem solving. While the team and organizations benefit from leveraging these resources, working on a cross functional team requires adaptation.

Some of the challenges include a lack of clear hierarchy, the need for consensus style decision making and becoming adept at multi-tasking. Teams have dual reporting functions within their own department’s chain of command and their cross functional team.

Technology, Applications and Cloud Computing

I had a conversation recently that highlighted a huge struggle faced when dealing with technology. While many have become more dependent on technology to automate processes, streamline the way they are working and keep them connected, security concerns can place limitations on which technology solutions make the cut.

I often recommend that clients leverage technology to help keep them on top of task lists. For those who work in secured facilities, this is not always an option.

Additionally, IT departments are putting tighter restrictions in place on technology use—from no external flash drives, banning personal device or popular websites and softwares.

Employees who have become used to working with time-saving technology might have to learn to go “old school” and leverage other ways to stay productive.

There are so many other things that could be included in this post because as trends change in the workplace, so must the ways that we work.  What trends are you dealing with? Jump on down to the comments and let me know how they are impacting your productivity.

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