Workshifting Trends from a 20-Year Veteran

In preparation for my June 10 webinar for Citrix’s members on “Service Excellence with Sales and Client Relations” they asked me to write a piece for their blog, “Workshifting,” about working remotely.

I wrote my first book, Professional Selling: Practical Secrets for Successful Sales on a Toshiba laptop in airports, airplanes and hotel rooms — in 1988. I’ve worked from a small island in Indonesia to an Indian city where the electricity went off every day from 1-4 p.m.  I’ve created seminars, sent client proposals, updated blog postings, and written over 20 books from Brunei beaches to a ship in the mid- Atlantic, to Canadian forests, to an Italian villa.

While “workshifting” may be a new buzz word, some of us have just called it “work” for decades, no matter where our bodies happened to be. It’s allowed us to integrate our personal and business lives seamlessly, so we put in a load of laundry while we finish that important presentation from our bedroom. Or clear our heads from that gnarly proposal by gardening or taking a bike ride before returning to our work with a new insight.

What I’ve seen change in the last few years is the enthusiasm for workshifting. Not only have entrepreneurs embraced it, but employers have too. As a result, old paradigms are being busted about how we perform nearly every element of work life.

I’ve seen dramatic changes in my specialty of helping companies grow their key talent. In my first 25 years in business, nearly all of my services were delivered face-to-face via speaking at managers meetings, conferences, retreats or trainings. However, around 10 years ago I started conducting teleseminars and Webinars to provide my services to clients with remote employees or preferred to save costs by having attendees sit at their desks instead of traveling.

This remote delivery of information and training has rattled the people-development field to their core. Fewer and fewer companies are engaging speakers and trainers to do stand-up training. Some have cancelled all but a few in-person training courses and have gone to nearly all virtual training.

Of course, there are many reasons to still have in-person events.

There is no substitute for interacting face-to-face. However, the benefits of place-shifting and in many cases time-shifting one’s learning has its advantages. Unfortunately, most training providers have no idea how to use this “new” format effectively and most drone on narrating to boring PowerPoint slides, just as they did in person.

Learning to provide stimulating presentations — whether in person or virtually — takes rethinking how you can best provide your service. I once had a training with 10 people in the room, 4 people together in another room at a distant location joining us via video conference, and another 6 dialed into a phone-only conference. I had to creatively design how to engage all attendees in dyads and small group exercises. If I’d just lectured the whole time nearly everyone would have zoned out and the interactivity would have been lost

Distance learning is not the wave of the future; it is very much the present. If one has not embraced how to get their own development needs met through virtual presentations, they will be left in the dust.  And if you offer any training, you must learn how to use the technology — and how to present engagingly through it.