The Distribution of Work in 2015

You may have noticed  some changes in the way you are working today, compared to how you did things 5 years ago.  Maybe you do more on your mobile device, use more video or screen sharing? In December of 2014 we did a survey of three different populations with over 500 responses to look at how some of the ways we work are changing.

We found that most people don’t work in the same location, even for small organizations (<100 employees at least 1/3 have 2-5 locations, and only 22% said they work together in the same location. What this means is that teams, groups and organizations are becoming more distributed (geographically). We also found that collaboration was more critical than ever to coordinate work in these distributed environments. However, the tools we use and how we use them are also changing to try to accommodate the growing trend of distributed collaboration.

We looked at what hardware and operating systems were used most often in collaborating. One surprise was that 49% of those we surveyed don’t use desktop computers at all. We also found that the same percentage of the population does not use tablets.  So the two device classes left for collaboration (we did not look at wearables), are mobile devices (cell phones, tablets) and Laptops. Laptops were overwhelmingly the device of choice for collaboration 70%, while phones and tablets are used about 15% of the time for collaboration.



Distributed Teams and Projects

Since the caveman, people have always worked in teams. Today, with the increased complexity of business, and the increase in geographically distributed teams, we wanted to see how that has changed.

We found that no matter what sized organization you were in on average people were part of 3-5 distributed teams, in smaller companies it was more like 3 and in larger companies it was more like 5. No role or department in any sized company had people on more than 8 teams, which may be due to the limit of human context switching. It was not surprising to see roles like: Sales and Marketing, Customer Service and Support and Professional Services at the upper end of this team range.

However, what we found most compelling was the number of projects people worked on simultaneously. Most of the survey respondents worked on 3 projects simultaneously. But people in the roles pointed out above often worked on many more projects, 12% of them working on more than 10 projects at a time.

Just to make sure, we asked what percentage of the projects that you work on, do you work on with a distributed or hybrid team? 38.7% of those surveyed worked on their projects with distributed teams more than 65% of the time. This is another good data point to indicate that the trend for distributed work in increasing rapidly.