My Personal Work Style


Companies like mine would like to think that there are only a handful of work styles that they need to support and that they can easily categorise the way people work.  Normally this is achieved using a classification that is focused on the type of work that a person does, for example: process, task, knowledge, management etc.  While I think this is better than nothing, I don’t think the type of work defines a persons work style, it just describes the work type.  A persons work style depends on more more factors being considered, as a minimum the mobility type and the work type.  Take for example a project manager who sits at a desk all day and one who is constantly mobile, their work styles would be very different, even though their work type would be the same.

Re-thinking work styles is a rich and rewarding area requiring a lot more discussion, it’s too much to cover in this post.  I’ve decided instead to try and deconstruct my personal work style, to try and figure out the key factors that influence me and their implications.  The type of work that I do would fall squarely into the category of ‘knowledge worker’ although in some classification schemes I would have some characteristics of an ‘innovator’.  So taking an industry generic definition of knowledge worker we find this:

A knowledge worker is anyone who works for a living at the tasks of developing or using knowledge. For example, a knowledge worker might be someone who works at any of the tasks of planning, acquiring, searching, analyzing, organizing, storing, programming, distributing, marketing, or otherwise contributing to the transformation and commerce of information and those (often the same people) who work at using the knowledge so produced. A term first used by Peter Drucker in his 1959 book, Landmarks of Tomorrow, the knowledge worker includes those in the information technology fields, such as programmers, systems analysts, technical writers, academic professionals, researchers, and so forth. The term is also frequently used to include people outside of information technology, such as lawyers, teachers, scientists of all kinds, and also students of all kinds

Useful though this description is it doesn’t really say much about such a persons real needs in terms of IT services.  If I take a look at what I do, it matches fairly well with the above description, but it’s a little more specific, I:

  1. Spend a lot of time scanning and filtering data sources for information
  2. Read, listen to and watch a subset of this information and try to make sense of and share what I find
  3. Curate the information into various types of knowledge base
  4. Develop new ideas and positions and test them through discussion and debate
  5. Create new knowledge, based to a large part on what I learn from the above
  6. Review new knowledge created by others
  7. Convince and cajole others into adopting my ideas
  8. Coach others to help them refine their ideas

As I look at this list though it still provides a very poor definition of what I actually do, especially in terms of the IT services that I need to help me do it.  For example it doesn’t say anything about what the sources of data are, how I share information, curate and store it; it doesn’t say whether the data sources are company systems, or external sources; whether I share information with my peers, with management, or with partners; what form the new knowledge that I create takes, is it video, audio, office documents, or verbal discussion; whether I do all this with a co-located team, via virtual meetings or using asynchronous collaboration tools; it doesn’t provide any sense of how my time is distributed across these activities. 

In fact it doesn’t reveal any of the factors that really drive my work style, which are:

  1. I only work an average of 8 hours a week
  2. I need to keep my body moving throughout the day
  3. I can’t reliably predict when I will be available to work
  4. I am only in the office for an average of 4 days a month
  5. Most of my information sources are external to the company

How is my work style driven by these factors:

I only work an average of 8 hours a week

  1. It’s rare for me to be able to attend scheduled events like conference calls, web conferences or in person meetings, so I depend on recordings of these sessions, transcripts, meeting minutes and in person ‘catch-ups’ for my information
  2. I need tools that are optimised for scanning huge volumes of information and extracting the nuggets rapidly, so I scan a carefully created stream of RSS feeds, listen to podcasts, follow a few people on twitter and have face to face meetings whenever possible
  3. I share information with others automatically using twitter and IFTTT
  4. I write my review comments rather than attend slow and ineffective review meetings
  5. I prefer to write blog posts (rather than emails) and record presentations as videos (rather than deliver them face to face) so that I don’t have to repeat myself
  6. I need to blend my work and personal life intimately, one task list, one calendar, one email account for both, because I context switch between the two so many times during a typical day

I need to keep my body moving throughout the day

  1. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks wile walking and cycling
  2. I download company briefings as MP3s and listen to them as podcasts
  3. I watch content and attend virtual meetings while on my stationary bike
  4. I carry my laptop on my back or my iPad mini in my bum bag where-ever I go
  5. I need 3G/4G connectivity because WIFI is not always available

I can’t reliably predict when I will be available to work

  1. I prefer status reports, rather than status meetings
  2. I depend on asynchronous collaboration tools
  3. I like to be able to record presentations in advance
  4. I need to be able to sketch and annotate on documents, to improve the richness and efficiency of capturing ideas or reviewing the ideas of others

I am only in the office for 4 days a month

  1. I highly value this limited face to face time
  2. I can only work with a small number of people
  3. When I’m in the office all I do is meet people

Most of my information sources are external to the company

  1. Most of what I do, I am able to do in public
  2. Most of my working practices are optimised around public information sources, exposed via RSS, so I want company information to also be exposed that way too
  3. Toggling between information outside and within the firewall reduces my productivity considerably, I want that to be more seamless
  4. Toggling between public data and data that needs to be secured is difficult to manage, I want company data to be seamlessly protected, using for example IRM

Here are some practical examples of how my work style affects the IT services, these are the kind of things that I need:

  1. a phone with more storage than the company provides, for all of those podcasts, audio books and videos
  2. more 3G/4G data than the company provides and I need tethering for my notebook and tablet
  3. a laptop with excellent battery life or a second battery, and it needs to be light enough to carry everywhere
  4. a way to protect company data and applications living on a personal laptop, because connectivity isn’t reliable enough for remote desktops (I know this because I use remote desktops every day for specific purposes and it’s painful)
  5. company information sources to be easily accessible via RSS feeds
  6. company recorded events to be easily accessible via podcast feeds
  7. people to take meeting minutes
  8. people to include attachments in emails, so that those of us who work offline can easily access them
  9. systems that support offline use, offline authoring, replication and caching of information
  10. redundancy in my devices and the ability to support them myself because accessing field services is so difficult and devices break

I’ve written this post in Caffe Nero, Nottingham, using my Thinkpad x230 laptop which I’ve upgraded to 8GB of memory so I can run virtual machines and a 512GB SSD so that I can carry everything I need with me offline, it’s small and light.  I’m using my personal Three data contract on my iPad for connectivity because the WIFI is down.  For the photo that illustrates this post I’ve chosen Cleveleys beach, one of my favourite remote working locations, I sit in the car with my laptop and the view!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

4 Responses

  1. Vince says:

    I wondered what you used for pre-recording presentations – do you include an audio commentary as we as the slides into some sort of movie?

  2. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years Vince, but because I like to annotate on the slides with a pen as I talk I like to record actual video most of the time. I used to use camtasia, but now I just use free tools, my favourite was GoView by Citrix but they’ve withdrawn it, so for short stuff I just use Snagit or Jing but my current favourite Office Mix. If you look at my internal CSC blog you can see some examples

  1. November 23, 2015

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