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Q&A With Sara Sutton Fell, Part III: The Future of Flex Work

It’s an exciting time to be a worker as companies start to zero in on one of employees’ biggest wants—flex work.

We expect to see a lot more of it as globalization and virtual collaboration bloom and companies see the benefits of flex work to productivity and reduced costs. However, this evolution doesn’t stop with the availability of telecommuting.

In our final interview with CEO and Founder of FlexJobs, Sara Sutton Fell, she shares her insight on how flex work will continue to evolve technology, the job search process and the workforce at large:

1. Technology Will Propel Flex Work (and Vice Versa)

Q: Technology like cloud computing and mobile devices have certainly propelled flex work, but how has (or will) flex work influence technology?

A: One of the ways we’ve seen this influence already is in the growth of software and technology that supports remote teams. Whether it’s web conferencing software or virtual office environments, there are a number of new companies and types of technology that market mainly to remote and telecommuting teams.

Q: How effective is technology at substituting for face time in the office, and do you believe the right technology can ever replace the value of face-to-face interaction?

A: As someone who runs a 100-percent virtual company, I do believe that the right technology, combined with solid communication skills, can work well to recreate that same value when it comes to face-to-face interaction. For example, my team has recently been experimenting with video conferencing tools for our meetings so that we can all see each other. However, I think a lot of emphasis has been placed on the value of face-to-face interaction, assuming that not having that face time somehow makes work more difficult or less than great. It’s certainly a different feel and way of working, but if you make adjustments in the way you communicate as a team, face time isn’t absolutely necessary.

Q: What trends are you most excited to see next in collaboration tools for flex workers?

A: I’m very interested to see where video conferencing goes in the next few years. Since face time continues to be seen as a barrier to flexible work, I think video conferencing will be a key part in convincing people that remote work is not so very different from in-office work.

2. Flex Work Experience Will Be a Standard Resume Field

Q: Is flex work changing the recruiting process? If so, what do candidates need on their resume to prove they’re responsible and productive to work from home, and how can companies identify ideal candidates for flex work?

A: When applying to a telecommuting job, it’s really important to indicate any previous experience you have working from home. Even if your last job only allowed you to work from home occasionally, note that on your resume or in your cover letter. Previous telecommuting experience is something employers want. If you don’t have experience, note your strengths in working independently, self-management, communication, being proactive, asking questions and getting clarification. All of those skills are crucial to being a successful telecommuter. If you have experience working with colleagues from other parts of the state/country/world, note that as well. Even if you were all in offices, being able to communicate and collaborate virtually is a great bonus to your application.

3. Flex Work Will Be Offered on a Wide Scale

Q: What are the biggest lessons that we’ve learned so far in the rise of flex work, and what are the next biggest challenges?

A: The biggest lessons in my mind are that most of the assumptions companies and managers have made about flexible work (that people are less productive, less creative, less engaged, etc.) are all proving to be wrong. There are plenty of studies and surveys now showing that flexible work options are a huge benefit to both companies and employees. The big challenge will be to use this data to convince decision makers, in both the public and private sector, to more fully support flexible work options as an economic imperative (read more about Sutton Fell’s movement doing just this, 1 Million for Work Flexibility).

Missed any of our other interviews with Sutton Fell? Read all about the misconceptions of flex work and the new virtual manager on our blog now.

About Ashley Speagle

Ashley Speagle is a Florida-born, Georgia-raised communications specialist, couch movie critic, dream interpreter, acrophobic adventure seeker, outdoors enthusiast, and easy-going introvert.

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