The Tools And Responsibility of the Modern Information Worker

As the way we work changes the opportunity to be able to choose the tools we use to do our work increases. The “bring your own devices” (BYOD) culture, the way more and more people are being allowed to work from home and use the devices they have at home and the way many companies are embracing the cloud technology Google, Apple and Microsoft offer means we now have a choice of tools we can use to create our spreadsheets, documents and presentations.

But this freedom comes at cost to us. We now have to decide which tool is best for us. And as so often is the case, choice brings complexity and indecision. We are all different and so what works for your colleague, might not work as well for you. I never owned a Windows computer having started in the Mac world and stayed. I used the original ClarisWorks before moving on to iWork in the mid-2000s. Microsoft Office for me is way too complex. But at the same time, my wife grew up on Office and she finds iWorks difficult to get used to. Deciding what to use to create the document you have been asked to create is more complex. On top of the software, you now need to consider what physical device you will use or whether you will be using a multitude of devices as I do to write these blog posts. What used to be a simple decision, because there really was no decision, has now become complex.

Recently I was asked to develop some content for an online learning company. Once we provisionally agreed to begin the project I asked the question in what format would they want the material. The company didn’t mind. They told me they do a lot of their development in Google Docs, but the finished material needs to be put into a Google Sheets template they created. WOW! I thought. This means I can freely choose what tool would be best for me to create this material.

I recently invested in a 9.7 inch iPad Pro with all the bits (Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard) because I wanted to lighten the bag I carry every day and I also want to push further towards becoming paperless. As I walked away from the meeting I was thinking about how best I would write the materials using just my iPad. It was like a joy of joy for me. Using Google Docs (or Apple iWorks or Microsoft Office 365) allows us all to move away from a fixed location and just get on with work. It really doesn’t matter anymore where we work or what tools we use to do that work. This is freedom.

But, just because we now can work wherever and whenever doesn’t mean we will get more work done. All this freedom also means we now have to become much more disciplined with the way we use our time. Gone (or going) are the days when we had a supervisor watching over us making sure we were doing work. Now we have to watch over ourselves. We have to stop ourselves from being on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter and not allow ourselves to be sucked into that hole called YouTube.

The days where companies restricted what you could have on your work computer are over (or will soon be over) And the 9 to 5 in the office obligation is disappearing. We live and work in a 24/7 world now which, while some see as an opportunity for big conglomerates to take advantage of their workers, others, myself included, see is as the start of something great, where we can utilise our talents and our favoured work habits to create amazing stuff and have the freedom to do that work anywhere and anytime.

The skill most needed now is the skill of self-discipline. If you are not good at self-discipline you are going to have to learn fast, because the way we work is going to require people who are able to focus on creating great work on time. There will be no managers or supervisors watching over your shoulder telling you to get on with your work. There will be no companies training you to use software and you are going to be responsible for keeping up to date your devices. All these things are going to be your responsibility. You need to be aware of the latest developments in your industry, you are going to have to show you have the discipline to work hard and meet deadlines. If you cannot, you will find yourself on the scrap heap. So start taking responsibility for your future now before the future chews you up and spits you out.