How We Work

My description of an interview I had a few weeks ago with a reporter from a major business publication, who was struggling with the use of the term “knowledge work,” struck a chord with readers and also other industry pundits.   I especially enjoyed Melanie Turek’s commentary entitled: Knowledge Workers: They’re Everywhere (and What Kind of Business Reporter Doesn’t Know What One Is?).  Although I don’t think reporters should be afraid of using the term knowledge worker, it does mean different things to different people.  Further, what knowledge workers do in their jobs is more varied than one might begin to imagine.

Knowledge workers are not simply office workers or executives; in fact, the one commonality is that there is little commonality except that they work with information and not raw goods.

In fact, one of the things I am learning from the early results from our New Workplace survey is how knowledge workers work.  (If you haven’t already taken the survey, you can click here.

Unsurprisingly, most use e-mail (almost 95% – but what does the other 5% do?).  88% indicated they use word processing in the course of a normal day, and 79% indicated they regularly use spreadsheets.  The use of instant messaging was about what I expected at 60%.

Most work autonomously; so far, based on early returns from the New Workplace survey.  More than 80% indicated that their work is largely autonomous as opposed to being supervised.

In terms of how they do their jobs, knowledge workers are a group of mavericks.  Only 11% agree with the statement “I prefer just to do my job the way I was shown or told.”  But HOW we work is not necessarily well defined.  Only 20% agree with the statement, “The work I do is primarily defined through formal policies and procedures.”

The survey is open for your input – and all survey takers will receive an executive summary of our findings.  If you haven’t yet taken the survey, do it now before you have to make it a New Year’s resolution.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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