Cybersecurity, Technology and Flexible Work

Recently, I was a guest on CyberTheory’s “Cybersecurity Unplugged” podcast where I shared my perspectives on “How to Approach the Reality of Remote Work,” including:

  • How we’re still unwinding the ramifications of the pandemic’s almost overnight shift to remote work and the rapid adoption of new technology most of us had not been using
  • How the reintegration of the hybrid workforce is placing pressure on employees and how employers can stem the wave of resignations
  • Security vulnerabilities and other technology concerns remote work has created

CyberTheory is a cybersecurity advisory firm. And while we certainly chatted about cybersecurity and technology, we discussed several current leadership and work issues.

Here’s a few highlights from our conversation:

  • We have not come to terms with the fundamental shift and change in how we work. I’m seeing too much “slap a little remote work” around the traditional, placed-based work model. That’s not sustainable. We’ve worked too differently for nearly two years now to go back.
  • Employees want to know why – why am I doing this? Why am I being asked to return to the office. Lots of three days onsite policies. But with no rhyme or reason why. Employees show up, but then they’re doing Zoom calls they could have done remotely from home. Days are driving the mandates instead of the work. There’s no planning, no coordination, no matching the tasks – the work — to the place.
  • We can’t rely on HR alone to lead flexible work. We need HR at the table with the execs from tech, facilities and EHS. Because flexible work is not a policy, it’s an operating model. It’s ongoing change that encompasses people, place, space, technology, process and pace.
  • Right now, we should optimize and experiment with new and flexible ways of working. Because we’re in dynamic transition period where we’re dialing up and dialing down the amount of onsite work. But that’s just one feature of a flexible operating model. That’s not a bug! It’s a benefit of flexible work, recalibrating, scaling up, scaling down as needed.
  • Specific to technology: The pandemic and the need to work flexibly accelerated the adoption of technology as well as emerging pre-pandemic technology and cybersecurity issues. Now is the time to build consistency around who uses what technology when, how and why. That includes addressing data security and training everyone as a defender.

Listen to our full 30-minute conversation or read a transcript here.

“Two Years into the Pandemic, What is Work?”

An outstanding story from Marketplace economics reporter Sabri Ben-Achour, “Two Years into the Pandemic, What is Work?” I joined Brian Kropp, head of Gartner’s HR practice, and Paul Statham, CEO of Condeco, to provide perspective.

“But when companies bring workers back to the office, be it for one day or all days, they have to answer a question: Why? To do what work?

“‘The challenge going forward is I don’t think we know how the work is going to be done when people are onsite,’ said Cali Williams Yost, founder of Flex+Strategy Group. ‘The type of work that’s going to happen on onsite locations is going to be much more collaborative. The pace and cycle at which the work will happen onsite may not be consistent,’ she said.

“Basically, there has to be a reason or a vision to get people in the office, get them there together and not waste everyone’s time.

“‘There are so many great tools that are being developed that will enable the flexible, dynamic way an organization chooses to work,’ Yost said. ‘That’s really important because the technology or the workspace really does only optimize what you’re doing if it enables a vision that you have created. You can’t lead with the technology, the workspace — you have to lead with the work. What are we doing? How, when and where do we do that best?’”

With so many return to office dates postponed, now is the time to re-think onsite work. Because if we’re looking to foster culture, collaboration and innovation, going back to offices and cubes doing things the same way we did before pandemic won’t be enough.

#returntooffice #hybridwork #flexiblework #officespace #realestate #facilities #technology #omicron

Was it ever OK to go camera off?

I’m consistently asked this question: how do we communicate most effectively as we transition to working across different onsite and remote workplaces and spaces?

Many of the default communication norms adopted during the crisis-driven shift to remote work no longer serve us. They need to be reviewed and, possibly, revised.

Thank you to ROY MAURER for asking me to share my thoughts on virtual meetings, video conferencing and the need to intentionally clarify norms like, “cameras on or cameras off?”

Full article can be accessed here

Coronavirus Could Change How, When and Where We Work

This week, the coronavirus (or COVID-19) took a more serious turn in the U.S. with warnings that it could very well impact how, when, and where we work:

“Disruption to everyday life may be severe,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned at a news conference Tuesday. “Schools could be closed, mass public gatherings suspended, and businesses forced to have employees work remotely.”

The global spread of the virus may be a moment that reveals whether employers are ready to respond rapidly to unexpected workplace changes. Business travel could decrease or come to a full stop. More employees may need to work outside of local “business hours” and use video conferencing to operate across time zones. And, if it gets bad enough, many could indeed be asked, or request, to work remotely.

Are organizations ready? Chances are probably not. And, for those open to rethinking how the work would get done, are they ready for the inevitable post-crisis question, “Why don’t we do this all the time?”

How do you prepare your organization to not only flexibly respond to this potential disruption but also to use it as an opportunity to re-imagine work broadly?

Here are five steps to get started: 

  • Acknowledge the possibility that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely. Hoping and praying it doesn’t happen, or simply ignoring it, is not a strategy. Neither is handing everyone a laptop and saying “go work someplace else” on the day they expand wide-scale quarantines. Plan as if the only way to remain operational will be for as many employees as possible to work remotely. Gather a cross-functional team together now that includes business line leaders, IT, HR, Communications, and Facilities to start to plan for different scenarios and optimize execution should circumstances require a rapid response.
  • Map out jobs and tasks that could be affected. Note which roles and duties: 1) Can be done, even partially, without a physical presence in the workplace, 2) Cannot be done, even somewhat, outside of the physical office and 3) Not sure. Challenge any potentially inaccurate default assumptions about specific jobs you may have thought couldn’t be done remotely. And for those in the “not sure” column, be willing to experiment. For example, for years, I’ve been told, “administrative assistants can’t work flexibly.” And, for years, I’ve worked with teams of administrative assistants to prove that is not true. Yes, certain tasks they complete require physical presence, but those can be planned for. The majority of their tasks can happen effectively outside of the traditional model of work AND benefit the business.
  • Audit available IT hardware and software and close any gaps in access and adoption.  Assess the comfort level with using specific applications, such as video conferencing and other collaboration/communication platforms. Where you find gaps, provide training and opportunities for practice before people need to use them. Real-time mastery is not optimal and is inefficient. Identify devices owned by the organization that people could use and clarify acceptable “bring your own” phone and laptop options. Determine if there are any data security issues to consider and how best to address them beforehand.
  • Set up a communications protocol in advance that outlines: how to reach everybody (e.g., all contact information in one place, primary communication channels clarified—email, IM, Slack, etc.); how employees are expected to respond to customers; and how and when teams will coordinate and meet.  
  • Identify ways to measure performance during a flexible response to the coronavirus that could inform broader change. After the flexible response period is over, this data will allow you to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and why. The data will also prepare you in advance to answer the inevitable question once the crisis has passed, “Why don’t we do this all the time?” Depending upon the outcomes, you may decide to continue certain aspects of the flexible response permanently. For example, perhaps you cut business travel by 25% and substituted video conferencing. You determine afterward that about 80% of those meetings were equally as effective virtually. Therefore, a 20% decrease in business travel will continue, but this time as part of the organization’s sustainability strategy to cut carbon emissions.   

An unpredictable challenge like the coronavirus can be disruptive and confusing; however, it’s also an opportunity to proactively experiment with new ways of working. This can ultimately position the organization for future success after the crisis is over. Approach the experience as an opportunity to re-imagine how, when, and where work can be done differently. Something every organization should be doing anyway.

And if you plan and nothing happens? Then, at minimum, you have an organized, flexible work disaster response ready the next time there’s a challenge to operational continuity, which chances are, there will be!

Does your organization have a strategic response ready to implement? If yes, what does that plan entail? If not, why?

The Floodgates Fear

Recently, I met with a forward-thinking leader who recognized his organization had reached a tipping point.  He knew the current approach to flexibility in the way work is done was too random, inconsistent, and organic.  It needed to be more coordinated and strategic to address a variety of business challenges, including attracting and retaining the diverse, knowledgeable talent required to run the business.

But, like clockwork, he asked the following three questions in quick succession:

“What if it sets a precedent?”
“How will I know if people are working if I can’t see them?”
“What if they abuse it?”

He had officially hit “The Floodgates Fear,” a fear so deep and pervasive that it has its own name (and is preceded by a “The”).

Simply put leaders are afraid that if they officially and publicly encourage employees to leverage work flexibility, technology, and workspace to do their jobs and manage their lives, this will be the result:

No one will show up for work.  Leaders worry they will be the only ones standing in a room full of empty desks answering all of the emails, fielding all of the calls, attending all of the meetings –alone.

When I share this picture with groups of leaders, they laugh and nod their heads in recognition.  That is EXACTLY what they are afraid of.

So, the question is how do they avoid getting paralyzed by The Floodgates Fear and inspire the organization to make the shift to high performance flexibility?

First, it’s important to acknowledge this fear is real and valid.  Too often I see brave leaders who articulate what many of their peers are too afraid to say out loud only to be labeled “naysayers” or “resisters.”  Quite the opposite.  They know they are stuck at a roadblock.  They are looking for a roadmap that gets them to the other side of the fear.

For a sense of what that roadmap to the other side of fear looks like consider my responses to the questions the leader I recently met with posed:

Fear #1: “What if it sets a precedent?”  
Implementing a culture of shared accountability, trust and leadership that is the basis ofhigh performance flexibility will set a precedent. The precedent will be that everyone has the language, mindset, skills, and tools to effectively answer the question, “what do we need to get done, and how, when, and where do we do it best?”  That means making an investment in the training, practice, and resources necessary for everyone to master this new, more intentional way of working.

Fear #2: “How will I know if they are working if I can’t see them?”
The simple answer is, “how did you know they were working when they came into the same physical space at the same time every day? It should be no different.”

As is often the case, the leader I was speaking with responded with a blank stare, because the truth is in most organizations metrics of performance and productivity are not very clear.

One of the most powerful impacts of a culture-shift to high performance flexibility is suddenly people start to ask, “What matters to our business?  How are we measuring it?”  As those parameters become more defined, and supervisors no longer rely on presence as a proxy for performance, the fear begins to recede.

Fear #3: “What if they abuse it?” 
Yes, a small minority of people may lack the competencies to operate effectively in a flexible work culture.  However, with the right training, support, and guidance, the majority will give you more.  Research, and more than two decades of experience, have proven this to be true again and again.

If there is “abuse,” upon closer inspection, it’s usually a general performance issue and not flexibility issue. Greater latitude to determine how, when and where work is done can cause a deeper problem to become more visible and it should be dealt with accordingly.

If you are a leader who wants to unlock the performance and engagement at the core of work flexibility, technology and workspace but you find yourself stuck behind The Floodgates Fear, you are not alone. There’s a roadmap to the other side of that roadblock. It’s a matter of training, practice, measurement and managing to the majority who will thrive.

(To receive weekly insights in your inbox, sign up for our High Performance Flexibility newsletter here).

Radical Changes in the Way We Work Require a New Approach to Public Policy

At 12 noon today, the 116th United States Congress will convene.

This changing-of-the-guard marks a historic opportunity to bring the policy debate related to healthcare, retirement, education, income stability and taxation into the 21st Century and acknowledge radical changes in the way we work.  

And that doesn’t even include paid family leave, on which I’ve shared my views in the past.

Much has been written about “the future of work,” but two trends that will require some type of public policy response include: 

Workers are no longer always full-time employees

Work today is less stable and doesn’t necessarily mean 9-to-5, 40 hours a week with benefits over an entire career. Increasingly, the workforce includes a combination of full-time, on-demand, and contract-based talent.* For some, this on-demand work is the main source of income, while for others it’s a side hustle to supplement wages from a primary job.

Work is increasingly not being done by a person

This is the biggest and potentially most transformative trend that, sadly, gets little if any real focus in the current public policy debate. In a recent MIT Technology Review article, venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee laid out the stark truth about the race for dominance in Artificial Intelligence between China and the U.S. and what it will mean for workers. He states, “It will soon be obvious (approximately 10 to 15 years) that half of the job tasks (both blue and white collar) can be done better at almost no cost by artificial intelligence and robots. This will be the fastest transition humankind has experienced and we’re not ready for it.”

Clearly, it’s not going to be your grandfather’s, or even your mother’s, workplace in the not too distant future. So how might public policy need to catch up? In the following ways:

Reimagining Healthcare

Changes in Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act need to account for the reality that employers may no longer be the source of healthcare coverage for an increasing number of workers. It means, for many, these government-sponsored healthcare programs are no longer “entitlements” but the only way they can access coverage. 

Reimagining Retirement

Like healthcare, employers can no longer be seen as the primary source of retirement planning. According to a recent Boston College study, Millennials participate in employee-sponsored retirement plans at a much lower rate than previous generations. Five states have begun to experiment with automatic government-sponsored retirement saving plans, but any debate over the reform of Social Security must acknowledge the role that federal or state governments may have to play to ensure retirement security as work transforms.

Reimagining Education

If in 10-15 years, most, if not all, basic repetitive work tasks are automated, we will not only have to retrain displaced workers but also revamp the education system to prepare the next generation to succeed in the new reality of work. For example, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, recently spoke at the World Economic Forum where he noted the way we have taught children for 200 years may no longer be relevant. “We can’t teach our kids to compete with machines because they will be smarter,” he said, adding the focus should be on teaching “things that are different than machines” such as teamwork, independent thinking, and care for others by emphasizing music, art and sports.

Reimagining Income Stability

Some government-sponsored source of income stability may be required to manage through the transition. There are even Republicans like Glenn Hubbard, who is currently the Dean of the Columbia Business School and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, that believe the government is going to have to play some role in providing wage support to those affected by the transformation of work. Hubbard’s ideas include making the earned income tax credit “more generous for childless workers” and providing greater access to apprenticeships. Others have talked about a Universal Basic Income, which would be a direct payment, or a Social Investment Stipend, to pay people who provide care work, community service or education.

Reimagining Taxation

How then to pay for all of the above? The U.S. currently operates at historically high budget deficits. Again, even a traditional conservative, like Dean Glenn Hubbard, has acknowledged that the “Government can be deployed in service of prosperity, wage subsidies and direct support for training,” but, he adds “Personal unemployment accounts would require a government role, and frankly, more taxes.” However, there’s a twist to the tax debate that needs to be considered as well. Unlike in the past, it is much easier for high net worth individuals who feel overtaxed in one state to move and remote work from a state with a lower tax rate. High earners are no longer as bound by geographic location as they were in the past.

Work will continue to transform. It just will. As it does, the role government must play to reimagine healthcare, retirement, education, income stability and taxation will take on even greater urgency. The country will be best served by members of Congress who recognize these challenges, frame the debate accordingly, and lead across both sides of the aisle to embrace 21st century solutions. 

#BigIdeas2019 #futureofwork #AI #publicpolicy

*In a recent survey of human resource leaders conducted by Spherion Staffing Services, the average percentage of contingent workers in the workplace rose from 15 percent in 2017 to 29 percent in 2018. Other studies have found that 35 percent of the U.S. workforce is made up of freelancers or contractors, a number that could rise to 43 percent by 2020.

Click HERE to be added to the Flex Strategy Group Newsletter and receive periodic updates and insights from Cali Williams Yost.

Scary Trend: The Explosion of Wearing Work on Our Wrists

As I look back on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I am struck by the explosion of all-purpose wearables and the reality that soon we will wear work on our wrists. If you already struggle with the boundaries between work and life with your smartphone, wearables will take that challenge to a whole new level.

No longer can we separate from work in our pockets or purses. Unless you plan to remove your watch constantly, it will be even harder to “turn off” the workplace.

To be sure, much good can come from having your phone, email, texts, heart rate monitor and number of steps in one easy-to-access spot. According to the national telephone survey we recently conducted with Citrix, seven out of 10 full-time U.S. workers said the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues. And more than half said it made it easier to work flexibly.

But there’s a dark side. According to the same survey, 28 percent of full-time U.S. workers also said increases in technology have created more work and nearly one-quarter said the growth in technology felt “a bit like big brother is watching you.” Men were significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

The good news is if you are not an early tech adopter like me, you have time to prepare for how you might enjoy the benefits of wearing your work. Two tips:

Clarify expectations for accessibility and response time: When work is attached physically to your body, either you clarify expectations or make peace with never disconnecting from it. To date, I’ve found people resist setting expectations with managers and colleagues about their accessibility and response time when they’re away from the office. We worry our commitment may be questioned so we keep quiet. But oftentimes no one is expecting always-on availability with immediate responses.

To enjoy the flexibility benefits of wearables, you have to coordinate with colleagues. Knowing they can contact you if needed can give you a greater degree of flexibility in the way you work, but when you can’t be reached let your colleagues know in advance. Then provide an alternative way to contact you if the matter is urgent or suggest someone who can help in your absence.

Plan breaks from technology in advance: Research confirms that the email, text and social media notifications that pop up stimulate dopamine in the brain, which is why we find them so hard to ignore. Imagine how much harder that will be when your wrist is constantly pinging and ringing. We need to be more intentional about the way work and life flexibly fit together.  Sure, because we aren’t always connected to our smartphones, those moments of attention and focus can still happen by default. But not when work is an accessory. You’ll need to decide, “when am I either turning off my watch or taking it off?”

Or, just say no to wearing your work on your wrist altogether: I met a well-respected middle manager a couple of years ago who showed me his seven year-old flip-phone when I asked him how he flexibly managed his work+life fit. He explained, “When I leave, everyone knows if they need me they can call this phone any time. I do have access to my email via my laptop. I check it when I first get home after work to make sure nothing popped up while I commuted and again when I get up in the morning to make sure nothing requires immediate attention. But if I don’t get a call, I assume all is well and enjoy the other parts of my life. And, guess what? I’ve never gotten a call.”

What do you think about the trend in wearables and what it means for your work+life fit?

I invite you to connect with me and continue the conversation on twitter @caliyost and on Facebook.

2015 Research Finds Employees Feel Surprisingly Trusted but Inefficiencies Abound in How We Work

A surprising 9 out of 10 full-time U.S. employees believe their boss trusts them to get their job done regardless of where and when they do their work. And, while additional data indicates employees have become upbeat about their increasingly flexible workplaces, inefficiencies abound in how workers use technology and communicate, and there is a lack of training and infrastructure available to support flexible work.

These are among the key findings from a national probability telephone survey commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc. (FSG/WLF), co-sponsored by Citrix, and conducted by ORC International (+/- 4 percent margin of error). Other findings include:

  • One-third of full time workers telecommute—mostly men, but women are gaining ground
  • We turn to technology more than each other; young people like to meet more than boomers
  • Technology aids working flexibly and in teams, but backlash is noted especially among men
  • Almost everyone has work life flexibility, but most don’t receive training or guidance to use it effectively

With the growth of telework and open office environments combined with the ongoing introduction of new technology, work life flexibility is naturally embedded in today’s workplaces.  But we’re stuck in the 1990s with outdated work and management practices that, along with lack of training and infrastructure, put recent investments in workplace innovation at risk and could erode the current reservoir of employee goodwill.

PressReleaseSurvey2015 FINAL


NEW Research: Employees Feel Surprisingly Trusted but Inefficiencies Abound in How We Work

A surprising 9 out of 10 full-time U.S. employees believe their boss trusts them to get their job done regardless of where and when they do their work. And, while additional data indicates employees have become upbeat about their increasingly flexible workplaces, inefficiencies abound in how workers use technology and communicate, and there is a lack of training and infrastructure available to support flexible work.

These are among the key findings from a national probability telephone survey of 617 full-time employed adults commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc (FSG/WLF) and co-sponsored by Citrix.

“With the growth of telework and open office environments combined with the ongoing introduction of new technology, work life flexibility is naturally embedded in today’s workplaces,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group. “But we’re stuck in the 1990s with outdated work and management practices that, along with lack of training and infrastructure, put recent investments in workplace innovation at risk and could erode the current reservoir of employee goodwill.”

One-Third Telecommute — Mostly Men, but Women Gaining Ground
Employees were pretty evenly split between where they said they do most of their work. One-third work from a remote location off site, a slight increase from 2013, while 34 percent work in a cube/open office environment and 28 percent in a private office. Men continue to represent the majority of teleworkers—3 out of 5 in 2015, but the percentage of women increased significantly (39%) from (29%) 2013.

We Turn to Technology More than Each Other; Young People Like to Meet More than Boomers
Nearly 60 percent of respondents use email, word documents or spread sheets “frequently” to update colleagues about work progress and performance. That compares to 55 percent who meet in person and 43 percent who use the phone. Surprisingly, younger people prefer more face-to-face contact. Gen-Y (59%) and Gen-X (58%) were significantly more likely than Boomers (46%) to frequently meet in person to keep others informed. And, in a finding that helps to dispel the notion that teleworkers disconnect from the workplace, those who work remotely were more likely than those who work in a cube/open office to use the phone. Meanwhile, those onsite were more likely to use email, word documents or spread sheets.

Despite widespread availability of video/web conferencing and project management technologies, frequent use of these tools was in the single digits. Conversely, 8 out of 10 employees have never used project management software and two- thirds have never used video/web conferencing. The survey also found employees were inconsistent in where they saved and stored work across company and personal platforms.

“Businesses have barely tapped what is possible when it comes to leveraging technology to increase productivity, collaboration and work life flexibility,” said Natalie Lambert, Senior Director of Workspace Strategy, Citrix. “We comfortably use collaborative technologies in our personal lives to communicate with family and friends and manage personal information from anywhere.

“But, unfortunately at work we struggle to apply the latest innovations to accomplish the same objectives,” Lambert continued. “This often stems from rigid IT infrastructures that require businesses to put control policies in place whenever they want to securely roll out consumer-like apps on any device. With today’s flexible digital workspace solutions, employees can use technology to stay connected and productive wherever they are, while the employer is ensured that their information is safe. Organizations can transform their business with infrastructure, training and a strategy designed with people and experience in mind.”

Technology Aids Working Flexibly and in Teams but Backlash Noted, Especially Among Men
Almost 7 out 10 employees feel the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues, and more than half of respondents said it has made it easier to work flexibly. But that enthusiasm was tempered by the 28 percent who said the increase in technology has created more work and the nearly one-fourth that noted it feels a “bit like ‘big brother’ is watching you,” with men significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

Training Lacking for Most
In 2015, almost all full-time U.S. employees had some type of work life flexibility, unchanged from 2013 and 2011. Most of that flexibility is “informal” with 6 out of 10 making occasional changes in how, when and where they work, an increase from 2013. Employees feel increasingly positive with a majority (56%) that noted their employer still has a strong commitment to work life flexibility, up from 46% in 2013. A higher percentage (47%) also received training or guidance to help manage their work life flexibility in 2015, but more than half (52%) remained on their own with no instruction. Further, even though they comprise the majority, those who use flexibility informally received less training than those with formal flexible work arrangements.

“Modernizing the workplace is about more than new floorplans, shiny devices and mobility. Clearly we have an unmet need and a huge opportunity for more widespread training and infrastructure that supports flexible work,” Yost said. “Leaders need to capitalize on the current wave of employee optimism and manage to the good that exists in their organizations in order to truly unlock the potential of their business and people.”

This research is the most recent installment in a biennial series of FSG/WLF studies that have monitored the national progress of issues related to work life flexibility from the individual’s point of view since 2006. The 2015 survey was conducted by ORC International July 9-12 and 16-19 with a margin of error of +/- 4percent.

What Happened When Silicon Valley Tackled Family Caregiving

“The vast majority of health care is actually provided by families, not by health care professionals.”Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving

Last year, I presented at a conference where the luncheon keynote speaker was the CEO of a non-profit hospital chain.

As we ate, the CEO excitedly shared how her organization was radically rethinking the delivery of medical care at all levels, including post-treatment convalescence.

She explained how more and more of their patients are convalescing at home, which means the patient is discharged as soon as possible after a surgical procedure. They recuperate at home under the care of family and friends with the support of periodic nursing visits, and remote monitoring.

She continued “we have found patients prefer this arrangement, and it has allowed us to dramatically reduce costs while continuing to provide high quality care. We, and other hospitals systems, see this as the model for the future.”

At that moment, all I could think was, “Hold the phone. Who exactly are these family members and friends who are now expected to oversee the recuperation and convalescence of their loved ones at home from often major surgical procedures? Does this CEO understand that most of these people work?”

So I raised my hand and asked the question.  Not surprisingly, the CEO didn’t have an answer because that’s not her primary concern. The challenge this CEO is solving for is how to deliver the highest quality care to the most people in the most efficient and cost-effective way. On that dimension, she and other healthcare leaders are succeeding.

How can technology help us to deliver care on top of everything else we have to do, on and off the job?

This means that more and more of the burden to deliver all but the most acute level of care will fall to loved ones–family members and friends, most of whom will have to provide that often medically complicated care while continuing to hold down and perform at their paid job (70% of caregivers to be exact–Pew).

How is that sustainable?

With this question in mind, I jumped at an invitation from the National Alliance for Caregiving to participate in a unique day-long roundtable with twenty-two other experts from government, Silicon Valley, caregiving advocacy organizations, and researcher institutions this past April.

This diverse, committed group spent hours at the Institute for the Future offices in Palo Alto tackling these questions:

“Until now, technology has made only modest contributions to supporting caregivers.  Can technology play a more meaningful role in helping caregivers? And how can we accelerate innovation in developing new applications to support caregivers?”

The thought-provoking result of our collective effort can be found in the just-released report,  “Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving” (and press release) and is synopsized in this model:

Specific recommendations include:

  • Create better “concept maps” and find more appropriate language to describe the varied and complex caregiving landscape. The way we currently talk about and think about caregiving is too simplistic. For innovation to occur, we need more accurate, complex models and maps of what caregiving actually entails.
  • Continue to collect extensive data about the prevalence, burden and impact of caregiving. Again, for technology to support the caregiver, we need more and better data showing the diversity of caregivers and growing complexity of caregiving responsibilities.
  • Spur a broad national conversation on caregiving.  Quite simply–we need to talk about the growing challenge of the working family caregiver much more than we do. As we learned from our Silicon Valley colleagues, entrepreneurs won’t invest if there isn’t widespread attention on the topic because they don’t see the market, even though the market is huge.
  • Develop a compelling business case for employers and healthcare providers to support caregiving.  In other words, help the leaders like the hospital CEO, and those that employ the increasingly overburdened family caregiver to understand the business case for offering smarter and better supports.
  • Inspire social conversations about caregiving to encourage more learning and support within families and communities. Basically, we aren’t talking to and supporting each other when we find ourselves knee deep in family caregiving responsibilities. How can we leverage and scale existing in person and virtual caregiver support models like

And last, but not least, the recommendation I am particularly passionate about because of the work I do with employees and employers…

  • Provide caregiving coaching as an integral component of all solutions. My main contribution to the dialogue was to point out that any technology solution developed to help the family caregiver has to be simple and usable. Also working caregivers need help learning how to fit that technology into all of the other, often chaotic, responsibilities they are frantically trying to manage, on and off the job.

How to make an “Intelligent Family Care Assistant” part of your work+life fit?

For example, one of the technology solutions the group proposed was called an “Intelligent Family Care Assistant,” a system to keep track of and coordinate the family’s care tasks.

The challenge, of course, remains what type of coaching does a family caregiver need to learn how to integrate that technology into their already busy work+life fit? And who would provide that coaching (e.g. hospitals, employers, doctors), and how (e.g. live, in-person, virtually)?

An exercise that the roundtable group completed gave me hope that we are close to knowing what that coaching model looks like and how to deliver it.

In this joint exercise, the group spent about 20 minutes identifying all of the activities and priorities a family caregiver has to deal with only once, then yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, nightly, etc.  We wrote each priority and activity on a post-it note.

On pages 16-18 of the report, you will see pictures of post-it notes we then put into columns labeled labeled Medical, Wellness, Movement, Home, Social, Finance, Legal, Emotional and Personal Care, by level of frequency.

Essentially what the group did together in 20 minutes was complete a more complex version of the Tweak It Practice, with each post-it representing not only a “tweak” but also the inputs a caregiver would put into a care app like Unfrazzle. In other words, “contextualizing” coaching and support models like Tweak It and Unfrazzle exist, now it’s a matter of continuing to innovate and scale.

What do you think it will take encourage the innovation required to support the growing ranks of family caregivers (one of which will likely be us someday)?

Also, I invite you to connect with me and share your thoughts on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.