By James Campanini, Managing Director, Cisco WebEx

Staying ahead of the curve is at the front of most people’s mind; be it your dad buying the latest 3D television set, or your sister desperately trying to predict what will grace this season’s catwalks.

But, today, our professional lives are probably where we are at our most eager to impress and stand out amongst our peers. In order to get ahead in your career you have to be adaptable, open to change, flexible and above all, brave enough to try something different. Unfortunately these aren’t traits that we can all claim to possess. Whether it’s because we don’t have the freedom to suggest new ideas or aren’t sure of where suggestions can be made, that ‘curve’ has drifted further and further away from our reachable grasp, leaving us (and, in some cases, our businesses) to play catch-up.

Recent research commissioned by Cisco WebEx, looking at the differences between managers’ and employees’ opinion of flexibility in the workplace, provided some interesting, and often contrasting, viewpoints.

The c-suite mantras
We will have all had certain opinions of senior level staff drummed into us from an early point in our careers but, it has to be said, these can often be out-dated, old fashioned viewpoints which they also learnt from their seniors.

One of my favourite idioms is: ‘I like to see the whites of their eyes’. It’s no surprise then that over half of the managers surveyed (59%) say their organisation prefers face-to-face meetings.

Meetings with senior staff don’t have to be face-to-face; they’re not always practical, they take up more time, there are alternative solutions.

The blind leading the blind
One of the more concerning findings is that just over a quarter of managers and workers (26%) see no possible travel cost savings from flexible working. Need I remind everyone that there are a further two planned rail fare hikes this year following the one we so graciously received at the start of the 2012, and petrol prices haven’t fallen below a pound for over five years.

The collaboration at the end of the tunnel
That said, there is hope, managers and workers do see the need for collaboration technologies; four out of five workers and managers surveyed claimed to understand the importance of collaboration. So is it all really about a greater understanding of what solutions are available, or perhaps even deeper than that, is it about understanding the problems in the first place?

In order to kick any bad habits at work, it requires both a top down approach from senior level employees, and a fresh wave of empowerment from employees who aren’t afraid to make suggestions. After all, if your company’s board do anything this year, it should include listening to ideas that could (and will) save time and money, and ultimately will help the businesses to get back in front of that notorious ‘curve’. In addition to this, by taking it upon yourself to offer up alternative methods or solutions, you will make your life much easier and gain that competitive edge.

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