Q A – Mary O’Hara Devereaux

In the global economy, 24 x 7 is the new workday. Projects follow the sun. Software programmers ship code between Bangalore, Paris, Dallas, Honolulu. The development process continues as each team sleeps. How do you thrive in such a cycle? We asked Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, director of the Institute for the Future‘s global work program and coauthor, with Robert Johansen, of “Globalwork: Bridging Distance, Culture, & Time” (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994).

How do people lose time in around-the-clock operations?

Managers fail to clarify roles and goals, and the result is people take on too much work. They respond to the pressure of the moment, they try to juggle too many projects, they get distracted. Because people are on multiple teams and have multiple responsibilities, there’s a need for even greater organization of work.

So how should people keep track of the work flow?

Put a flat map of the world up on the wall so you can see the continents. Tack the names of the team members to their specific locations, map out the different time zones, draw lines indicating the flow of documents, and color-code the different projects. It helps you leverage the time zones and team players.

How do you keep from overworking in a 24×7 work environment?

Turn your computer off! Sure, you’ve got to work flat out when deadlines hit. But you can’t extend your work week beyond 50 hours on a regular basis. No companies have policies on this, so you really need to take responsibility for your own time. The most important part of your technology is the “off” button.

Coordinates: Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, mohara@iftf.orgFCS