WorkShift: Future of the office
Back in 1981, Dolly Parton sang about ‘working nine to five’. Now, we are in an era where a workforce can collaborate across time zones and territories with people they may never meet in person. We can be talking to Sydney at 10pm and Mumbai at 6am. So nine to five simply doesn’t feature; 5am to 9pm might be more appropriate!
With seismic shifts in global working practices, do we need to rethink the fabric of the jobs that we do, the offices that we work in and the tools that we use? Dr. Nicola Millard explores the in a WorkShift paper: “Future of the office”, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
As both consumers and employees, we often move faster than the organisations that serve and employ us. Consumer thinking may be with us in the home but it doesn’t suddenly leave us as we walk through the doors of the office. The fact that the office may also be the home, blurs the boundaries even more. With the WiFi wings to fly employees into the cloud, they can potentially work anywhere, with any device – work becomes a state of mind rather than a place. Which leads us to ask some basic questions: What are offices for? Is it time to look beyond the office?
The future of work is one where employees become as demanding and innovative as they are as customers. If the technology they have at work is slower, heavier and so locked down that they are unable to access the tools and apps they find useful, the likelihood is that employees will start to use their own better technologies to get the job done. Immense creativity can be unleashed if the employer understands the forces driving these new ways of working and encourages employees to adopt them. One size increasingly doesn’t fit all in terms of tools and technologies for work. That can challenge the IT department to ensure that their business is secure. Is it time to look beyond the desktop?
Technology has also freed us from some of the more mundane tasks but it has also served to accelerate work – as we become a slave to the little flashing light on our BlackBerries. However, are these very tools that were designed to increase our productivity, actually serving to slow us down as we struggle to juggle multiple tasks and, worse still, continuously task switch and end up achieving nothing? Is email our lifeblood or a black hole for collaboration? Is social media a new way of collaborating or a distraction? Are there other ways of working across boundaries using a combination of new and old tools? Is it time to look beyond collaboration?
Jobs are also undergoing a radical rethink. Thomas Frey suggests that “In the future, people will worry far less about how safe their current job is and far more about where their next job will be coming from”. We are entering an era where work is the focus, rather than fixed jobs. Hours are irrelevant, as long as you get the task done. Microworkers can be paid for as little as 15-minute shifts for multiple employers. Expertise is valued, as customer demands get more complex – and experts can network together in ‘swarms’ with passion and commitment. How do organisations harness the power of networked expertise to solve problems in customer time, rather than corporate time? Is it time to look beyond the job?
New attitudes and technologies are changing business paradigms. In fact, the only certainty in work today is change. Let's start looking beyond using 20th century models to run 21st century businesses.
In this paper, which can be downloaded below, Dr. Nicola Millard investigates the ways in which employees are leading the change in the way that they are working as a consequence of becoming untethered from their desks. It looks at the changing nature of the fixed office environment, how employees are using third places to work away from both office and home and the influx of their own devices into the work environment. It also looks at the changing patterns of knowledge working which may, ultimately, lead to the death of the job.
PDF - 3 MB
First of three in a WorkShift series by Dr. Nicola Millard examining changes in the work place.