2012-09-25

Co.Exist

Unleashing Workers Is Going To Lead To Drastic Changes In How We Work

As technology evolves to make the office more obsolete, it’s going to result in massive changes—and massive opportunities.

A key element for brands of the future is the ability to predict the needs of rapidly evolving consumers. This is easier said than done. In hindsight, Facebook makes sense. But few could’ve predicted the rise of a generation willing to share every intimate detail online.

Telecommuting is a similarly cagey concept. For years, we’ve been trumpeting it as progress toward less pollution and time waste, and greater sustainability. But there’s still little indication what this new world of stay-away workers will actually look like, what working anywhere actually means, and how brands will have to adapt to serve this new group.

Kim DeCarlis, VP of Corporate Marketing at Citrix (the folks pushing the virtualization envelope with offerings like GoTo Meeting), agrees it’s early days, she believes there are indicators of what brands serving future telecommuters should think about.

Hyper Personal

Standardization in electronics is still de rigueur in most offices. As DeCarlis says “Permutation and new gear is anathema to IT departments. Trying to make an office work—and people share information—when everyone has their own platform is an exercise in futility.”

But Virtualization and the cloud have changed the need for standardization. “I have a computer, tablet and phone that I bought for myself” says DeCarlis. “With virtualized functions like data, applications and desktops delivered via the cloud, my personal gear is 100% usable at work.”

So what does this mean for unleashed workers of tomorrow? For one, they probably won’t be using gear mandated by their IT department. This could conceivably spur innovation in enterprise computing brands, and accelerate the move to lighter equipment with less storage.

Changing Real Estate

“Offices used to be where people went to work. But that’s changing, too.” says DeCarlis. “Work is no longer a place, for many people, but an activity they do, in many cases, just about anywhere.” If the growth of services like GoToMeeting are any indication, even the face-to-face collaboration that happens in offices is being chipped away at.

So what does this mean when it comes to office space? For one, offices will not have to be as big if a healthy percentage of employees are working outside. More important to brands, though, offices will have to be spaces that foster collaboration and creativity, amplifying the output of brainstorms that happen when workers converge.

It will be interesting to see how office furniture brands respond to a world where cubicles become less relevant, and meeting space that can be quickly, creatively reconfigured becomes a must have. As well, look for electronics brands that can push the envelope of live worker / offsite worker brainstorming.

Work / Life Slicing

Working offsite is still a relatively new, exotic idea in most companies. But already, DeCarlis sees this nascent trend leading to the blurring of work and life. As she says, “People want to do what they want to do when they want to do it."

Instead of demanding 9 to 5 day, DeCarlis sees smart companies incentivizing employees based on measured objectives. This enables workers to plan their days around tasks and outcomes (not times), and intersperse job activity with life activity. DeCarlis calls this "lifeslicing," and believes savvy workers are growing more and more adept at it.

Of course, lifeslicing can lead to "always on" syndrome, where workers feel it’s their duty to be on call 24/7. Again, there’s an opportunity for brands that help people ‘turn off’ their job, clearly delineating work and life. The opportunity for innovation in the field of scheduling is mind-boggling. Tell your friends at the office.

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