The end of the work as we know it?

In the last few months I had the privilege of attending three very interesting conferences with top notch speakers. Their talks revolved around topics such as social media, social business, ubiquitous computing, network economy, or the future of the role of IT inside organizations. From the different talks I selected the following quotes because they will help me introduce the topic of this post:

“Companies need more improvisation… need to go from documentation to collaboration”, Lane Becker, April 2010

“From working to coworking – the future for many companies”, Adam Greenfield, May 2010

“…collaboration is changing as well. Even inside the enterprise… the way we need to work needs to change as well”, David Armano, June 2010

All three sentences revolve around the future of work and I was reminded of this topic today as I was reading this very interesting blog post about how Luis Suarez, an IBMer, works from home. Well, to be fairly honest, it’s a topic that is on my mind regularly, particularly when I’m at the office struggling to concentrate in the midst of all the buzz going on.

There is this increasing notion, vouched by several brilliant minds & “trend spotters”, that the way we work will change due to a myriad of factors:

  • the pressure that social technologies, and the generation Y, will increasingly pose on companies -> work will become more “social” powered by some “cool” tools
  • the pressure to cut costs in the face of an uncertain global business context -> cut on office space, go coworking
  • the trend to globally source talent -> hire anywhere, go for home-based work
  • the freedom, or better said mobility, that new technologies and platforms bring -> work anywhere, coworking, home-based, …
  • the need to change internal processes and practices in order to align them with the outside challenges of being a social business -> create a truly networked company where knowledge flows between different areas/departments, use social technology as enabler

And although I am a firm believer that the way most of us currently work – in terms of practices, processes, tools and physical spaces – makes little sense, I also see little evidence of  companies really wanting to change the way they work (or even considering it!). I see companies reinforcing the same procedures and metrics, I see people working overtime because “you need to be seen around the office”, I see little awareness of the concept of coworking, I see meeting rooms being described as the most scarce resource at the office (given the gigantic amount of meetings made because the mindset states that there is where you do work and take important steps for the future of your company).

So no wonder that, although I can understand the benefits (and also the challenges) that a new approach on the way we get things done might bring to companies and their employees, and despite the fact that I think that we need a new approach on what we call work, I believe that this will be a long and slow journey for most companies.

In the meantime, some of us dream of having an office just like the one of José Fontainhas, a Portuguese that works for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com…

What is your opinion on this topic? What do you see in your daily work life?

(update on the 16th of June) PS – interesting to see today this blog post from Seth Godin on this same topic!

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5 thoughts on “The end of the work as we know it?

    • Hadn’t seen the article, thanks :) But again, the problem here is not about the tools. Companies can even be discussing installing some fancy collaborative software but what I don’t see is the awareness, nor the disposition, to understand that the nature of work will have to change because for most of us, especially knowledge workers, there’s a more efficient way of doing what we are supposed to do.
      And we tend to talk about companies as undefined identities with a will of their one (I sometimes do that myself) when in fact companies are made of people. And people tend to criticize those that do things in a different way. Would my friends think well of my job if I told them that I was working from home? Some would, but I bet that most wouldn’t understand…

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