The office is old school. If you head off every morning to cubicle land, you’re now living in the past.
What made this possible? Information and communication technologies.
I first realized this in 1993.
Back then, a friend of mine and I shared a pair of season’s tickets for the Toronto Blue Jays. Back then, too, travel day Thursday games were always day games.
He worked — I worked. Those games were a problem.
But I’d just received a replacement cell phone at work — a pocket-sized 2G unit to replace the briefcase-sized brick of a 1G phone I’d had.
And I worked within ten minutes of the SkyDome. So I took the day games. My plan was to use the pairs to take employees to the games — part reward, part chat time.
The first day game, I forwarded my office phone to the cell. About the third inning, the phone rings. I answer, deal with the issue, hang up.
On goes the light bulb. The office could be in my pocket … not that 140 sq ft corner up nine floors and down a bunch of corridors.
I saw my laptop (a PowerBook Duo 230: I’ve always loved devices that don’t weigh much) one day having data communications, in an era when there was an Ethernet or Token Ring cable — or dial up.
Today we take all of this for granted. We spent a week here running through “bring your own device”. Every one of those devices is an office in your pocket — most of them have replaced a good chunk of what you, back in 1993, would have needed the laptop for.
Too many of us, still, today, work from the office. In 2007 I visited BT Global Services in Leavesden in the UK. There was the usual sea of open plan desks and a few closed door offices. But you had to book a spot. None belonged to anyone permanently.
Files? Digitized and on their network. Everyone with a laptop and a cell phone. No one with a landline (this is a division of a phone company) and no one with a permanent cubicle or office.
You came in to meet, when you couldn’t meet electronically using instant messaging. You worked from home, from coffee shops, from client locations.
For the last twenty years, since that lightbulb went off, enterprises have mostly gone into resistance mode. The network is locked down; it can’t be accessed except under very controlled circumstances if you’re not on site. Visitor devices are restricted. I’ve seen companies pull laptops back and replace them with desktops.
If you like to manage by taking attendance, that’s how you would do it. If you’d like the IT group to be a demonstration of the power of technology to liberate people from their chairs and put information to work anywhere, it’s the exact opposite.
Almost every consultant you hire already works “office in their pocket”. Most of your vendors have large portions of their workforce telecommuting.
Why don’t you?