The modern office environment has fundamentally changed over the past 20 years and it’s changing quickly, after spending close to a century practically in stasis. The post-war technological boom brought new technology into the workplace, and then the 1960s and 1970s brought forth even more changes with the civil rights and women’s rights movements. Today, the daily routine of clocking in at nine, taking an hour for lunch and then clocking out at five (a routine that existed virtually unchanged since the Gilded Age) is finally going the way of the Dictaphone, the typewriter and the ten-cent lunch; it’s becoming obsolete.
If we had to point to a certain tipping point that finally did away with “business as usual,” we’d have to look to two different technological developments that occurred about 15 years apart. The first is the widespread acceptance of email in the 1990s. Email dramatically reduced the time and financial costs associated with long-distance communication and paved the way for the streamlined “paperless” office. Then, as personal desktops and laptops became widespread by the mid 1990s, employees could access email away from the office, ensuring communication was as rapid as it was convenient.
The second development was the introduction of the smartphone, first with the Palm devices in the late 1990s and then with next generation of BlackBerry and iPhone product lines. Phone calls, instant messages and emails could all be made instantaneously, and business communication could be shared in mere seconds from virtually anywhere in the world. All of a sudden, the workplace could be anywhere: the office, the home, the airport or even the beach. Can you imagine your life (personal or work) without a smartphone today?
So, what happens to the office as we know it? The office of the future could be less of a cubicle farm and more of a central hub, where necessary administration work is done by a handful of workers while all other employees work remotely, whenever and wherever they want. This may well be the next great evolution in employee comfort and efficiency.
For the first time ever, modern technology is offering us the ability to free ourselves from the constraints of an obsolete office. And that’s something we can all look forward to.
- Dan Lothringer
Dan is a contributing writer for VideoConferencingSpot.com