for the future
It is tempting (and comforting) to believe
that that we have witnessed and been part of the information age
revolution in the way we work and that, from now on, progress
will be incremental.
But what if we have only seen the
beginning? It is a constant theme of Flexibility
that, in spite of all the technology available to us, we still
like to work as if the information age has not happened.
Look at the evidence:
to most of us, going to work involves a
physical journey - often inconvenient, uncomfortable and
most offices are still awash with paper
- letters, faxes, memos, reports, agendas, minutes, etc.
management in many organisations is
based largely on supervision - management by results remains
But this is starting to change, driven by a
combination of technology, competitiveness and a growing
realisation that it doesn't have to be so.
Here are our predictions for the
development and application of technologies for working
The Internet is the public network of the
future. Broadband, low-cost, always-on access will be
universal through a variety of fixed and wireless media.
The Internet will be used widely for voice,
data and multimedia communications as well as for data access
Always in touch:
All staff will be in constant contact with
their corporate networks wherever and whenever they may be
"Telepresence" technologies (for
example video meetings) will help ensure those working away from
their colleagues do not suffer social isolation.
The death of paper:
The rightful role of paper is as a
convenient, portable medium for disseminating information of
Books are not threatened (yet!), but the
days are numbered for filing cabinets, photocopiers, shredders
and bulging briefcases. The combination of intranets,
portable computers and wireless remote access will displace most
of the paper we use in business today.
The death of distance:
Whilst meeting with colleagues is essential
to effective team working, travelling to the office simply to
sit in front of a computer and telephone is pointless.
Recruitment catchment areas will expand as
the daily journey to the office is replaced by a combination of
home or local working and occasional, purposeful meetings with
The death of offices:
Office occupancy rates are already
declining as staff become more mobile. Hot-desking and
other flexible working arrangements are being introduced to
reduce unit costs and the logical next step is to eliminate the
Accompanying the elimination of paper will
be the outsourcing of technology to application service
providers (ASPs), further reducing the role of the central
The flexible, serviced office market will
grow as organisations shift high fixed costs towards lower,
Universal peace and happiness:
We can't promise this, but what we are
witnessing is a new freedom emerging in where and when work is
undertaken, capable of benefiting both employers and employees.
As with all freedoms, the facility to work
anywhere and anytime can be abused - by employers either
imposing restrictions or exploiting their workers, or by
employees who will only work when directly supervised.
All the evidence is that the majority of
staff will deliver more output and be more loyal if they are
trusted to work more flexibly.
And finally, the facility to work anywhere
can bring new hope to rural, post-industrial and other
disadvantaged communities. It can also help those with
caring responsibilities and other mobility restrictions
participate fully in the labour market.
our series of articles on technologies for working anywhere.