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Technologies for working anywhere

This is the final Flexibility article in a series aimed at IT, telecommunications and facilities managers and others responsible for specifying, designing, putting in place and supporting the electronic infrastructure for anywhere / anytime working.

In this article we look to the future and suggest that our concept of the office will change from a building to the global digital network.


 

 

 

4. Preparing 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 expensive

  • 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 a myth.

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 anywhere.

IP everywhere:

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 and transactions.

Always in touch:

All staff will be in constant contact with their corporate networks wherever and whenever they may be working.

"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 lasting value.

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 colleagues.

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 office altogether.

Accompanying the elimination of paper will be the outsourcing of technology to application service providers (ASPs), further reducing the role of the central office.

The flexible, serviced office market will grow as organisations shift high fixed costs towards lower, variable costs.

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.

 

This concludes our series of articles on technologies for working anywhere.

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