Information and communications technology is advancing and proliferating so rapidly that one ICT player, the UK’s BT, has a futurologist on staff with a background in computers and psychology to help it and its large customers gain insight into how ICT will affect organizations and the way we work. In this podcast, BT’s Nicola Millard speaks with Last Rush Hour author Fred Pilot on how ICT makes it possible to work anywhere, anytime, making working more of a state of mind than a being present at a set time and place. However, it’s is also a disruptive force that can conflict with human social needs as well as Industrial Age management practices comfortably ensconced in centralized, commute-in offices. Looking out over the next five years, Millard sees both undergoing continuing redefinition. The office will become more of a “hive” where staff buzz in and out to collaborate as needed with co-workers rather than where work is done 9-5, Monday through Friday. Knowledge workers will work at home and in drop in co-working spaces. This will force management practices to evolve from command and control to leading with purpose and facilitating effective use of ICT-based collaboration tools by dispersed team members.
During a civil service career that has spanned a decade and a half with multiple federal government agencies, Mika Cross has advocated and supported the adoption of remote work outside of a centralized office settings as a means of promoting work/life balance, diversity, inclusion and employee engagement. Cross reports about a third of federal employees deemed eligible to work remotely at least some of the work week are doing so, six years after the enactment of federal legislation designed to increase the adoption of telework by federal agencies.
While telework leverages information and communications technology to bring federal employees’ work to them instead of requiring them to commute daily, Cross notes it’s primarily an organizational and management strategy that emphasizes getting the government’s work done with accountability, clear expectations and timeliness and quality standards. Cross discusses telework as a means of addressing one of the most pressing issues in contemporary American life: a perceived time famine among working professionals and employee engagement and wellness.
This episode features Jack Nilles, who coined the term “telecommuting” in the early 1970s –before the personal computer and well in advance of today’s Internet-enabled information and telecommunications technologies. Back then as today, environmental concerns over fossil fuel emissions and their impact on climate and health were prominent. In Los Angeles where Nilles lived at the time and still does today, Angelenos complained of bad traffic and bad air. So Nilles performed a thought experiment while stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work. He asked himself, why are all these people driving to an office to use a telephone when they could just as easily do so at home?
Nilles subsequently made a career shift from rocket scientist to change agent and consultant and later formed JALA International, working with companies interested in the concept of distributing knowledge work to the communities where their employees live, working in home or in satellite offices connected to their downtown offices.
Looking back over the past 40 plus years, Nilles says he is surprised the migration out of centralized, commute-in offices has been so slow. He points to an entrenched Industrial Age mindset equating work with physical presence. However, Nilles adds it’s slowly but surely breaking down, predicting between one fourth and one third of knowledge workers will be working outside of the traditional office space by 2020. Among the major benefits, according to Nilles, are higher productivity, reduced office space costs, happier and healthier staff and enhanced employee attraction and retention.
(NOTE: Audio quality is degraded in portions due to Internet connection quality problems but the dialogue can be heard OK).
Global Workplace Analytics conducts independent research and consults on emerging workplace issues and opportunities, specializing in making the management case for workplace flexibility, well-being programs, mobile work, activity-based work settings, and other agile workplace strategies.
In this podcast, Kate Lister shares her observations on how the world of knowledge work is has evolved and continues to change under the growing influence of information and communications technology that’s dispersing it out of traditional 8-5, Monday through Friday centralized commuter office (CCO) settings. Lister also discusses how this trend lowers real estate and human resource costs for employer organizations.
While UK organizations are in the lead, a tipping point has not yet been reached and won’t until more knowledge workers demand change, according to Lister, and employers realize it is far easier to recruit and retain engaged employees by adopting agile work policies. Lister predicts that by 2020, 25 to 33 percent of knowledge workers will be working outside of CCOs as offices function more as meeting and collaboration spaces rather than full time workplaces.
Much of the discussion around the decentralization of knowledge work out of centralized commute-in offices is on telework — which for many connotes working from home. But that’s just one way today’s advanced information and communications technologies (ICT) can be utilized to manage transportation demand and traffic congestion, particularly for those who lack suitable home office space or don’t wish to work at home. Another is distributed office spaces located in communities where knowledge workers live offering social interaction, professional collaboration and IT support without the long commute and the stress and wasted time of rush hour traffic. Instead of thinking of access to centralized commuter offices via transportation infrastructure, a new way of thinking is emerging that flips the focus to providing access to knowledge workers where they live via ICT infrastructure.
Michael Shear heads the nonprofit Broadband Planning Initiative and Strategic Office Networks LLC (Website). He works with communities and organizations through public-private partnerships to establish and manage distributed workplace networks. These benefit knowledge workers by making work more accessible and employers by providing access to a broader labor market and better staff retention. Communities also gain “gas dollars” that would otherwise be spent on commuting and related costs by keeping them in the community. With increasing traffic congestion and reduced proximity to jobs in many metro areas as well as concerns over natural and human caused events in urban centers posing a disruptive threat to organizations, Shear believes a tipping point for broader adoption of distributed community office spaces is at hand. He has written several LinkedIn posts on the topic that can be viewed here.
Commuting sucks. But so can working at home, which while avoiding the commute often lacks in the sense of community that for many sparks engagement and creativity. And not everyone has a suitable home office environment.
This podcast’s guest Laurent Dhollande, CEO of San Francisco-based Pacific Workplaces and Cloud VO, offers a solution: shared co-working spaces located in communities where people live offering fast Internet connections and the amenities of the centralized commuter office — sans the commute to a different community.
These community-based facilities fit nicely with the maturation of information and communications technology and its increased adoption, making time and location increasingly less important in knowledge work. This is the sense of history over the longer term, but it has not yet reached a tipping point, Dhollande observes. Many large organizations with staff living at the affordable edges of metro areas haven’t yet embraced the idea of distributed staff or have learned to manage them effectively.
In this podcast, Last Rush Hour author Fred Pilot talks with Geoff McLennan, who before his retirement from public service led the State of California’s efforts to implement virtual work among state agencies and departments. Geoff describes his work and explains the need for trust, leadership and a collaborative culture in order to support virtual work in the public sector. Geoff also discusses “underground” virtual work among certain categories of state employees and how changing expectations and values particularly among Millennials moving into public service and leadership roles will support the wider adoption of virtual knowledge work in government.
Last Rush Hour author Fred Pilot interviews Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson, authors of Future Work: Changing Organizational Culture for The New World of Work on how organizations must adapt to a new generation of workers in the 21st century information economy where knowledge work is no longer done exclusively 8-5 Monday-Friday in a centralized commuter office. Rapid advances in information and communications technology are quickly obsoleting the command and control management model of the 20th century Industrial Age where showing up and putting in time defined work. A new management model that empowers and entrusts knowledge workers to get the job done — and produce results — is now necessary, according to Maitland and Thomson. A bonus: reduced commuting and associated carbon emissions as world leaders convene in Paris on the topic of climate change.