What’s the book about?
Last Rush Hour describes the transition in how knowledge work gets done. In the Industrial Age economy, information and information tools were centralized at a commute-in office space. People had to work in the office because that’s where the information was as well as the tools to process and communicate it. Now with the maturation of information and communications technology (ICT) and the growth of the Internet, the commute-in office’s central role is being diminished and much of the information that was physically located there now lives on Internet servers – “in the cloud.”
Don’t people need to be face to face in an office daily to collaborate?
Most people don’t spend most of their work days collaborating face to face with others. In fact, in some organizations that would be frowned upon and they would be seen as goofing off if they aren’t at their assigned workstations. People spend large portions of their work days engaged in tasks like writing and responding to email and talking on the phone — activities that can be done most anywhere today. It no longer makes sense to go to the effort and expense of traveling to a distant office every day in order to do those things.
It’s important to keep in mind that collaboration is essentially communication. Communication isn’t restricted to the same time and place. It’s done via phone, chat, email and collaboration software applications that make non real time collaboration possible.
That said, it’s also important to maintain some degree of in-person social connection with colleagues. People can get together once a week, bi-weekly, every month or two or more often if they live in the same geographical community.
What’s the major benefit of this trend?
As discussed in Chapter 2 of Last Rush Hour, there is significant personal and economic cost for organizations and their members to get people together in the same place at the same time five days a week when people live in one community and work in another (the Industrial Age model). Given the cost, it should be the exception rather than the rule.
A major benefit of taking the daily commute out of knowledge work is creating greater opportunity to improve the health status of knowledge workers. Many spend nearly all of their workdays sitting: at the office and on the trip to and from the office. It’s unnatural since the body needs to move. Studies have shown all of that sitting and lack of movement has adverse health impacts that are in turn costing them and their organizations money in the form of lost work time and medical care utilization.
Time that would otherwise be spent commuting can instead be used for health promoting activities and exercise such as resistance training, yoga, and cardiovascular exercises like swimming, aerobics, cycling, running, brisk walking and rowing.
In addition, the shift to doing knowledge work outside the confines of a set time and place calls into question the relevance of the standard fixed eight hour work days of the Industrial Age. They increasingly don’t make sense for many knowledge workers. Since the mind doesn’t shut off like a machine, people often think about work issues during what has been traditionally been segmented as personal or off duty time. Many do some of their best and most creative thinking on work related challenges while exercising or doing housework – not at the office. In addition, research indicates most people tend to be most productive performing intensive thought work for about six hours a day before productivity declines.
Where does telecommuting fit into this?
Telecommuting shows that knowledge work can be done outside of a centralized, commute-in office and that the office is no longer needed as a “workplace.” The workplace of knowledge work is virtually the mind. Now that time and place are being disintermediated by ICT, there need not be any “commuting”– tele or otherwise. In the twenty-first century, communicating is what counts and not commuting.