The post-Industrial Age live-work future

Over the next couple of decades, expect a post-Industrial Age live-work residential settlement paradigm to establish itself. A hallmark will be the diminishment of daily commuting to work by knowledge and information workers. Instead, they will live in close proximity to their work.

Those with cosmopolitan tastes and able to afford downtown living are looking to live in urban centers and will continue to do so, sparking demand for central city housing. They will live within walking distance or a short bus ride from their offices.

Others will prefer small town living closer to nature and outdoor activities, residing on the fringes or outside of major metropolitan areas in smaller communities of 50,000 or fewer residents. Rather than the transportation infrastructure and automobiles that brought people to work in distant communities, they will rely on telecommunications infrastructure to bring their work to the communities where they live.

The trend will also affect suburbs that were built up in the drive-to-work post-World War II period. Suburbanites will increasingly work in their residential communities some or all of the workweek in home offices and shared co-working centers. That will significantly reduce rush hour transportation demand, taking cars off overburdened highways that cannot efficiently move large numbers of workers to centralized, commute in offices. And not a moment too soon since they are reaching a major maintenance interval, decades after they were first built.

Conversation with Mika Cross, federal workplace policy strategist

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.

Conversation with Michael Shear on distributed office spaces

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.

Conversation with former California state government telework leader Geoff McLennan

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.

BOE headquarters: Falling plaster, shattered glass, even bats Capitol Weekly | Capitol Weekly | Capitol Weekly: The Newspaper of California State Government and Politics.

To the passer-by, the tower at 450 N Street is a downtown landmark, soaring assertively 24 stories into the Sacramento sky.

But for more than a decade, the Board of Equalization’s (BOE) headquarters building has been a nightmare to an assortment of state bureaucrats.  Glass panels fall out; water leaks; elevators stop between floors; there are potentially dangerous contaminants; plaster falls off walls; there are lawsuits.

Source: BOE headquarters: Falling plaster, shattered glass, even bats Capitol Weekly | Capitol Weekly | Capitol Weekly: The Newspaper of California State Government and Politics.

Telework and community-based shared co-working spaces would provide a solution to the ongoing and needless exposure of state civil servants to the deficiencies of this troubled building.

“Telework” is outdated in age of location independent work

There are still a remarkable number of offices filled with modern-thinking people, trying to solve modern day issues that look like they were constructed in 1984. And while I love nostalgia as much as anyone, you don’t see Google and Facebook flaunting photos of high, padded cubicle walls and flourescent lights. Why? Because they want the most out-of-the-box, creative and collaborative employees working on their future-thinking initiatives.One of the biggest barriers I face in my work, promoting workplace flexibility, is the notion that employers think I’m talking about sending everyone to work from home. Again, “telework”, a term coined in the 70’s is also antiquated. It is in fact rooted in the notion that you have to be anchored somewhere to work, which is just not the way your average employee operates in 2015.

Source: Transforming the Workplace | Calgary Economic Development

Robyn Bews nails the transformation that’s taking place in how knowledge work gets done. She makes a key point I discuss in my book Last Rush Hour: the terms “telework” and “telecommuting” are based on the Industrial Age notion that knowledge work must be performed in what I term “centralized commuter offices” or CCOs for short. Under this outdated paradigm, “tele”working in another location is the exception rather than the rule.