The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

How has the workplace shifted in the past 15 years?

office.GIFI was talking yesterday to a professional futurist about the workplace of the future. We started off with the question “How do you think the workplace has evolved/changed over the last 10-15 years?”

 

I thought there has been an interesting merger of entertainment and work over the years with more gamification (Entertainment as work) and work taking place everywhere (work as entertainment). The days of sitting on a plane or train and resting are over – working is almost always an option.

 

We are well on our way to move from discrete devices to personal ecosystems that support our sensory, communications and entertainment needs. For example: 15 years ago, we would use MapQuest to print out a map before driving somewhere we’ve never been before. It was soon replaced by low cost discrete devices like a TomTom or Garmin. Today, I can do all that on my Android phone. It is less than a commodity, directions are a side effect of other tools I use.

 

My phone now knows when I am in the car and I can make it change its behavior for that environment, with little or no thought on my part. It can use the cars speakers… This shift to an integrated environment view rather than a product specific view is fundamental and well underway and will expand out to hotel rooms, conference rooms… rather than just my home office or car.

 

Another big shift that I’ve seen is the use of a whole communications arsenal instead of just email. 15 years ago, email was considered cool and new to some people – I think I had my first email account in the early 80s. Now it is recognized in its rightful role as a conduit of workflow and information… The synchronous phone call is almost an imposition not the mainstay of collaboration of a few years ago. Now hybrid tools (Lync as an example) is unifying communications, bridging between the asynchronous IM (r u there?) and buffering, yet supporting the interruption required for synchronous voice and video. With consumerization, we have those same capabilities in our personal lives now too (and they may even be better) and with a smart phone available all the time..

 

Personalization is common. We have come to expect that websites know we’ve been there before. With 3D printing, I can make what I want when I want it. Some of the cottage industry mentality has come back, allowing people to do what they want to do, at home.

 

What do you see as the biggest shift? I’ll try and put a post about some of the ways I see it shifting in the future soon, as well the effect on IT.

Comments
Mark Capper | ‎02-14-2013 05:50 PM

I was a futurist at Herman Miller and now do the same as a consultant. Looking over the past 15 years I have seen alot of other changes.

 

Technology is only one driving force that has shifted the way we work. If we look across the entire social, technology, environmental, economic, political and industry framework  (STEEPI framework) we see other changes:

- Work is much more global, so virtual teams work 24/7 around the clock, pushing collaboration in new directions

- Companies are trying to save money on workplace, so the amount of investment per person or sq foot in workplace has been reduced

- Companies have fewer workers and there is a large army of freelance workers and consulting firms that are taking on work once done by internal staff - therefore the number of workers is down and productivity appears to be higher. 

- 15 years ago the worker/employer balance was tipped toward the worker, so companies were spending money on food and beverage, dry cleaning services, day care, etc to attract and retain employees. Now the balance has tipped in the opposite direction so employees are earning less and working longer hours with fewer beneftis. 

- Gen Y is entereing the workforce and many of them seem to want to work as freelancers and entrepreneurs. They are working for several companies in several roles at the same time. 

- Concerns over energy use (and global warming in some places)  is leading to relaxed work at home policies, and companies are looking for ways to make their buildings more efficient. 

 

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