The World is Your Office: A Study in Telecommuting

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If you look down at your workspace right now and analyze the way it has changed in the past few decades, you’ll likely be amazed by the contrast. Technology has given us the capacity to eliminate waste and optimize our workplaces for productivity, but it has also fundamentally changed the way we work. Less ties to a physical desk in a physical workspace has led to an upswing in the mobile workforce. According to the “The State of Telework in the U.S.” — which is based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics — businesses saw a 61% increase in telecommuters between 2005 and 2009.

IT decision makers have witnessed this growth from the trenches, where they enable the business to grow through technological advancements.  But there are several key questions IT leaders will face in the coming waves of virtualization...

  • What type of work model should be used to manage knowledge workers?
  • When workers are increasingly distributed globally at multiple physical locations, how do effective interpersonal relationships form and grow?
  • How will technology and people considerations impact the locations where people come together?
  • How can the office environment be configured to invoke optimum worker productivity?
  • How will organizations source the best workers and cope with differing attitudes across a five-generation workforce?

Telecommuters Today

Though there are a significant number of mobile workers today, the number is still small in comparison to what it will be one day. According to the “The State of Telework in the U.S.” 50 million U.S. employees work jobs that are telework compatible, but only 2.9 million consider home their primary place of work. This represents 2.3 percent of the workforce. Meaning the full impact of virtualization has yet to be realized.

Some are dubious as to whether the workplace will continue to move in a virtualized direction. Rawn Shah, director and social business architect at Rising Edge, recently wrote on Forbes, “We are only starting to understand what the future of work looks like. In my view, the imagined idea of entirely virtual organizations is similar to how we used to think of the future as full of flying cars and colonies in space. Reality is much more invested in hybrid in-office plus remote scenarios. Physical space is still a strong element of work that we need to keep track of, and understand better to learn how we truly collaborate.”

Telecommuters Tomorrow

According to Tim Hansen in his white paper “The Future of Knowledge Work,” there are already several trends influencing the current workplace that will directly impact virtualization of the enterprise in the future:

  • Defining employees on the cusp of transformation
  • Dynamic, agile team structures will become the norm
  • The location of work will vary widely
  • Smart systems will emerge and collaborate with humans
  • A second wave of consumerization is coming via services

The questions IT leaders are asking now can be answered by isolating these already-present factors driving virtualization.

Our offices are changing rapidly — don’t let your employees suffer through legacy work models. Recognizing the change swirling around you will help you strategize for the coming changes on the horizon.

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