On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy
Tag Archives: information age
Professor Colin Jones provides excellent historical background and synopsis of the various forces behind the move towards a more flexible approach to office work. As he points out, there is no end in sight when it comes to widespread resistance to this new way of working. However, there are definitely some clear benefits to organizations that manage to take full advantage of information communication technology. Moreover, to the degree that commuting and expansion of office buildings is curtailed, the more potential benefit to the environment will be realized. Some commentary on potential long-term changes with regard to the office market is also provided in this post.
The office has perhaps always been around as a place of work and administration, whether it be in a Roman palace, a room in a sixteenth century merchant’s house or purpose built buildings from the mid-nineteenth century. And in some ways today’s office is not that different from one in ancient Greece. There is the fundamental need for a desk and a chair. But over the last forty years information communication technology (ICT) has transformed how we use an office. Images of an office with desks piled high with files stuffed with papers and banks of filing cabinets are not perhaps quite yet in the dustbin of history but are not as prevalent as they were even a decade ago. The ‘paperless office’ once seen as a goal to aim for is here today, it just crept up on us (although I still have an untidy desk). The next decade…
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There are a number of benefits to teleworking that may already be familiar to you because they are reiterated time and time again. However, I will quickly summarize them for those who are new to this subject matter:
For employees who can telework and work well this way:
- Can save thousands of dollars annually that would otherwise go towards gas and office clothes
- Improves work-life balance by freeing up 1-2 hours (or more for those who commute even further) so that employees have the option to get right to work instead of wasting time in rush hour traffic as well as being able to get necessary errands done without a hassle (e.g., picking up kids from daycare/school)
- Under a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) where work can be done anywhere, anytime as long as the work is done on time, employees can lead a healthier lifestyle by not having to stay sedentary for 8-10 hour time blocks (includes commute time).
- Reduces real estate costs (for the physical space itself as well as additional costs of maintenance and utilities)
- A more decentralized workforce allows business to continue during emergencies such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc.
- Employees who are well-suited to telework are more engaged and productive working from wherever they want, instead of at the office, which adds to the bottom line
- When recruiting, employers can hire the best people for the job regardless of their geographic location
- Having this option for employees enjoy more freedom and flexibility at work improves recruitment and retention, reducing the cost of turnover
For environmental conditions:
- Less congestion for those who must travel to work as well as reduces wear and tear on deteriorating freeway infrastructure from having so many people utlizing it during rush hour
- Although there’s some debate over whether or not teleworking employees make up for not having to commute to an office by driving elsewhere, a reduced need to build additional office building space and expand freeways does mean a decreased carbon footprint
- The more we can curtail the growth of our freeways and buildings as our population grows, the more space we leave for wildlife Read more of this post
Julie Clow’s The Work Revolution: Freedom and Excellence for All is an engaging and practical guide written for organizational leaders and thinkers interested in the issue of optimizing organizational structure and culture to suit business needs in the Information Age. Towards the beginning of the book, she provides a comprehensive self-assessment quiz that covers various facets of the organization’s philosophy, the rules, leadership, team and coworkers, and the leader’s role. A chart is provided to record scores and the rating criteria is clear-cut, showing specific areas of strengths and weaknesses. The remainder of the book expands upon the subject matter covered in the quiz providing suggestions for improvement in the process. Read more of this post
By William A. Draves and Julie Coates, Nine Shift: Work, Life, and Education in the 21st Century opens up with some historical overview about the transition from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age in the United States and compares this to the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The authors aptly noted cultural resistance to new technology and transitions in work systems both at the turn of the 1800s and at the time of the writing of their book. In doing so they present interesting and entertaining side stories such as L. Frank Baum‘s writing of The Wizard of Oz to convey pro-Agrarian values and resistance to encroaching Industrialization. Read more of this post