The whole world is changing. Well, okay, that’s a given. Everything is constantly changing. Hell, my atomic structure is changing as I transfer atoms from my fingers to the computer keyboard and back again. The sun gives way to the moon. Seasons change. No day is the same. But what strikes me is how our world is constantly becoming more interconnected, which is transforming where we work.
We’ve truly become a knowledge society, and with that, we no longer need traditional offices. There are still careers that require your presence, ones that have been around for decades: the restaurant industry, bartending, retail, assembly-lines. But more and more, office careers have transformed into something that could not have existed twenty (or even ten) years ago. In 1999, if I were to inform you that I was going to work at a startup company from my apartment, you’d be skeptical. If I told you the company didn’t have office space and that my co-workers were working remotely as well in three different states across two time zones, you would probably dismiss me as insane.
Today, in 2009, it’s a reality. (Thank you Skype, WebEx, iChat screen sharing, and high bandwidth.) And it’s a smart reality. It saves our company tons of money in real estate costs. It saves me time and money commuting. Sure, office space has value in the relationships it can forge, and at some point, we will invest in that. But, how much office space does a company truly need these days? Do you need a cubicle for every person with so much telecommuting? Do executives need large corner offices?
Real estate is the second highest expense for corporations (labor is first). With advances in technologies, for the first time, many companies can afford to cut costs in real estate. Lots have yet to implement any form of a Alternative Workplace System. But I bet they will in the near future. There is too much money to be saved.
On the flipside, talk about reducing a barrier to entry. We have our own personal computers and mobile phones. With a little self-discipline and focus, you can do almost anything you would have done from an office, at home. You could start anything right now. You have all the tools in front of you. It’s truly amazing how flexible we have become.