The frightening thing is that increasingly, the answer is becoming ‘no.’ With more and more people working from home each year, taking flex hours and even basing out of a home office… there may very soon be a day when the answer to this question is no.
I recently read an article through CNN that talked about the office of tomorrow. It was a very visual piece that showed 3D renderings of an office in 2022. Common place where items such as hologram tables, 3-D printers and even office windows which doubled as computer screens (though this one may be a lot closer than 10 years away). The article showed what kind of technologies are coming up the pipelines and set to be in place in the business world in 10 years. However, even this article acknowledges that there is a massive assumption precluding the entire piece: that you will even be working in an office in 10 years.
In my recent job hunt, I have already stumbled across full-time positions that list their location as “virtual.” These are not simply jobs where flex time or working from home is permitted, or even jobs based in a city where positions such as sales and support are mostly on the road. Increasingly, coders, consultants, writers, graphic designers and anyone else who doesn’t really need a place to call ‘work’ are being hired from locations across the globe. Particularly in cases where the majority of an employee’s work is done on the computer, meetings are held over Skype and documents are shared through the cloud, does it really make a difference if your co-worker is down the hall or across the globe?
Instead, what I would really wish to have seen out of the CNN article is forecast technologies to support the increasing trend of home workers. The snowballing power of mobile technology is encouraging (and I always loved the quote about Nasa and Angry Birds), however where will this technology lead us in 10 years? Will desks be obsolete? Will we see living spaces better designed to handle work flow? Will we see home innovations that are able to replicate more of the functions of the office such as white boarding, co-worker socializing, getting fired (though George Clooney may have already proved that one a bad idea) and even frowned up on business activities such as cheating on your partner with your secretary.
Are we moving towards an era where those massive, brilliant buildings that scatter and inspire our cityscapes become obsolete?
It seems there will always be an argument for some form of in-person collaboration. A few years ago, I read the book Blind Faith by Ben Elton. While the book was nothing more than a futuristic, sexual-tech-theology adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 (yes, I’m equally confused by my own description), it did raise a few interesting points. The book was set in an oppressive future where digital sharing of information had become all-encompassing and individuals could no longer have independent secrets or personal lives. With the pervasiveness of the online life, everyone with an office job worked from home. However, due to growing social dysfunction, fizzy coffs (visits to physical offices) were made mandatory to encourage people to get out of the house and interact in a face-to-face manner.
So perhaps the question shouldn’t be, ‘do I have to go to work today?’ Instead, we should be asking what is the right balance of office work, work from home and travel. Also, if I do end up working entirely from home, how can I be expected to riddle my coworkers with nerf darts?