WFH – An Evolution in Workplace
There has been a tremendous shifts in workplace or rather what we call workplace. The primary driver for this shift are the advances in Information Technology and Communications or simply, ICT.
One of premise in Transportation Systems Planning is that transportation is a derived demand. Meaning transportation is a means but an end in itself. In typical urban constellation people make millions of to-and-fro trips in day from their place of living to their destinations. Without much impact to accuracy, the work and education trips constitute a greater percentage of the total trips.
In early 1980s or late 1970s Alvin Toffler had envisioned these shifts and wrote an excellent futuristic book, a number one best seller those days, ‘The Third Wave.’
So coming back to our discussion, ‘Work From Home’ or WFM in short, has caught up to maturity in major corporations across the globe. While this is not applicable for all types of roles (especially front desk or customer facing roles), a great many service oriented opportunities can be de-linked from the traditional 4-walled office buildings.
In a First Wave Society, man is more like a prosumer, and his workplace is nothing but his own home or his own field. With the advent of industralisation in the Second Wave, man is forced to relocate to the factory or massive work compound from his place of residence. This has given rise to the birth of ‘work trip’ and brought to the fore the crux of moving people in large scale from their respective places of residence to respective places of work.
In the Third Wave dominated by ICT, created a newer vast pool of services industry, in turn office complexes to house these soft skilled people. On another front, ICT also enabled remote connectivity to enterprise computing virtually from anywhere, and the only requirement is that the person needs to have a desktop, laptop or any other mobile device, connectivity to the internet!
Leveraging on these possibilities major corporations de-linked their staff from cubicles. Here everyone is a winner: the corporations reduced drastically on workstation costs, utility charges, consumbles (coffee, tea…), and even storage space. Where the employee had the flexibility to work at ease from his home environment, avoiding or minimsing the need to travel. Even if a trip is required he could probably plan during off peak periods. Society has the advantage that it receives lesser traffic loads, improved infrastruture maintenance costs, less fuels, lesser carbon foot print…
Infact, this is primary enabler that shifted whole lot of work packages to off shore, ie., how India is enojoying todday the boom of ICT opportunities.
In essence, in the 2nd Wave people moved where there is work. The ICT Revolution facilitated to distribute back the work closer to the employee’s home. Implying work moved where the employee is!
This is a very interesting shift in work delivery, and I am sure many are enjoying WFH culture. Of course, the employee needs to be more disciplined, at times, faces boredom; and the managers face difficulty to enforce compliance; and there is lesser opportunity for inter personal relations. Despite of all these short comings WFH is still an inevitable move for the society, and for good.
In early 1990s I was working on Collaborative Models for a large scale project of Singapore Government. Of course, the technologies are more wide spread now than then, but those models I envisaged haven’t yet became common place yet. There must be a revolution in Communications or Internet, Security has to be strengthened. Once that happens Anywhere Workplace to a great majority becomes a norm rather than exception. I believe that may not be too far…