The working world has changed drastically since our grandparents and parents first entered the workforce.
Advances in technology have increasingly made entire sections of employment either orders-of-magnitude easier or have made them redundant entirely. People working on farms 100 years ago would be slack-jawed at the technology that we now employ to provide food to the world on an industrial scale, just as it seemed inconceivable 50 years ago to handle terabytes, petabytes, or even exabytes of information, much less use or process any of the information therein.
Consider the average individual working in a “modern” technology-related position today. Writ-large that individual is likely:
- Aged 22-30
- College student (or a graduate)
- In debt of at least $15,000
Given these considerations and given the state of the economy (broadly-speaking), does it make sense to force individuals to travel to an office, deal with traffic during ingress and egress, waste fossil fuel, and worry about what their coworkers are doing more than the actual work that matters?
Consider the average day of someone working in the technology sector:
- Waking up extremely early (often to the detriment of normal sleep patterns)
- Hurriedly showering and dressing in “work-appropriate attire”
- Driving to work (often in adverse traffic and weather conditions)
- Sitting in an uncomfortable work environment
- Dealing with ambient distractions (loud conversations, office politics, etc.)
- Getting lunch (or finding **time** to get lunch)
- Driving home (again, often in adverse traffic and weather conditions)
- Repeating the cycle five times a week (or more)
- Waking up closer to the beginning of the work day
- Getting a cup of coffee
- Dressing casually
- Sitting down at the computer and working
- Going twenty steps (or less) to the kitchen to get lunch (healthier and often less expensive)
- Stopping work and simply walking out to the living room at the end of business
If we’re talking purely in terms of economies of time saved vs. time “wasted”, it becomes painfully obvious that the time spent in transit and dealing with an office environment is not only detrimental to the organization but it also becomes detrimental to the individual in terms of time spent traveling. On that merit alone, it makes sense to let employees work from home or wherever they feel most comfortable (workspace co-ops, libraries, coffee shops, etc). Health improvement with regard to being in a familiar environment as well as being able to take care of their families comes as a close second.
With online collaboration tools and social applications adding more business features and becoming the status quo as opposed to an outlier, I think it behooves everyone to ask the question:
“Why am I spending time traveling to an office, burning fuel, polluting the environment further, adding wear-and-tear to my vehicle, and stressing myself out?”
As far as I can tell, the primary blocker in a large number of cases is a lack of trust.
“Can I trust you to be productive when you’re not under-the-gun or under the gaze of a superior?”
“Can I trust you to treat company information as well as you trust your personal information?”
“Can I trust you to honor your obligations to ship/deliver/train/improve?”
When that trust is in-question, nobody wins.