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It's hardly news to anyone that we're experiencing a gradual convergence of phones, Internet, computers, video, and social networking. The rather unimpressive term for this huge shift is Unified Communications. I say unimpressive because unified communications doesn't sound like something that is dramatically changing the way we live and work. I've come across a few hints at the brave new world of teleworking.
February is Telework Month here at TechSoup. In my intro blog post last week, I mentioned that the connection between telework and cloud-based phone services like voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and virtual PBX (as well as other technologies) is that these new technologies make working from home as effective as coming in to the office for many people. We now have smart phones that use wireless 3G and 4G networks to receive and send data, voice, and video. We have laptops, netbooks, and tablet computers that can go everywhere with us. We can do phone calls, email, video and web conferencing, instant messaging, get voicemail, and send text messages most places. Wireless Internet is becoming commonplace. It's looking like the office of the future may well look like the New York Stock Exchange trading floor of today: nobody is there.
One interesting look at how unified commuinications is changing work is a white paper sponsored by TechSoup donor partner Citrix Online called Workshifting Benefits: The Bottom Line (2.1 MB PDF). This study from the Telework Research Network finds that an organization can potentially save one million dollars in energy and office expenses if 100 employees work at home half the time. Nationwide, the impact would exceed $645 billion. The study is an impressively quantified meta-view of the field of teleworking that Citrix has renamed "workshifting." (We wish them luck. We tried that with our ill-fated term "telegreening.") Whatever you call it, telework is all about working out of coffee shops, hotels, airports, and your home every bit as much as the office.
TechSoup donor partner Cisco recently did a study entitled The Cisco Connected World Report which asks, Is the office really necessary? This one is particularly interesting because it finds that telework is not just an option for people in rich countries, but is a worldwide movement. The study surveyed 2,600 workers in 13 countries. It found that three of every five employees believed it was unnecessary to be in the office to be productive. This was especially the case in Asia and Latin America. More than 9 out of 10 employees in India (93 percent) said they did not need to be in the office to be productive. This was also the case in China (81 percent) and Brazil (76 percent). Most respondents are fine with using their own personal or company-owned IT devices to access corporate networks, applications, and information anywhere they work. The busines research company Gartner forecasts that as soon as 2012, 20% of businesses will own no IT assets ' meaning that employees will be using their own personal computers and that the businesses themselves will be relying on cloud-based services.
Global management consulting firm McKinsey has a great resource section on its website on the cities of the future. One of its recently posted pieces is At Home In The Aerotropolis, which profiles a new Korean city called Songdo, a dense little city the size of downtown Boston (only taller and denser) on a muddy, man-made island in the Yellow Sea. It's slated as an international business district, essentially an airport hub city where businesspeople live in hotels while doing business with companies in China. This new aerotropolis city (or whatever you call it) is expected to be completed in 2015.
Finally, TechSoup donor partner BetterWorld Telecom has published the interesting BetterWork Concept Paper (628 KB PDF). The BetterWork concept paper provides a case study view of how an organization's communications infrastructure and increased telework can have positive environmental impacts and lowered costs for organizations that are able develop open work or flex work practices in which employees work wherever they want but are still evaluated on their productivity.
The future looks clear and bright, except for the little problem of figuring out how to turn off all this connectivity when you don't want to be at work.
Photo: Cesar Bojorquez, CC license
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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