When asked ‘where do you work?’ most of us will usually refer to our company, the sector or type of job or even the location. We don’t think of it with reference to our workplace; we take the question to mean ‘what do you do?’
But it might be interesting to take the question literally.
Where do we actually do most of our work?
As most of us are involved in knowledge work of some kind or another, it would probably be fair to say that a lot of work is done on our computer. This might be writing, communicating, updating, sharing ideas, creating, etc.
So, where exactly are we located when we are at work on our computer? Given that most of what we are doing is digital and that digital information can be shared and distributed in seconds, we can work anywhere, can’t we?
Yet many still are working with an industrial age model where the location is important, even though the work itself is not confined to or defined by that location. Often the business owners could not tell you why; it is just the norm perhaps. By definition almost, if you are not there, you are not working.
So despite the obvious inefficiencies, we are still expected to work in specific, tied locations at specific, defined times. We travel any number of miles with thousands of others all doing the same thing, to get to a workplace over which we have no choice. And once there. we do exactly what we could be doing on the same or similar device at home.
The computer is the workplace
Laptops, Netbooks and Tablets are fast overtaking desktop PC’s as the medium of choice for the modern working world. What many employers have failed to take into account, it seems, is that these devices are portable. Where we work is no longer as important as what we work on.
Now, while we are being pedantic with our definitions, ‘what we work on’ can be taken two ways, both in the equipment used to do our work and the type of work this is.
So we have computers that we can work on and use to access all kinds of information; even desktops are portable in their way, thanks to the cloud. Whether local servers or vast data centres, our information is accessible from almost anywhere.
Then we have the actual work itself. Not only are many of us looking for more flexible ways of working, but we are also looking for more interesting work. We do not want to be a cog in an industrial machine but want more creativity, more input and dialogue, more choice about what work we do and for whom we do it.
This is not meant to portray the office as unnecessary and without use. It can act as an admin, cultural and social hub. Ideas can be created, shared and worked on; knowledge also can be shared and developed. We are a social animal and the need for physical interaction is primary.
However, the office should be part of the mix and not the only option, because now we can work from anywhere. We can fit work around our other needs like family, social and self-development. The technology is a great enabler, but we are also changing. Many people want more satisfaction from their work and the rest of their lives.
And we are all different. Some may well like the regularity of a set workplace and set hours. Some prefer to work alone and some will prefer a mix. Why should we all have to work the same way?
The work is also different. Some tasks require lone concentration; others need collaboration and constant feedback. Given the options available, from working at home to working in cafes, libraries, etc, sticking to one place seems belligerently old fashioned and wasteful.
Where we work should be where we work the best and where the best work is done.
More information on the agile workforce