I last visited India four years ago as I was about to embark on what could best be described as a Beta version of a BPO project. I set strict limits on the duration of my stay – 10 days max - because I felt the need to remain connected to my central place of work. Any longer, I thought, and I'd seriously jeopardize my ability to remain in the swing of things. Today, I’m back again – but this time I’m here for more than four weeks ready to test my theory that in our connected world, our office can be virtually anywhere.
I'm not only here for client work, but to write about how to better connect the BPO phenomenon to workplace continuity. All the while, I will be continuing with three of the projects I have been working on. Part of the challenge is to see how well I can carry on with my normal activities while being on the other side of the world. So far, so good, as I can report things have been moving along as though I never left. Much of this has to do with how much our world has changed in such a small time.
Just how much has the landscape changed? Well, let’s start by considering this news item
from the same year I made that stressful 10-day journey abroad. It’s in the form of a news summary and describes the release of a major research report discussing how organizations will change the way they use office space based on cutting edge innovations such as “hot-desking”, “hoteling”, and “home-working” (for more information about this paper, click here
). The basic premise of the piece (sponsored by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) was to suggest the efficiency of physical office space could greatly improve if larger organizations implemented emerging offsite working trends:
“There is a totally new way of working today…people work in their cars, in the street, and in coffee bars, but a lot of organizations, particularly larger ones – do not appear to be formalizing this, or converting it into more flexible and efficient space management…Companies fail to use new working practices inclined to pack employees more tightly or buy more property – than introduce alternative working methods”
The basic notions posited in this early piece have not only confirmed that alternate working methods can redefine how office space is used, but in the process have created an entirely new definition of what office space is. Four years later, companies have adopted new models that decentralize operations through a network of geographically-dispersed offices and even outsourced arrangements to places like India – clearly, the inclination to pack employees in one location seems outdated. In fact, just the opposite seems to be holding true.
A recent article
appearing in Business Week provided a sneak peak at tomorrow’s office, and suggests that as decentralization takes a firmer hold, companies become increasingly committed to creating a more livable working environment for their employees:
“As work becomes more decentralized, office building may change, too. Partly, that will happen as Generation Y…finds itself doing more and more collaboration to solve difficult problems. Thus, many companies are starting to enlarge and redesign common areas in office buildings so they’re more spacious and homey.”
The article also does a neat job in describing the new technologies on the near horizon engineered to support the remote office, as well as identifying the driving factors of the phenomenon.
“…the idea that an office is an enclosure with walls is already disappearing, thanks to technologies such as Wi-Fi, which provides high-speed access to a network or the Internet from any place a connected employee chooses to wander, be it down the hall, or to a café, airport or hotel.”
As these trends gain more acceptance (and in fact move from the realm of ‘trend’ to that of ‘standard operating procedure’), the workforce itself will trade briefcases and file folders in for an entirely new toolkit
that aligns with the newly defined workplace.
Now if they could just do something to provide a quick-fix solution for this cursed time-zone difference and the jetlag that never seems to go away!