The working subtitle of this paper is “Phonebooths
and Mailboxes,” chosen because both
were once a common element in the urban landscape.
Both are now becoming obsolete or redundant
due to the ubiquity of mobile phones
and e-mail—superseded by new technology. I’ve
always liked the bright red British telephone
booth and the image of American college kids
stuffing themselves into a booth as a prank. And
once upon a time, people wrote lengthy letters
and each day’s post was an event of some importance.
Happily, the iconic British phonebooth—
as much a symbol of Britain as fish and chips—is
now finding new life as a charging station or connectivity
booth or even a village “library kiosk.”
With the advent of “always on” gadgets,
however, we can connect at any
time with people anywhere, which
has far-reaching implications for the
way people work and the way companies
do business. How will people
work tomorrow and the day after?
Why put pen to paper when you can text? Who needs a booth when your
phone is in your pocket? And why drive into the office when you can email?
Technology allows one to be connected to colleagues without ever
seeing them—or does it?
Discovering a New Workforce Paradigm
Our purpose here is to ask and potentially answer some questions
about the communications technology that is so intimately woven
into our lives—and its consequences for our life at work. At one
time, most interactions were with people in the same building and exchanges
took place synchronously either face-to-face or via telephone.
Is the office where we do our best thinking?
Perhaps you have asked, “When and where did
my last great idea come to me—in the office,
on a run or just after midnight while working
at home? I rarely hear, “It came to me in
a meeting.” But I often hear, “I couldn’t wait
to get back to the office to share it.” Light
bulb moments may not happen in the office,
but perhaps that’s where they come to life.
My last “big idea” came to me on a plane and
that seems to happen more often than not.
On a long flight, I enjoy hours of uninterrupted
solitude. I receive no phone calls, e-mails or dropby
visitors (except those bringing food and drink,
who are welcome). It is a great place to think and
reflect. Recently however, I boarded an Air Canada
flight and to my horror saw an emblem on
the outside of the plane that read. “Now Wi-Fienabled.”
Just as we spend less time “unplugged,”
we may be running out of places to think.
The question inevitably arises, if we can
connect anywhere, anytime, is the office the
best place to work?