How connectivity is revolutionizing everything

Work: Work is no longer a place

by Jessica Stillman

Just a few years ago, work was a location. Now, for many of us, it’s an action. Thanks to ubiquitous, fast broadband, a host of collaboration technologies and a handful of powerful shifts in our thinking, work has been steadily moving from a place to a network of connected individuals.

Technology has paved the way for location-independent work, and the tools needed for successful remote collaboration continue to evolve. Enterprise social media companies like Yammer and next-gen video conferencing solutions have emerged, and a host of innovation management platforms are helping companies leverage one of their most valuable resources: ideas. (One day, you may even get a robot as your in-office proxy.)

New tools, gadgets and apps aren’t the only changes that are emerging via connected work. Mindsets need to change as well as tech. Managers must learn how to supervise telecommuters and keep diverse teams collaborating smoothly.

Connected work also realigns the very relationship between workers and employers. Online labor marketplaces like oDesk and Elance offer to match those in need of services with workers to create a more flexible workforce. Companies are tapping this “human cloud” to use more on-demand workers and access talent from across the globe. Workers are exploring the possibilities and pitfalls of “the gig economy.” And companies have to address the new legal, tax and benefits questions that are emerging because of the changes.

And then there are the changes to the physical environment and the things that fill it: the cubicles, computers and smartphones. IT departments have already had to adjust to the consumerization of tech, as companies increasingly allow workers to bring their own devices to the office. Many companies are reexamining their concept of work as a place. With more employees connecting remotely, will real estate footprints shrink, and will our roads and communities adapt for less commuting and more remote work? And will co-working become a more mainstream, or even dominant, form of work?

The only thing we’re sure of is that work is becoming increasingly untethered from the office. Managers, workers, startups, even architects and politicians will continue to grapple with these changes for years to come.