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#WFH: Do You Have Friend at Work?

Changes fueled by an unlimited technology arsenal impact our relationships at work. Consultants, micro workers and experts are available to organizations. A global workforce at your fingertips provides both speed and reach. Compensation practices, the layout of the workplace and job expectations are under scrutiny. Organizations are rethinking what “good looks like.” They are attempting to break down silos (isolation), embrace and not limit vacations, have casual days every day and share visions. This technology is also disruptive and has the impact of changing not only where we work but how.

The virtual workplace is here. People rely on electronic communication and virtual connectivity to get their jobs done. This reliance on technology has created an environment that has a double edge. You are both isolated and constantly connected. More than 50 million people travel less but work just as effectively using technology. They don’t have to be in the office and they don’t need to travel for meetings either. To some extent this technology has been liberating. People don’t have to do long com-mutes, sit in traffic or fight the weather. They can work at home in their “pajamas” if they choose. The new environment is a more relaxed, less structured and more flexible environment than the traditional workplace. Remote access with web-based technology, collaboration tools and smart devices supports flexible work environments and adaptive schedules. It also appears to be flatter.
You can have a direct connection to higher levels of management. These people, who were un-approachable in the face to face (F2F) world, are a Tweet or an email away. But there is another much darker and disturbing side to the virtual environment. It is an environment of paradoxes, of opposites and of contradictions. Authority, authenticity, privacy, accountability and identity are only a few of he dichotomies facing the virtual workplace. The old structures are falling but slowly. Like the coliseum in Rome, position, rewards and recognition from another time are still standing in many organizations.

Personal devices give us the impression of one to one communication. Research as far back as the 1960s on human to computer interactions reinforces the fact that we like to relate to devices in a one to one, personal way. We relate to the device as if we were talking to another human being, which sometimes we are and sometimes we are not. It is an illusion that since we adopted social networks everyone one is on the same level and everyone is accessible. After all, we can receive personal “Tweets” from rock stars, presidential candidates and football heroes. Authority, however, is still an issue in most organizations. The hierarchy, the chain of command, salary structures and corporate ladders are remnants from a different time and are just starting to be phased out. Collaboration is now disrupted by an old paradigm of authority and power. Speed and access are a part of this. The ability to collaborate or reach and create relationships with other people is also an influence on organizational change. Value in the virtual workplace is created through connections with others.

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