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#WFH: Are You Going Back to the Office?

The virtual workplace is here to stay. Businesses are not going back to the cubicle. The world’s dependence on oil, levels of pollution, global warming and commute times will help to usher in what technology has enabled. Our ability to work in our pajamas enables us to look at life and human interactions differently. The Pajama Effect is a psychological and behavioral shift in response to a new way of life. The age of hunting and gathering, the agrarian age and the industrial age have given way to the pajama age. It is the age of the remote connection, of human interactions with technologies and of virtual everything. We work online, we play online and we shop online.

Our workplace has changed. The way we measure value is no longer the number of widgets produced. The commodities that ruled the age of manufacturing – the hours you worked, the times you punched in and out, and the observation of management – have given way to a new way of looking at the world. Gone are the time sheets, dress codes and structure of the workplace. The virtual workplace promises to be much more productive and a whole lot more fun. Creative ideas and innovation have become more important to us than commodities. No one wants to be just another company. No one wants to be just another employee.

A new set of skills is important for affecting this virtual work environment. Success requires people who can think, live and work with autonomy. Gone are the days when compliance ruled. This new environment is different. We are alone a good bit of the time with ourselves yet connected to just about everything, just about all of the time. The devices that connect us become obsolete in six months and are replaced every 13 months. The rate of change is accelerating. We have “thinking things” connected to a semantically aware Internet. From deciding when to turn on our air conditioning to suggesting what movies we might like to watch, these devices are getting smarter. Everything is being recorded. Everything is digital.

There are cameras everywhere. If you run a red light or forget to stop at the tollbooth, you are recorded. If you are shopping in a store or doing business at the bank, you are recorded. Your conversations are recorded and your movements are recorded. GPS tracks where you are and where you were. All of this tracking has and will continue to have an impact on autonomy and privacy. Only recently have governments started to look into the effect that technologies are having on human rights. This area is wide open for future discussion and research. These concerns affect the workplace also. When you worked on the company computer in the company office, it was pretty clear that the company owned your emails. If you are working from home, how much of your personal information does the company have access to? Is it everything that is on your laptop, your tablet or your phone if that device is used for work also? There are many unanswered questions in this new work world.

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