Fourteen years ago, KPN took the Kermit network (which later became Greenhopper) off the air. It had – in response to the expensive car telephone – become obsolete because you always had to take your telephone to a ‘Green Point’. Now – 20 years after the introduction of Kermit – you take your smartphone / tablet / laptop to the hotspot with the strongest WIFI signal that gives you the fastest internet access. Because 4G will become operational in 2014, this will obviously not last very long either.
Strange as it may seem, this also created the technological foundation for how many people work today. Over the past 20 years, the world has turned upside down. Similarly to management concepts, ideas about the personal deployment of knowledge workers have changed radically. And – as always – such a successful process attracts large numbers of people who claim to be its originator. It was, however, all foreseen by just one man: Professor Franklin Becker of Ithaca University in New York with the support of grants provided by Steelcase, Samas and Digital. In 1988, he set out his vision in a report that formed the basis for further development by Samas and later Veldhoen as well. Working separately from each other, Samas and Veldhoen explored the social trends, worked out the details and marketed the concepts that Samas referred to as “New Ways of Working”.
The key message: a new type of office worker is evolving.
- The self-navigator who determines his or her own future as much as possible
- and can therefore also decide autonomously where he/she wants to work: at home, at a customer’s business location, on the road or in an office.
- Availability for work is becoming – partly because of globalisation – 24/7 (you won’t sell insurance at 9 a.m., but you will at 9 p.m.)
- Output focus of “Me Ltd.”
- In short: Same time / same place; Same time / any place; Any time / any place
In addition, the traditional settings of standardised offices and time-honoured management styles like “I can see you – so you are working” have become obsolete. This requires totally new insights about self-monitoring, people management and personal productivity. Dutch society has needed more than 20 years to make the transition. It is therefore certainly no hype; what was once a trend has transformed into a social development. This pattern is repeated in other countries, but the pace of acceptance is slower. This is usually because it is difficult to break through existing hierarchies.
Square metres come second
As a consequence of new developments in different ways of working, the number of square metres of office space can be cut down, but not the purpose for having office space. This is the pitfall for inexperienced facility managers. Experience shows that companies that prioritise cutting down their square metres of office space usually fail to make the transition to new ways of working successfully. They neglect to arrange management training, provide fit-for-purpose tools, adapt their organisational structure or invest in systems that can compensate lost assets. And then Marlissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo announces that the trend of working from home is over. More checks have to take place in the opinion of this boss.…. Does she really not understand that times have changed? Are people who can buy houses, make babies, get married and divorced and make important decisions all on their own completely ignorant and unreliable about work? Well, she probably thinks so, her motto is: YOU DO AS YOU ARE TOLD. That’s the American spirit.
Therefore: The new way of working has nothing to do with offices. The upheaval that is happening in workplaces is the result of social changes: the new way of working is a concept for the management of people who operate their personal ‘Me Ltd.’. The all-important thing is PRODUCTIVITY. This means that trends in office outfitting follow on from the process of setting up multiple ‘Me Ltd.’ work spaces. The next step is the process analysis. But we’ll talk more about that later. To be definitely continued…