In 1985, upon the birth of the wireless phone, Harvard Business Review predicted the end of the office as we know it, suggesting that "your office is where you are." I've been following the transformation of the wireless phone into a computer, suggesting that we are in a world where your office is in your pants.
That's one trend; here's another. In 1997 in Fast Company, Daniel Pink described the wonderful world of Free Agent Nation, where we would all happily be working on our own instead of "silently accepting an architecture of work customs and social mores that should have crumbled long ago under the weight of its own absurdity." At the time, 14 percent of Americans were self-employed. Then the dotcom crash, followed by the Great Recession, made the whole idea a lot less bucolic and fun, as tens of thousands of people were essentially forced to become free agents. Now, a third of the workforce — 53 million Americans — are freelancers, and according to new data, as more baby boomers retire, the trend is accelerating. The two trends of the office in your pants and free agent nation are essentially merging.
According to information provided to Digital Trends by Workspot, a company that makes mobile office apps, 10,000 baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are retiring every day. The millennials who all those boomers complained about are taking over the workforce; they are already 32 percent of it, and in 15 years they will be 75 percent of the workforce (and complaining about all those Generation Z kids). The millennial generation is used to being mobile; according to Digital Trends, "about a third of millennials say they use at least three devices at work (a tablet, a computer, and a smartphone)."
The writer at Digital Trends concludes by writing "This isn’t your grandmother’s workplace, kids. And in another few decades, it may not be ours either." I suspect that it will be a whole lot quicker than that. Look at what has already changed:
- Our tools are going mobile;
- Sitting at a desk is considered a death sentence;
- A third of us are working freelance;
- The boomers are checking out and a whole wired new generation is checking in, on their phones of course.
It's a whole new world. The big question is how long it will take our cities, buildings, workplaces and managers to adapt.
Related in MNN and TreeHugger:
- TextBlade folding keyboard could change mobile typing
- The open-office backlash continues, but it is a lost cause to hope that the private office is coming back.
- Forget the standing desk and the sitting desk; the future is the no-desk.