20 Comments

Summary:

Many of us have left the world of cubicles behind as our jobs increasingly move into the online realm, where physical presence becomes just an occasional part of our work lives rather than a daily grind of commuting in traffic and cubicle dwelling for 40 hours a week. I see more and more people joining the remote web worker ranks every day, and I’m not the only one seeing this trend. What does this mean for us?

Many of us have left the world of cubicles behind as our jobs increasingly move into the online realm, where physical presence becomes just an occasional part of our work lives rather than a daily grind of commuting in traffic and cubicle dwelling for 40 hours a week. I see more and more people joining the remote web worker ranks every day, and I’m not the only one seeing this trend. According to Seth Godin in a recent TIME article, “The Last Days of Cubicle Life“:

“Most of the best jobs will be for people who manage customers, who organize fans, who do digital community management. We’ll continue to need brilliant designers, energetic brainstormers and rigorous lab technicians. More and more, though, the need to actually show up at an office that consists of an anonymous hallway and a farm of cubicles or closed doors is just going to fade away. It’s too expensive, and it’s too slow.”

Photo by Ste3ve

Photo by Ste3ve

Godin also points out that this will be a stressful time as many people struggle to find essential, valuable work that is less likely to be outsourced to other locations. This isn’t really a new feature of the work landscape. Peter Drucker was talking about the focus on knowledge workers from the 1950s, and outsourcing has also been a concern for many years.

While outsourcing isn’t new, the rapid increase in the number of remote workers is. According to WorldatWork, “the number of employee telecommuters in the U.S. increased 39 percent, from 12.4 million in 2006 to 17.2 million in 2008.” Businesses are actively seeking to embrace remote working as it lowers overheads — see Simon’s post on GigaOM Pro, “Enabling the Web Working Revolution” (subscription required). Anecdotally, I seem to see more and more people working remotely from home offices and coffee shops.

What does all of this mean for us? As a culture in the U.S., we have moved away from a traditional worker mindset where 9-to-5 office jobs were intended to last for decades and many aspects of our lives were tied up with our employer (pensions, health insurance, etc.). Now we need to embrace a freelancer mindset, with a focus on the work rather than the employer.  This puts many additional burdens on the worker: health care and retirement, for example. Work may last only days, weeks or months, rather than years, and we need to be able to demonstrate our value regardless of whether we are working remotely or in a cubicle. We need to be flexible and ready to embrace new jobs, new work, new technologies and new business models at any time.

I always try to keep an eye on the future by looking for new opportunities and clients. I also make sure that I’m keeping my skills fresh by learning about new technologies and continuing to tweak the services that I offer for clients as the business environment changes.

What do you do to prepare for changes in your work life?

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  1. “While these the focus…”?

  2. @Victor — I couldn’t find that exact phrase in the post, Victor, but I rephrased it a bit. Better?

  3. What to read on the GigaOM network Thursday, June 11, 2009

    [...] for SMBs (OStatic) MacBook Pro SD/ExpressCard slot tradeoff: brilliant or blunder? (TheAppleBlog) Workplace trends: the end of cubicle dwelling? (WebWorkerDaily) Estimate: 20% of videos are spam (NewTeeVee) Why GM killed the 2010 Chevy Malibu [...]

  4. Catherine Cantieri, Sorted Thursday, June 11, 2009

    I love imagining the cubicle farm in a future exhibit of Offices of the Late 20th & Early 21st Centuries, with viewers whispering “Can you believe they had to work like this?!”

    Someday…

  5. Say Goodbye to the Cubicle, For Good – Free Pursuits Thursday, June 11, 2009

    [...] Workplace Trends: The End of Cubicle Dwelling? (Web Worker Daily) [...]

  6. I think a lot of people are trading cubicle dwelling for outdoor dwelling. More and more people are living a hybrid life of work and play.

  7. Ahh … pundits. I say, get married, have some kids and then tell us how to maintain long term ( 18 or more years ) relationships with spouses and kids when you are always traveling for work.

  8. Simon Mackie Friday, June 12, 2009

    @Khürt – Godin isn’t talking about traveling for work. He’s talking about a rise in remote working, which should surely be good for those with families – less commute means more time with the kids, more flexibility to deal with the school run, etc.

  9. Jeannie McPherson Friday, June 12, 2009

    It’s amazing that more people aren’t telecommuting with today’s advanced technology. I think people are afraid to not have face time, or be perceived as a slacker. Video conferencing is the key to eliminating the remaining barriers to telecommuting. By enabling employees and managers to instantly connect face to face, trust is no longer an issue b/c they can actually see each other working and collaborate as if they were in the same room. Video conferencing also has other far reaching business benefits like reduced travel costs and increased productivity because you can always meet face-to-face with anyone no matter where you or they are located. Once video conferencing is more widely adopted, there is no doubt enterprises will embrace teleworking because the business case is just too strong.

  10. Workplace Trends: The End of Cubicle Dwelling? at Workplace Engineering Friday, June 12, 2009

    [...] Workplace Trends: The End of Cubicle Dwelling?: “While outsourcing isn’t new, the rapid increase in the number of remote workers is. According to WorldatWork, ‘the number of employee telecommuters in the U.S. increased 39 percent, from 12.4 million in 2006 to 17.2 million in 2008.’ Businesses are actively seeking to embrace remote working as it lowers overheads — see Simon’s post on GigaOM Pro, ‘Enabling the Web Working Revolution’ (subscription required). Anecdotally, I seem to see more and more people working remotely from home offices and coffee shops.” [...]

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