A (Bad) Back To The Future

A bad back injury has laid me up at home the last few days – despite a gruelling work schedule, my mobile and technology infrastructure has enabled me to effectively work from home. I was able to accomplish more from home these last few days than i would have had i been physically at work. I got my office work done well, took rest that has helped my back heal progressively, and spent more time with my children and home chores than i otherwise would have.

Now, i would not advocate this on a daily basis to anyone, but under certain circumstances, it does become possible to work “mobile”. Marc Beinoff, the CEO of Salesforce, in an interview with Recode, once said that he could get all his work done on his mobile phone. A bold and probably exaggerated statement, but it doesn’t take away from the fundamental thesis. A large part of our organisations today can work efficiently on the move/while mobile.

What is also changing is the anywhere anytime approach to work. Being always connected means that one can be reached and review work nearly anytime anywhere (besides a vipassana course or a trek in the Himalayas). And cultures across nearly all organizations – big or small, established or startup, is changing towards this instant gratification/instant response model. If someone could track the response times between client requests and solutions, it would have dramatically reduced. We want a response, and we want it yesterday.

Improving capacity utilization is at the core of the “shared economy” business models we see all over. The ride sharing/Uber model proposes to improve capacity utilization across our public transport infrastructure, the home sharing/Airbnb model proposes to improve capacity utilization across our personal living infrastructure, the cloud /SaaS model improves utilization across our compute infrastructure…….and this model could effectively translate across so many more of our infrastructure.

How about our own core personal infrastructure – Time? Do we all need to spend 5 out of 7 days a week at the office, and 2 at home while we are effectively balancing work and personal/home/other responsibilities across both time zones? The older generation was arguably doing this before as well, but we must argue that a mobile and social world has allowed for an increase in efficiency on the move (on a weekend?) and potentially a decrease in efficiency/increasing distractions when immobile (a workstation?). What if new organizations structured work hours based on task outcomes and not on fixed work days/holidays. Could that increase work productivity? An anytime-anywhere model that does not require one to go into work on a Monday but might need one to be responsive on Sunday. It is happening, already.

I could see this policy getting very complex in larger organisations but potentially more flexible with smaller ones. Which leads to the next thought – would we see the rise in smaller organizations over time as individuals get more empowered with shared infrastructure – time to setup an office, a technology platform are declining fast. The world seems to be focused on increasing productivity through shared business models, and the potential increase of artificial intelligence/ machine learning across businesses could reduce the need for jobs, spurring individuals to setup smaller enterprises of their own. The rise of the smaller merchants.

We see this already happening in the media / content creation industry where artists/talent are working in small groups to create content away from the majors. Discovery and distribution is hard – my blog’s outreach is limited by its distribution than the quality of content (I think!). We see the rise of aggregators all over – Facebook for digital distribution, music festivals for individual artists, ecommerce for individual merchants and secure cloud platforms for enterprise communications.

The impact of this on our lives could be fascinating as we dream towards the future. Imagine we live in a world of small merchants, some big aggregators, where we check in and out across shared office spaces, where meetings are on FaceTime/google hangouts, physical interactions are reduced and our workdays are driven by task modules across our time infrastructure, not just the time the earth rotates on its axis.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and ramblings and do not reflect the views of my organization or suggest any recommendations to my organizations’ work policies.