Beyond SOHO: The Future of Work

Beyond SOHO: The Future of Work

This report will look at the future of professional work. It will discuss the real reason that professionals work at all, and it will examine some of the transformational technologies that are, even now, being introduced into the workplace: technologies that will transform work, simplify lives, and meld personal and professional time into a continuous whole.

Introduction

Clarence Day, the author of Life with Father, wrote extensively of office environments in the late 1890s. As a youth, he was permitted to accompany his father on trips to the office, where he would perform menial tasks, like running errands or helping clean rubber stamps. His description of professional work is enlightening.

He describes a world where business was conducted face-to-face or through the mail. Correspondence was in long hand, for the most part, and ledgers were updated by people known as computers or bookkeepers, who entered figures in different colored inks, and were selected on the basis of their abilities to add and subtract accurately, and to endure almost killing boredom. The world he describes is almost totally manual: there were no telephones, no typewriters in most offices, and certainly none of the yet to be invented calculators or digital computers. The business world was a man’s world; there were no women.
People from that era would not even recognize the professional environment of today. Where their world was manual and personal, the professional environment now is highly automated and impersonal. People working remotely are not only accepted in most companies, they are encouraged. And computers are no longer people; as much as they may sometimes act like them.

It is tempting to look at that world with something like nostalgia: it was simple and slow. Professional men went to the office to meet other men, to make decisions and then to wait while the communications of the day, generally post and telegraph, enabled the execution of their orders. Today, business is generally run at the speed of information exchange: data communications and real-time audio and video enable a world of work that is rapidly expanding to consume the available time of professional workers. For many, the future of work looks like an ever more overwhelming experience of too many demands and not enough time.

Yet, the world of work that is familiar today is undergoing a sea change. In response to more capable network connections, social media, and mobility, the work environment is evolving quickly. In years, the average work environment will be as foreign to most people now as today’s work environment would be to someone from the 1890s. If one could magically enter that world, what constitutes work would not seem like work at all. In fact, if there is a good analog in today’s world, it would be e-gaming.

This report will look at the future of professional work. It will discuss the real reason that professionals work at all, and it will examine some of the transformational technologies that are, even now, being introduced into the workplace: technologies that will transform work, simplify lives, and meld personal and professional time into a continuous whole that could scarcely be imagined when Clarence Day was a boy.

Home Office Blues

Frost & Sullivan has been interested in the work-from-home environment for some time. In large part, this is due to the fact that Frost & Sullivan supports a robust remote workforce, and has been a leader in optimizing business results in such an environment. For these reasons, Stratecast includes questions in its consumer-facing surveys designed to gauge interest in work from home.

In the last Connected Home survey, respondents were asked to what extent they work at home. About percent of all respondents indicated that they work from home, at least part of the time. The average across all demographics is days a week. The most telling point, though, is the breakdown for people who work five or more days a week. For that group, the higher the salary, the more likely it is that the individual works at home.

Since the higher wage demographics typically represent professionals, the implication is clear: although percent of the full survey population does not work at home, professional workers clearly do, and many do extensively. For example, percent of survey respondents with incomes in excess of $ work from home five or more days per week; and only percent of this same high income group stated that they never work from home.

This migration of work from the office to the home is profound: it defines the way in which professional workers interact, conduct business and manage their work-home dynamic. It also, not incidentally, defines how they buy and utilize communication services. Those who work at home most of the time utilize the most communication services. Interestingly, there is an inverse correlation for short duration home workers; possibly because such workers are either part-time or non-professional, and consequently have a consumption that maps to the time they have available to use such services.

Table Of Contents

1 | BEYOND SOHO: THE FUTURE OF WORK

SPIE 2013 #44 - December 6/2013
1. Introduction
2. Home Office Blues
3. Ideation: the purpose of Business
4. Technologies at the Tipping Point
5. The Future of Work
6. Stratecast - The Last Word
7. About Stratecast
8. About Frost & Sullivan