Work: The Workplace of the Future

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by Sandra Fletcher

(Picture of Asimo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc)

CNMAGIn the 1980s it was thought by many that employment in the year 2000 would have us all balancing work and leisure using technology to assist us to a perfect state of peace of mind. We would simply fly our jet pack to work, speak into our computers, and whisk ourselves away to the spa for a relaxing afternoon massage!

So serious were the predictions that York University in Toronto in the early 1980s offered a course on “leisure time” management. The course focused on how to help people structure their lives to help them avoid the stress of too much free time.

While their predictions were somewhat correct in that we do rely more and more (and even MORE) on technology each passing day with our cell phones, PDAs, BlackBerry in the car, computers, wi-fi access in the donut shop and Blue Tooth headsets in the bathrooms, these tools have not made our lives easier but even more complicated. Far from the reality of being unplugged and relaxed, today’s workers are overworked, stressed and plugged-in around the clock.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

The workplace is always changing. “With 26 percent of our current work force preparing to retire in the next decade, it is crucial that we harness this knowledge prior to them leaving our organizations and industries. The utilization of technology to harness this is critical, especially if we want to remain effective, efficient and competitive in the global market,” says Cary Redstone, CEO of MMC Learning and Development, an international multimedia e-learning company.

As baby boomers (people born between 1940 and 1963) reach the age of retirement, the face of our workplaces will change. A younger, more technologically savvy worker will evolve not only the way workplaces look and feel but also how employees will be satisfied with their work. “e” (or electronic) is a key concept in the future. It is essential that workers who want to ensure their jobs are computer, internet and technologically experienced.

The internet makes our world MUCH smaller. For example, gone are the days where it took weeks to process payments and send cheques. Today accountants and bookkeepers use technology to wire funds instantly around the world. And because the world is “shrinking” it is increasingly easier to communicate. Faxes, paperless workplaces, emails and even texts make it possible to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Business Directions

CNMAGThe face of the Canadian workplace is changing every day. There is no doubt that immigration makes for a multicultural workplace. But a lot of companies are starting to realize that cultural awareness is important to their bottom line. Employment industry specialist and General Manager of vpi inc., Thea Aldrich says that “our company is committed to recognizing cultural diversity in the workplace. What is important to our employees is also important to us as an organization.”

More and more companies are finding that the make ? up of their workforce has changed. Since the 1930s women have held a growing percentage of jobs. As these women have become better at their jobs, more educated and diverse, they have taken on bigger and more responsible roles. But, while women now make up over half of the Canadian workforce, female managers are outnumbered 2:1 by males and very few women lead Canadian companies.

Lets get Physical

How our work environment looks is changing too. In the 1990s many companies switched from business formal attire for their employees to business casual. The theory behind this move was that a more comfortable employee was a more productive employee.

Employers are also adjusting that dress code to accommodate the shift in cultural diversity. Burkahs, saris, salwar kurtas and ethnic and religious head coverings are becoming more common place in Canadian offices. Diversity recognition is an easy accommodation for employers to make.

How employers accommodate several changes at once is a testament to the dizzying pace of today’s economic and technologically evolving times. If employers want to keep well-educated, ethnically diverse and happy workers with skills and attributes they value, they will have to make changes. One of these changes is telecommuting.

IBM reports that over 54 percent of its current US employees do some of their work through “telecommuting”. Telecommuting is a work arrangement that allows the worker to perform some or all of their work while at another location. Many workers find working at home a sensible alternative to traveling into an office each day and find they are more productive and consequently happier in their jobs.

Many companies, however, are reluctant to introduce telecommuting to their employees, fearing that productivity will be negatively affected. To make telecommuting an effective arrangement a company has to consider how its managers monitor their employees, the nature of the work being done, security of information; and balance these concerns with employee satisfaction.

One of the most successful telecommuting employee/employer arrangements is Pizza Pizza and its virtual call centre concept. At any given time up to 50percent of the company’s representatives are working remotely from their own homes. It is an efficient, cost effective, forward thinking system for the company and a great alternative for today’s technologically aware worker who wants flexibility in their career.

What DOES the future hold?

But what if your job doesn’t have you working from home OR using technology? What if your job has you working hard and not having ANY time for leisure? Honda has designed some help for you.

In Japan, ASIMO, a robot butler, can definitely help you out around the house. It can walk, run, perform tasks and recognize commands you program in and for a mere million dollars, ASIMO could change your life!

The last word

Truthfully, we have no idea what will happen at work. None of us can really predict the future. But, in order for the Canadian workplace to change we have to change the attitude of both the Canadian employer and the Canadian worker. It’s the enlightened employee, well educated and well researched, who will benefitfrom all the leisure time promised two decades ago intheir future workplace.

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