From Future of Work, April 14 2006
Today I was interviewed by Alan and Sandra Ashendorf of "Let’s Talk Computers" about the New World of Work, and in particular, the aspect of that new world that gives us the ability to always be on, and potentially, to always be working.
Ubiquitous technology does not necessary imply 7 by 24 work. In fact, it shouldn’t. What it does imply is choice. Most importantly it implies a choice of when and where we work. I think the future is going to include the concept of the punctuated work day, or the work punctuated day, depending if you are a glass-half-full of glass-half-empty kind of person. In either case, the choice of when or where you work will increasingly be dictated by your lifestyle rather than the company you work for.
Working when and where you want doesn’t make sense to payroll systems or compensation systems. My daughter Rachel just took her first practice SAT test. And as I was told many years ago, you get about 200 points for just showing up. Well, working in an office is kind of that way. If you show up, do some stuff, and don’t get out of line or unruly, chances are you will get paid for a good long time. Not so of independent contractors. If they don’t deliver quality when they say they will, then they don’t get paid, and chances are, repeated violations means the contract doesn’t get renewed.
If we want choice—If we want to control where and when we work—we will probably and be compensated much more like independent contractors than employees. This will be of huge consequence to all types of human resources infrastructure, including payroll and benefits, knowledge retention, employee retention and other aspects of the employer/employee equation. Most employees in the US are considered “at will employees,” which means they can change jobs with notice, and have no contract of employment outside of the occasional commitment not to reveal any trade secrets learned while employed by the previous company. If we take that to the next level, which is highly likely, people won’t be employees, they will be independent contractors. They will have the choice of where and when to work, the will be able to punctuate their day with work as mode and inspiration counsel them. But when ever minute is a choice between work or play, family or project — what choices will we make and what will the implications of those choices be.
See Barry Schwartz in Scientific American for his insights on the Tyranny of Choice, then think about how you will choose to live in the future.