Teleworking, Work-Life Balance and the Future

There seems to be an emerging trend. Yesterday my boss sent me an article on the Globe and Mail about AT&T employees being called back to the cubicles from teleworking. Today I stumble across an interesting Wikinomics article on working at home vs working at theoffice, and the blurry line between working and personal time.

It’s funny that folks are pointing to the AT&T announcement - holding it up as a shiny example of corporate culture. Ahem. Don’t get me wrong, I love AT&T. But think about this - with likely over 300,000 employees in North America alone, the age of their workforce probably leans towards the folks who are in their last 10 years of employment. Now is the timewhen they should be utterly embracing the idea of teleworking, if only to be sure that they are in a strong position to attract new talent.  My gut says that they were just early in moving towards teleworking, and the folks that they were targeting were well set in their ways as to what worked best for them for productivity. Let me tell you, I was a manager of a 50+ smartie, and tried to get him to work from home when weather was inclement, or traffic was going to be horrendous, and I couldn’t break himfrom the need to be *in the office*. No way, No how, No Chance in France.

We are in the midst of a changing workforce generation.  More folks are entering the workforce with new and different expectations than those on the verge of existing the workforce.  Folks who are used to, and enjoy, being connected 7/27.  Folks who can easily multi-task and have no problem acknowledging that their work styles are just as productive as some else’s if they work from 3pm to 2 am.

The Wikinomics article has neato graphs on hours of work vs hours of personal time. Right now, as an average, we’re working approx 40 hours/week with 20 hours/week of personal time. In the ’90s, we were working 50 hour weeks, with 20 hours of personal time. That’s a difference of 10 hours lost/found in a decade. Did we just sleep less in the ’90s? :-)

Are we more productive now? Maybe.

Do we work more now, but at times when it’s most productive/convenient according to our lifestyles? In the ’90s, I didn’t have a berry. I didn’t have a laptop, and I didn’t have VPN access.  If I didn’t get something done during the day, it waited until the next day. Now, I have the luxury? obligation? of being able to work on critical bits and pieces at home, either until I pass out for exhaustion, or finish the job.

I appreciate the ability to telework, but I also appreciate and welcome office atmosphere at times. I’m certainly more productive in my virtual office, with no loud co-workers, or distractions, or the ability to get up and walk over to see what my Boss is up to. But being able to sit down with someone else, and bounce ideas and diagrams and theories around is certainly valuable, when the schedule permits. Perhaps it’s not a return to the cubicle that AT&T needs, perhaps it’s simply the realization that thenew, emerging generation of workers is simply better suited to juggling work and life together. With the changing of workforce generations, now is *not* the time to revert back to the golden cubicle days of yore.

Technorati Tags: , ,