Lesson #3 from Early Adopters about the Future of Work – The Network is the New Workplace
by Trina Hoefling
The future of work is a reversal of a 350-year trend. Work and home are coming back together, like the farm. Only it’s better because we can work anywhere. People don’t have to go to a place to be connected. Today’s organizations are literally built around the interconnectivity of human and virtual networks, not a physical workplace.
Today it is no longer necessary to go to a place to perform basic functions—buy, sell, train, collaborate, or recruit. LinkedIn is an excellent example of how we are adapting to the network as the new workplace. It has completely changed how we market ourselves and how organizations find us.
Because of the network organizations can distribute training fast through virtual knowledge-sharing and online learning platforms. Networked organizations leverage intellectual capital, making it available through virtual collaboration. The network also gives organizations the agility to increase speed, expand expertise, and access strategic opportunities to better meet customer demands—with less expense.
Technology has transformed intranets to be more than a place to store our data and files; we collaborate there. IT leads the restructuring of the organization into a network of connected virtual teams. Virtual work is no longer a last resort to keep a good employee; it’s not a compromise when people can’t meet in person. It is not an overlay, replication, or poor substitute. It is our way of working.
Imagine your work place. Which picture is closer to what you imagine?
How we think defines what we see and how well we bring our best selves to the job. If you imagined the work place as more like the office, you have a lot of company. And yet, don’t you perform basic functions digitally—buy, sell, learn, collaborate, communicate? You may still go to an office, but you function on the network.
I work digitally most of the time, sometimes taking time to be with people in person for various reasons. I work from my home office most of the time, though I frequently work from a hotel room, train station, client site… Where I am located changes, but my primary workplace is The Network.
And What Is the Network?
You can find the answer in my book: Working Virtually: Transforming the Mobile Workplace:
“It’s the culmination of basic virtual work processes and systems, and the people. It is the road, the car, and the map. Think of the network as how:
Work is done.
Teams are built.
Knowledge is shared.
Complexity is managed.
Relationships are developed.
Agreements are solidified and trust is maintained.
The network is the workplace and where the team connects.”
The organization is literally built around the interconnectivity of virtual, human, and electronic networks, not a physical workplace. We are hyper connected already; we can watch television on broadcast media, smart devices, and the Internet, all available 24/7. Why not leverage that hyper connectivity at work? Why add 20% to the average person’s workweek in commute time? Whether Samantha drives 10 miles to an office or walks down the hallway at home, she will be logging into the network, checking e-mail, handling correspondence, and responding to people—probably without talking to anyone. She is a virtual worker, regardless of whether she telecommutes.
Where do you work?
Open your mind to seeing the network as the anchor “place” where people get work done, and how people stay connected throughout the organization and beyond. Let the digital workplace change what you see.
The next SMART Workplace blog post is the 4th in our series of 5 Lessons Learned from Early Adopters of Flex/Virtual Work. Kathy Kacher will talk about Lesson #4: How Technology is the Enabler, but People are the Key. She’ll talk about how to leverage the digital network to connect people and resources in ways that align with how work really gets done. In this post, I’ve said that the network is the main thoroughfare of business communication and information sharing. The 4th Lesson Learned focuses on how people navigate that thoroughfare because work gets done through people – work is social, even more so on high-performance virtual teams.
If you’re in DC attending the TRaD Forum coming up, be sure to say hello. Kathy is a panelist on Selecting and Optimizing Digital Work Tools & Platforms, sharing the platform with experienced experts from Xerox, Cisco, and SHRM. My panel is on The Power of Transparency, Open Communication and Accountability in a TRaD Workforce. I met my fellow panelists and moderator last week, so I know we will be awesome. I’ll be sharing the platform with Amy Gallow (HBR), Claire Lew (Know Your Company), and moderator Aliah Wright (SHRM). Come hear what we have to say about the (now) future of work.