Over the course of the last few years I have been planting seeds all over the place. Usually, at other people’s gardens. It’s been a real treat, a true pleasure and an honour. I have always appreciated the opportunity to help amplify different conversations around topics I am very passionate about by sharing my two cents’ worth of commentary. Nowadays on the concept of Distributed Work and the impact of social, digital tools as key enablers.
At the same time, and as I have mentioned in a previous blog post, it’s been somewhat awkward, and perhaps a tad uncomfortable, having to tell people where to go, other than my own (silent, till recently) blog, to read some more about my own in-depth thinking on certain subjects. That’s why, when I, finally, decided to resume, once again, my own blogging mojo, I thought about bringing some of those articles back home, where they should belong, in an effort to also help me keep track of what I write and publish elsewhere. And, why not?, perhaps revisit what I wrote back then and see how it would hold today.
So, here we go with the first one of those publications. A few months back, my good friend Paul Corney, kindly invited me to participate in the CILIP: The library and information association’s Presidential Debate on ‘Shift happens: the future office / library in a connected world‘, along with Neil Usher and Robert Cottrill. I had a blast at the event and surely learned a lot with all of the intense conversations we had throughout. There is a recording of the virtual session we participated in, so that you can take a look for yourself (see embedded video below, if interested).
Next to the online debate we also put together an accompanying article to explain our own individual positions on the topic of distributed work, the impact of social, digital tools, where we are today, and what may lie, potentially, ahead of us in the near future. Has the workplace and the nature of work finally shifted for the better? Should it? That piece was published in September last year and I thought I’d share across the part I wrote myself over here, in its entirety, to see how it has aged since then.
Thus, without much further ado, here you have ‘Shift happens: The future office / library in a connected world’:
‘In 2020 we, finally, learned the main reason why vast majority of organisations didn’t adapt to digital technologies at the workplace was mainly motivation. It wasn’t a lack of funding, resources, time, manpower, adaptability, purpose, etc. etc. It was purely a lack of true leadership to anticipate what’s now the new-normal. One where we are finally coming to terms with the fact that work has stopped being a physical space and, instead, it’s a state of mind. Work happens anywhere where you may well be with the digital tools as your disposal.
If there is anything the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that working from anywhere (usually, in a distributed manner) is no longer a dirty word. It’s OK. It’s just one other option we are growing fonder of as it keeps reminding us that we still have a life, after all. It’s shown us our incredible adaptation skills as human beings in literally switching from working in an office to work from home in a matter of days without our productivity suffering much as a result. Quite the opposite! And all of that as we learn, pretty fast, how to cope with everything while in the midst of a pandemic.
The genie is, definitely, out of the bottle. 18 months on and we are all now coming to terms with the fact we need to decide for ourselves if we would want to, at long last, jump into the XXI century with all of these emergent business practices of working distributedly that the isolation economy has brought us. Or still linger around in the early XX century, romanticising about the dreaded commute, about the unbearable corporate politics, the bullying, the bureaucracy, the never-ending meetings galore and the almost unbearable posturing of face to face conversations, of keeping up appearances with a fancy status quo, influence, power and what not.
And yet, throughout all of these past few months we have started to learn vast majority of the knowledge work we do can be performed while away from the traditional office. We do have different social, digital tools that allow us to connect, learn, share and collaborate, perhaps even much more effectively, to the point where we can, finally, spare ourselves of the many burdens the so-called physical workplace, as referenced above, and, instead open up to a whole new world of diversity and inclusiveness (even for introverts or people with disabilities) directly straight out of the comfort from our home offices. Our new limit? The whole business world, literally, not just our next door colleague(s).
The reality is the COVID-19 pandemic has provoked a unique opportunity for us all to accelerate the adaptation to digital technologies that have already been with us over the course of the last 25 years and that, all along, we’ve decided to ignore and neglect. Not anymore. It’s sparked the development of new business models as organisations adapted to these new working conditions we have been provided in order to keep afloat. And through the implementation of these new ways of working, we have finally understood the importance of localism with a global reach. We are no longer taking for granted what we always had, but that we pretty much decided to obviate all along, because, you know, we needed to go to work (i.e. the office): our spouses, our offspring, our pets, our neighbours, our favourite coffee shop, restaurant, grocery store from just around the corner, our long walks in the neighbourhood, casually meeting and conversing with other people; in short, our local communities that give us all a sense of belonging, a sense of true purpose. In a nutshell, a sense of fulfilment, of content.
As we approach the end of this tragic and rather dramatic pandemic, we should not forget that it’s not going to be the last one, nor is it going to be the last time we will have to face whatever other global catastrophe (i.e. climate change extreme events) in our lifetime. So, if anything, throughout all of this time that COVID-19 has been with us, we have learned, perhaps through a harsh way, how we need to be better prepared for next time around, as we consolidate our thinking AND doing that the traditional concept of work happening in a physical space away from our local communities may well have had its days numbered. Work now has shifted into becoming a state of mind and, as such, we now have the power to decide when, how, with whom, with what, and why we would want to work either from anywhere or even from the office itself.
The difference now? It’ll all be more deliberate and purposeful. We will be going back to the office, indeed, but only because we want to, not because it’s the standard norm. For that, working distributedly from anywhere has already become that new-norm.
It’s here to stay, so we better adapt accordingly. And pronto!’
Fast forward to mid-May 2022… What do you think? Will it blend today?