Your Office is You: Work Is No Longer a Place, It is What You Do

Your office used to be a physical place. Do you remember that?

It was that desk you went to every day, so you could work for your employer. This memory may be fading, so let me repaint a mental picture of it for you. Remember what your work used to be like in the old days?

I’m talking as long ago as the late 90s/early 2000s!

You had an actual, physical office in one of those “office buildings.” You had your own desk and chair, and you would sit there in one place working all day and rarely moving around, except for breaks and lunch.

Sometimes you would even bring a lunch in a sack and eat it at your desk. Often you would go out to lunch with one or two or three of the hundreds–or even thousands–of other people who were also in that building every day.

You would sit and type on a keyboard and look at a monitor connected to a big computer box, with a big fan to cool it. It sat under the monitor or under your desk. Sometimes your PC was connected to a big computer in the basement of the building that did “high-powered business computing.”

Sometimes you would even sit at your desk, and of all things, write words on paper using a pen or pencil just like people did back in the Middle Ages!

You didn’t know what the word “smartphone” would mean to you in about 10 years. You had no idea how these things would change your entire life. You sat down in that chair, at that desk, every day from Monday to Friday all year. On weekends or holidays, you would be home and you would have no work email and only rarely a work-related phone call. Like today, you still worked on spreadsheets, computer programming, presentations, documents and you used business applications of various kinds.

But unlike today, most of the applications you used ran locally on your desk computer or on a server on the corporate network at your office building. The word “cloud” still only meant what it had for millennia, “the white fluffy things up in the sky.”

You also had one other VERY important thing you had on your desk “back in the day.” It was called a business telephone, or more often a “desk phone.”  I know you remember these, because you likely still have one on a desk somewhere that technically is assigned to you.

But you don’t use that desk phone very often anymore, do you?

Even when you do go sit at a desk in an office building somewhere, you now prefer to use your smartphone to take and make business calls. Even those dwindling number of times you are sitting there at that desk and the phone rings, you likely have auto-forwarding to your smartphone turned on, and you answer on that device. Either that or you have an “app for that” on your smartphone.

It’s no longer just about voice calls like back in the day. You are reachable 24/7/365 via video and IM. You can share and collaborate on documents. You can do any kind of pairwise computer work from anywhere you wish. You can even now send and receive the “all-powerful text message” (SMS or MMS) using your business phone number and preserve the privacy of your personal cellular phone number. You’ve really got it all now from anywhere.

So your new reality is you never actually need to touch that desk phone anymore. You have been working like this long enough now you may have even forgotten what it felt like to view your business telephone as your lifeline to being a productive employee.

Don’t feel guilty. It’s OK. We all do this now.

But remember “back in the day”? You used to do 90- to 100 percent of your business phone calls from that business telephone while you were sitting at that desk. You didn’t have a cellphone before about 1995, and if you did it was only for your personal use.

Business desk-phones were super important for person to person business conversations and people called each other with desk phones for work reasons all the time. People used to say “my phone is ringing off the hook” to indicate they were very busy at work. When that happened to you and you had some focus work to finish you would push the “send all calls to voicemail” button on your business telephone so you could get some work done.

People under 30 today likely wouldn’t know what you meant if you said “my phone is ringing off the hook.” Try it. Say this to someone under 30 and watch for a puzzled look and imagine them thinking. ”What’s this ‘hook’ you are talking about?”

When you pushed that button to get some focus time, you really got that focus time. All calls went to voicemail. Then something really interesting would happen. Those people calling you used to actually leave you voicemails in your business voicemail box. They didn’t just hang up without leaving a voicemail and text you saying “Call me” or “text me back with details on that new client.” They knew you were going to listen to those voice messages and actually call them back to talk to them LIVE instead of texting them back. Seems old school now, doesn’t it?

Another thing you used to do while at work is you used go to meetings in actual physical conference rooms. Those rooms had conference room phones on a big table and you all sat around that table for the meeting. Usually there were also one or more other groups of people in other locations who were also in physical conference rooms together also on that call. Sometimes you would have as many as 20 people each in those rooms.

You also had a notebook you took to those meetings and actually took notes on paper in those meetings!

When you had issues with your business phone or your computer you would mostly call the IT hotline using that business phone. That business phone on your physical desk in your physical office was super useful. It was extremely important to allow you to do your job. Remember that? Strange to think how you used to work. But that was work for you back then.

Your world is very different from that now.

You can work anytime from anywhere with a variety of media types (voice, video, IM, SMS, MMS, business app messaging, etc.). You always have your “smart and always-connected devices.” You have a smartphone and a slim-profile laptop. Lately, you may have been thinking of getting a wearable device like the Apple™ Watch or Samsung™ Gear. Pew Research says 91 percent of millennials have a smartphone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

With a ‘small and getting smaller every day’ number of exceptions, every “knowledge worker” working today in the business world has a smartphone and can work from wherever they happen to be.

Most people now have broadband data access at home, with speeds of anywhere from 10 MB/sec to 100MB with 1-3 GB offers coming into availability. Most also have wireless high-speed 4G data plans for smartphones. For today, this is effectively unlimited data while mobile. Mobile 4G data plans also now come with speeds of up to 50MB/sec download and 5 or more MB/sec for upload.

With this level of technology access available for you to use 24/7/365, your work experience has changed drastically from the old days. Your work and personal life are now interwoven by your BYOD devices. You no longer have to go to one physical place called “your office” to do work for your employer. You can work from anywhere and at any time.

There are positives and negatives to this change.

The negative is you can get out of balance, and work so much you don’t have time for a personal life. But managed well, you can get more work done and do it better than before in the same time or less time. This has a real ability to enhance your personal life as a result, even while you work more effectively for your employer.

This can be a good thing for you if you do it right. It can be good for your employer. It can be good for your family, good for your community and good for the world.

You can drive less in traffic and reduce your carbon impact on the environment. You can free up as much as 10-15 hours a week you used to flush down the “commuting commode.” You can work productively in the same amount of time, or even a bit more, and reapply the saved hours to your kids, your spouse, your friends, entertainment, music, exercise and your community.

At Avaya we get this.

We are working to build solutions that let you achieve these gains for you personally, for your employer, for your family and for the world in general. So go ahead and lean fully into this new world of work. With the mobile connection and computing and engagement solutions available to you are now promoted to being “The CIO of You.”

Congratulations! You are in more control than ever of how you communicate, how you work, how you engage and how you live your life.

Work is no longer a place, it is what you do.

Your office is you.