Recently I traveled to the West Coast for a conference; passing through three airports in a matter of hours. People everywhere were focused on some form of technology. It is now common place to see these tech-zombies wandering hallways and sidewalks looking down and focused on their smart-devices. We live in an emerging globalized mobile world of dispersed cloud workers. More than ever we see individuals trading in the traditional offices for the coffee house office or what is now known as the Coffice. Even I have to admit my assimilation into this mobile 24/7 world as much of my work is on the go. In fact, this article was written from a coffee house. If you’ve read any of my work you already know that I am advocate for flat, agile, open organizational structures which require new attitudes toward work and the humans that produce it. When we think about the realities of a 21st century work environment, we begin to realize that the age of the time-clock is coming to a close. In the United States the idea of an 8-hour workday has been around for nearly 150 years. It has its roots in a labor fight for more equitable and fair work conditions, yet it wasn’t until the 1950s that workers finally obtained a true 8-hour work day. The 8-hour day was hard fought by labor unions to bring about more equitable work days. Now that we are emerging into a knowledge based economy, we are very much witnessing the decay of the 8-hour work day into an on-the-go, flexible work schedule. I would argue that the more creative and innovative a company must be, the less likely it is to have a set standard of hours required for its workforce. I believe the idea of a standard day is melting away before our very eyes. Emerging 21st century organizations are going to need their employees to be in their creative sweet space as much as possible. When we begin to mandate specific times of work and work hours, we begin to hurt the creativity of the new millennial workers. Flexibility is the key to creating an atmosphere where each employee can become more excited about where they work and more importantly what they are working on. My study of the tech industry has shown that the new knowledge economy outright rejects the idea of the time clock economics. They don’t operate within the context of a 9-to-5 time clock punching world. As the world becomes more globalized, the need for a flexible cloud optimized workforce is more evident. While I very much advocate the emergence of the flexible work day, it is not without its challenges. Work-life balance can be a challenge in a flex-optimized work day. Another question we should ponder sooner than later is related to ethics in the self-led era of the Open Organization. What is certain is that the way we approach and engage leaders and followers is quickly changing. There are challenges ahead as we assimilate into the new realities of a distributed cloud based workforce. Will traditional business schools catch on to the evolution of management into self-leadership? Will B-Schools be able to stay relevant in a rapidly changing ecosystem? Leading the charge for change is and will continue to be our Millennials. By the year 2025, it is estimated that nearly 75% of all work will be held by this generation. What is certain – change will happen whether we embrace it or not.
Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent book “The Open Organization” is now available through Ashgate Publishing. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 216-5667.