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April 28, 2010
In the Digital Age, There's a New Way to Say Shove It!

This month's column is a short one about the new workplace. I just wanted to say it, and I hope you agree. If you don’t, then it’s probably better. Send me your comments, and let's get the dialogue going.

In the future there will be an innovative way to say, “Take this job," and I’m thrilled about its no-holds-barred emergence.

Forget your old conceptions of the workplace and imagine a place that happens to be where you work, where you can make bargains with your employer based on the fact that, really, you don’t have to work there. Because you found a place that lets you work at home: a home environment that you design with ease!

The workplace of the very near future is going to be a big den of wonderfulness that makes your nursery school appear second grade like. Allow me some backtracking.

In this service economy, unless they’re working in a car lot, most people can work from home or anywhere. In order for the best people to truly work at capacity in a serviceable business, they have to interact with one another. In the coming years, workers will start to realize -- thanks to the double whammy of technological advancements and knowing how good they are -- that they don’t have to be at work per se to get a ton done.

You do, however, have to be responsible. In a study that I unveiled (i.e., read about online), it turns out that we all lie about how much we work. A University of Cincinnati group found that “we act all macho about our work hours,” but we exaggerate more than we do anything. Today, according to workplace types, over 40 percent of businesses allow some sort of telecommutation, but that’s usually to make life easier for working moms and people who beg for this benefit.

Along comes the, um, aging generation of workers we used to call Generation X, those who are knowledgeable about how to disguise where they work. Soon those people are going to work at home whether or not you want them there. As any decent employer knows, without interaction or the overused term brainstorming, people are not really giving their all: Home work is just workplace masturbation.

Upcoming office features will be comfy dining room setups, cool makeshift kitchens -- like those in the '60s-era Auto Train -- and terrific designs that will make people actually want to leave their house for the sanctity of the office. Besides nifty paints and cool-as-heck chairs, the technology in these offices will be upgraded so that phones will be easy-to-wear cordless headset devices, people will be able to move their cubicles any which way, there will be TVs to tune into, stereos and DVDs to make their day seemingly creative, and there won’t be a conference room per se, but areas where people can stand and say what they want to each other -- quickly and without descent into nonworkspeak -- at giant Japanese high tables all over the fluffy space.

What does this mean for the old workforce throughout the world? As the economy improves from a period of quixotic unpredictability, this will not be a 1990s-style tug of war where people left good jobs for better ones. It’ll be, “You want me? Make my digs tons of fun, or I am working at home ... like all my slobbish friends do.”

Now go to work wherever you are, get it done, prove your value, and go dancing. Do
the frug!


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Richard Laermer is CEO of New York's RLM pr, representing, among others, e-Miles, Epic Advertising, Yodlee, Revolution Money, Group Commerce, Smith & Nephew, and HotChalk. He was host of TLC's cult program Taking Care of Business and speaks on trends and marketing for corporate groups. You can read Laermer on The Huffington Post and on the mischievous but all-too-necessary Bad Pitch Blog. For more like this, follow him on @laermer.

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