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November 26, 2007
Take This Job and... You Know the Rest

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, yeah 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 background. In this service economy, unless you’re working in a car lot, most people can work from home or anywhere. But in order for the best people to truly work at capacity in a serviceable business, they have to interact with each other.

In the coming years, workers will start to realize – due to the double whammy of technological advancements and knowing how good you are – that they really 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 (e.g., read about it online), it turns out we all lie about how much we spend on the job; University of Cincinnati found “we act all macho about our work hours,” exaggerating more than doing.

Today, say many workplace types, more than 40 percent of all businesses will say yes some sort of telecommuting. But that’s usually to make life easier for working Moms and people who beg for this benefit.

Along come the - um - aging generation of workers we used to call X, boys and girls most knowledgeable about how to disguise where they get the work done. Pretty soon those people are going to get it done home whether or not the employers want them there. But as any decent boss knows, without interaction or the over-used term brainstorming, people are not giving their all: homework is just workplace masturbation.

So upcoming real world office features will be comfy dining room set-ups, cool makeshift kitchens –like those on the spiffy Auto Train– and terrific designs that will make people want to leave home for the sanctity of the office.

Besides nifty paints and cool-as-heck chairs, technology 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 TV’s to tune into, stereos and DVD’s to make your day creative (or seeming so), and there won’t be a conference room per se, but a lot of areas where people can stand and say what they want to each other - quickly and without descent into nonworkspeak at giant Japanese high tables (stand and get the meeting done quickly, then go and get some coffee) that will be nonconformist all over the fluffy place.

What does this mean for the ole workforce throughout the world? As the economy improves from this time of “quixoticity,” there will not be a 90’s 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 slob friends do.”

Go to work – wherever and in the moment – prove your value, go out dancing.

The above is excerpted from my forthcoming book, 2011: TrendSpotting For the Next Decade, from McGraw-Hill this March. For more on telecommuting and future of work, see the 11/26 CSM piece here.

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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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