Monday, October 16, 2006


Is The Office Becoming A Thing Of The Past?

Young white collar workers care more about what they do these days, rather than where they do it, according to the article at the link below. As one young Turk claims, "I have no psychological attachments to the status of an office. I measure my success on how my talents are used, and what I produce." Indeed, granted the modern prevalence of cellphones with advanced video transmission, wireless web access and text messaging capabilities, there is little need for the amenities of a stationary office. The dude quoted above, for instance, works out of his car. An advertising account executive, he initially envisioned working in a 15th floor office in downtown Chicago, with a view. Like most of us, he got stuck in a cubicle instead. Being in perpetual motion is surely preferable to that. Besides, plying his trade on a peripatetic basis allows him to avoid the pitfalls of office politics. "I like my independence and being able to use my talents in a way that I never have to watch my back," he says.

One fifth of the American workforce - some 30 million workers - spend "significant hours" (to re-quote an original USA Today source article that unfortunately I could not find) outside of the office. 85 percent of corporate management applaud this trend and hope that it accelerates. After all, workers willing to do the job outside of the office means the office can grow smaller, costing much less money in terms of real estate and office equipment. Instead of investing big bucks in vast and permanent installations of cubicles and corner offices, each dedicated to a particular employee (at least so long as he or she is employed), corporations may now invest in a far smaller number of visitors' offices and conference rooms that can be rotated amongst whoever happens to be on the premises at a particular time. Away with the Maginot Line of the old "fixed" office, and in with the Blitzkrieg of the office that is always rolling forward, literally and figuratively.

Once establishing the existence of this trend, the article segues into a discussion of the lingering desirability of a permanent office, waxing rhapsodic as it describes the "most enviable office in the state, a three-floor tower at the pinnacle of a castle". This Gothic aerie edifice belongs to the president of an Illinois university, and is appointed with "Victorian chairs and Persian rugs" - as well as a "humidifier-sized paper shredder (that) rests under the credenza". Ah, well. Sounds nice - and, of course, that is the rub. Most of us still idealize the big office, no matter how bravely we might rationalize otherwise. It is the symbol of success as it has long been portrayed on stage and screen. And it seems to be so common in that alternate universe as well. Even the sleaziest adulterer in a Lifetime TV tear-jerker gets to seat his slimy ass behind a mahogany table as broad as Iowa, with the skyline of Seattle or wherever spread out behind him. Who among us really has such an office today - except, perhaps, for the Hollywood producers who make such movies about scumbags with unaccountably plush workplace digs?

"Office status uncertain for young professionals" from The Daily Journal

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