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The Press- News column Oct 28

The Digital Age is providing more ways on how and where we work.

Amongst my wider circle of friends and family, both in Christchurch and beyond our shores, a dominant trend in 2014 has been the inexorable rise in workers liberating themselves from the traditional working model, the unflinching fixed hours of a fulltime job and the soul sapping peak hour commute to and from their place of work.  The digital workplace is a marvel. Look at Jack Tame, broadcasting his top-rating nationwide radio show from a Manhattan studio;  or New Zealand’s top-billing travel agent who tailors and books holidays from his remote coastal bach, via Sabre on his laptop. As a media freelancer, I’m very  fortunate to be able to file my copy this week for The Press, from the relative wilds of central Myanmar.  The digital age hasn’t just decapitated the tyranny of distance, but it’s revolutionising the work/life balance. Where we work, when we work and how we work. In Christchurch, the seismic gods spawned all manner of new and improvised ways of working. Initiated, en masse,  in flexible working  arrangements, we’re probably ahead of the curve, but the “everywhere office” cultural shift is surging, worldwide.  One of the year’s trending, albeit jarring, buzzwords is “bleisure.” The mixing of business and leisure, it underscores how information communication technology is dramatically reshaping  the workscape. Post-quake, working from home has moved on from being just a novelty out of need to cherished normality for an ever-increasing swathe of Cantabs. Sure, for many sectors of the workforce, “bleisureland” remains a quixotic fantasy, if not a practical impossibility. But the company that coined the term, London forecasting agency, the Future Laboratory, believes the millennial mindset will further drive worker demands for greater informality and flexibility. Gen Y is dismantling the traditional notion of the workplace. Future Laboratory boss, Chris Sanderson, says big business is embracing the revolution across Europe, with a growing acceptance that most home-based workers don’t abuse the privilege, by frittering away their working day on Facebook. As an example, British Telecom is escalating its work-at-home workforce, on the back of new data revealing huge gains in productivity, in addition to saving NZ$20,000 in desk space per worker, per year.  As a consequence, another emerging trend is co-opted office space and localised hubs, where various companies may co-lease the likes of meeting rooms, for their respective weekly and on-demand meetings.  Apply these dynamics to Christchurch and in the medium term, the city centre surely won’t need anywhere near office space that we had, pre-quake. So will our skyline of tomorrow increasingly be shaped by apartment-style living?

Mike’s weekly current affairs column, as first published in The Press. Oct 28.

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