Redistributing the Workplace

Dr. Charles E. Grantham is the founder and chief scientist of the Institute for the Study of Distributed Work. He has been active in this area for more than 20 years and is recognized as an international expert on the design of information and organizational systems that support these new forms of work. He consults regularly with businesses on how to effectively develop e-commerce strategies. His groundbreaking book, The Future of Work, was published in November 1999. He is currently working on a fifth book, FuturThink.

CIO Insight:What have you been seeing since Sept. 11 in terms of how companies think about geography, about how they distribute their work forces?

Charles E. Grantham:The blip that we saw in interest after Sept. 11 hasn’t gone away. I would say that in the past year it’s matured, especially among those folks in Washington, D.C., New York and other major cities. Now a year later, I’m finding businesses are seriously looking at how they disperse their work force in the event of a catastrophe. Businesses are also seriously rethinking issues around work-life balance, because a lot of people started asking, what’s really important in my life. So those two things are going on.

For the IT world, the message I’d have for the IT professional is that folks now are beginning to better understand how technology can be a tool that connects people and the work that they need to do across large distances and across time zones. We’re taking it much more seriously now.

CIO Insight:How does geography fit into a company’s strategy?

Grantham:Historically, businesses have assumed that people will come to them to do work. If I’m Caterpillar and I’m in Peoria, Illinois, folks are going to come to Peoria to work for me; that’s the traditional industrial model—build the plant, then the workers will come. And in that scenario locations are picked in many cases for low labor costs, low real estate cost and in some cases, like Manhattan businesses, would locate headquarters to cluster around other businesses like them, such as the financial district.

That whole set of assumptions has been turned on its head, and folks are starting to look at it differently and ask, where are the people who we need to employ, and how do we either go there or figure out how to use technology to connect them to us. That’s one trend. At the same time there’s a trend in the work force, in the 30-something group, the Gen Xers, who are saying, well, maybe I want to live someplace else and raise my family somewhere other than a very expensive, crowded city, and they’re starting to move. So you’ve got two things going on at once.

CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight offers thought leadership and best practices in the IT security and management industry while providing expert recommendations on software solutions for IT leaders. It is the trusted resource for security professionals who need network monitoring technology and solutions to maintain regulatory compliance for their teams and organizations.

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