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I haven't had to show up every day at an office building since 2002. Which is nice.
When I first did the WAH (work at home) thing back then, it was related to a geographical move that I was making for non-work reasons. The fact that I worked for a huge global enterprise software company meant that there was a willingness to experiment with WAH; I signed a contract saying I'd behave nicely without direct supervision, and they bought me a desk and a chair. The rest is history.
?When I took a position with a new company in 2006, I remained at home (the new company called this arrangement VO, for Virtual Office). ?The new company didn't buy me a desk, but they did reimburse my internet-- until they got thrashed by the changing economy in 2008, anyway.?
?But at the new position, there was always an uneasy relationship with VO. It spoke to a clear disagreement in the company leadership over the value of getting the best talent anywhere, versus getting decent talent but then having them collaborate from the same place. As I moved up the corporate ladder, I experienced this disagreement in person, and even contributed to the argument.?
?A few months ago, I took the third corporate job of my career, again working from the comfort of my home office. Now, however, I work for a company that puts At-Home work at the core of not just its culture, but its profit center. I like that. I like working at a place that has Virtual Office built into its DNA.?
?Because of the issues at my previous gig, I've read a lot about the movement to 'work from home.' How the percentages are changing. How just about everyone is doing at least part of their work from the house.
?But I think that a lot of this is missing the point, and it will be the next generation of workers that finally make it crystal clear to everyone:
?Its not about working from home. Its about working from anywhere.
?And here's our dirty secret: we already do.
?Over the course of the 15 years of my professional life, I've had to travel the globe-- from India to Australia to China to Hungary, and many points between. And I had to get work done at all those locations, as well as in transit to them.?
?Airports. Lots and lots of airports. And airplanes. And trains. Corporate office buildings everywhere. Hotel after hotel after hotel. Corporate apartments in Pune, India. Had to get work done in all those places.
?I've also been on lots of vacations where I had to get some work done. So I've had the, um, pleasure of figuring out how to take a call from mid-mountain lodges on ski hills and in the backseat of cars being driven across the US plains. I've spent weeks working out of my parents' basement in Idaho.?
?So my question to people who are still discussing if its important to work in office is: what planet do you live on? And, really, what industry? Cuz, and I mean this in the nicest way, you're about to get punk'd.?
?Don't get me wrong: having people come together is critical. Any difficult work that has a lot at stake and multiple, complex, simultaneous work streams should, nay, must have a face-to-face component.
?And if you are starting something brand new, chances are you need to be (at least at first) in the same room to get it right.?
?But trying to build IT solutions, business processes, or security practices that are based on everyone showing up every day at brick and mortar locations? Hate to break it to you, but you are doomed to fail. It's like trying to nail jello to the wall.
?It's time to embrace the workforce that is everywhere, that needs to access data anytime. Because they are going to be better and get more done anyway. It's not a hunch, its not a prediction-- its an observation of the last 10 years of global business.
?And let's all do ourselves a favor and stop calling it Work at Home, and start calling it Work Anywhere.