Images of closing high level deals while sitting in one’s bathrobe (or heaven forbid… even less) permeated the psyche. After all… you cannot be taken seriously when you don’t have a downtown business address, or a large office suite to work from. As we all know, with the advent of the internet, low cost telephone/internet/virtual services have become the norm. Business Executives who have historically taken great pride in taking the elevator to the 50th floor are realizing that there has got to be a better way. After all, who really enjoys the time and frustration in traffic, rising gas costs, wear & tear of your car or dealing with public transit, the “earlier than you really wanted” morning alarm, and then to rinse & repeat each evening… and following morning… and the next evening… etc.
However, the technology is now available to allow us to no longer perform this antiquated 20th century ritual. With all the gadgets, telephony, internet webinars, almost free virtual services… why is the 405/95/(fill in your local hell-route) still bumper-to-bumper each morning? We all know it’s technologically possible to work from home. So why don’t we? It’s a matter of businesses jumping on the bandwagon and out of the 20th century thinking. Commercial Leaseholders may not like this question, but why are we stuck? Companies must restructure how they operate. Granted, there are some business services that absolutely need a full staff of people working on location (ie: Fire Stations, Hospitals, Retail, the Race Track and your Plastic Surgeon).
The question is then, why are Business Executives still fighting the traffic?
If the technology was available in the 1960’s what would Don Draper (Mad Men) have done? Would the iconic Madison Avenue Businessman instead have his morning bourbon and cigarettes at the local Starbucks? Would he have ogled his female staff through the Logitech camera on his ThinkPad while participating in a corporate webinar? Would his extra-curricular evening activities been more limited to “adventures” on the internet?
Not more than a few years ago, “Social Networking 101” was simple: Go to your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, and Executive Networking groups. I remember standing around a Chamber Members’ retail establishment (Joe Smiths Insurance Agency with all the furniture removed) awkwardly making small talk with complete strangers, with whom the only thing we had in common was that we were probably both just as uncomfortable as each other. Now, with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter along with the multiple other social networking sites, we are all learning the new way business is being done.
As Rosabeth Moss Kanter discusses in her respected Harvard Business Publishing Blog: “The daily commute to work has high costs in time, aggravation, fuel consumption, and pollution. If it became a staggered commute of four days a week for everyone, then perhaps 20 percent of the traffic could be gone, vanished, poof, just like that. During this time of economic crisis and reinvention of global capitalism, one of the things crying out for reinvention is the rigid workplace of the last century. It is amazing in the digital age that most work is still associated with industrial age work rhythms and the symbolic chains that tie workers, knowledge and otherwise, to fixed locations. Flexible workplaces with flexible hours and days are long in coming.”
With all this flexibility, maybe Don Draper WOULD have telecommuted… but in a suit, fully coiffed.