Why the “office” no longer matters

photo via WLCAdultGrad on flickr.com

Metropolis mag had this article today on Going Paperless in med schools. The Yale School of Medicine is giving each of its student an iPad to use in classroom and clinic. They will simultaneously eliminate all paper materials, which have burdened the institution with cost of more than $100,000 per year.

The article reflected on the potential impact on the traditional image of the bookbag toting student. I think the real impact of moves like this will not, however, be on the campus but on the workplace.

After huge numbers of university students spend the next couple of years without paper class materials, they will emerge into and finally fully transform the workplace. Their methods of working, communicating, collaborating and achieving will mean that they will approach the conventional workspace with a look of critical curiosity, wondering what this strange construct called the “modern” office is all about.

What I find especially significant here is that every day major investments are being made by corporations and institutions in workspaces that are losing value at an increasing rate. Designed for individuals processing paperwork, they are already irrelevant to how work is done today.

Those misplaced investments remove employees from access to the resources that really matter, and rob the people who work there of potential to grow their capabilities and contribute greater value to the purpose and achievements of their organizations.

It is shocking that corporate leaders do not recognize and kill this waste, especially in an economy that needs sustainable resource utilization.

It is shocking that everything about work has changed but very little of the workplace has.

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