Posted by: cindystephenson | August 27, 2008

The Workplace of the Future

The traditional office work environment and tools are still around, but at a very rapid pace, they’re being supplanted by newer and better tools, newer and better ways of working.

We can resist the new trends, or embrace the new rules, and be a part of the change.” zenhabits

Let’s take a closer look at what is changing

Desktop and hard drives versus Online applications and Clouds

Most people are still using desktop applications such as Microsoft Office. However, more and more virtually online applications are now available that you can access from any computer – anywhere, anytime: Gmail, Google calendar, Google Docs, Zoho Office, High Rise, Backpack and others.

With cloud computing, data is not backed up onto your hard drive. Instead, services are accessed over the internet via your web browser.  Some have warned about reliability and security risks, and that it has a ways to go before enterprises will adopt on a larger scale. However early adopters like the flexibility of being able to access their data and applications anytime, anywhere. Chris Brogan advises those storing stuff up in the clouds to invest in some decent storage, like a couple of external hard drives, to get in the habit of backing stuff up online and off,  and to store the second external storage drive in a safe place.

Input via e-mail versus real-time collaboration

While it’s still common for co-workers to collaborate on documents via e-mail and “track changes”, try using Google docs, particularly when you are working with team members from different organizations or from companies who are not on the same network.

Implementing collaborative documents

One of the best examples is Wikipedia. Another is Twitter – in that an ecosystem of websites and third party tools have been developed around Twitter, primarily using Twitter’s API.  Shawn Smith provides a good list here, in his New Media Bytes blog.: Linux, Firefox and OpenOffice are good examples of software developed collaboratively.

Virtual worlds like Second Life or Google’s new Lively

These are still pretty cutting edge, but early reviews of Lively indicate it is more intuitive and an easy way for newbies to become acquainted with virtual worlds. Worth checking out.

RSS feeds

I’ve posted here about the ease of keeping up with blog posts and website updates using an RSS subscription aggregator such as Google Reader.

File versus archive and search

Virtually every thing online is searchable, which means you don’t have to rely on paper files. Instead, you can use the method popularized by Gmail, which is to archive and search.

How these changes are influencing the way we work

With laptops, the cloud, online apps and collaborative processes, “where” you work is becoming less important than “what” you do.  As a result, web workers and digital nomads are increasing at astonishing rates. More people are telecommuting; more people are freelancing; and people are forming small businesses who have never met face-to-face, and who live on different continents.  They chat over Skype and collaborate through wikis and Google apps.

To coincide with the launching of their new suite of Latitude laptops, Dell recently began hosting a website called Digital Nomads. It’s a place for like minded digital nomads to connect, share stories, tips and tools. Web Worker Daily is another site that offers plenty of tips.

With wireless data connections getting better all the time, cellular connections becoming faster and more reliable, and short-range Wi-Fi hotspots popping up in more places, these trends will continue.

What about you? What tools and applications do you find most useful? Have you got some tips and tricks? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Photo credit: Digital Nomads

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