Saturday, January 12, 2013

The distributed workplace: A new model for the Internet economy

In this white paper, Michael Shear, president of the Washington, DC-based Broadband Planning Initiative, posits a meta shift is at hand as the economy increasingly becomes knowledge and information-based. That shift heralds the obsolescence of the centralized office building and the massive transportation infrastructure that serves it, accompanied by the expansion of Information and Telecommunications infrastructure (ICT). The expansion of ICT infrastructure in turn enables what Shear describes as the distributed workplace in which people will work in the communities where they live rather than leading a bifurcated existence most days between their work location and community of residence.

Shear's distributed workplace entails community work centers containing multiple suites with each suite serving 15-50 workers from one company or agency. With a dozen or more tenant organizations, Shear writes, each work center could support 150 to 1000 employees. "Employees will have the capability to work for major business and government employers around the metropolitan or regional area from a networked work center located in their communities," Shear notes, enhancing the quality of their lives and their communities. He adds his distributed workplace model "takes advantage of the changing nature of work and balances deployment with security and management oversight while enhancing economic growth and competitiveness."

Shear's concept is decidedly progressive and tinted green in that it reduces wasteful commuting and its enormous personal, economic and environmental cost burdens. For big government towns such as Washington and Sacramento where government agencies have adopted but struggled over the years to implement telework policies, the distributed workplace could provide a way to break the logjam and move forward.

Another major potential beneficiary of Shear's new way of working is the commercial real estate industry. The economic downturn has created numerous vacant properties of various sizes ranging from small storefronts to large auto dealerships that could function as distributed workplace sites.

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