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The New Barbarian Manifesto:
How To Survive The Information Age
copyright 2000 Ian Angell
$24.95; 288 pages; ISBN 0-7494-3151-2
Reprinted with permission of Kogan Ltd.


A line is being drawn between information rich and information poor, whether they be countries, communities, companies or individuals. Highly mobile virtual enterprises are developing totally new business practices. Using the networked portable computer and the mobile phone, they are turning office workers into ‘teleworkers’. According to the Gartner Group there will be 130 million telecommuters worldwide by 2003 (Canada Newswire, 9 June 1998). As early as 1995 AT & T employed 35,000 teleworkers and they claimed a savings of $1 million every week (Currid, 1 October 1995). Effective use of the superhighway now necessitates the integration of information technology across all aspects of office management.


The successful ‘office of the future’ will be a radically different animal: the ‘virtual office’. The producers of office equipment are themselves facing up to this profound change, and what it means for their businesses. They asked well-known business consultant Charles Handy (1994) to predict the office of the future. He concluded that it will be structured like a club, with most of the space allocated for employees to socialize with colleagues and thereby reinforce organizational bonding. Such socializing will include sports gathering and entertainment outings, but also a serious ‘conference component’, with companies bringing their teleworkers together to discuss company policies and direction, as well as introducing them to new management practices.

The working parts of the office will just be nodes in a telecommunications network. Front-office workers will spend much of their time on the road. Linked via the telephone system, their cars and homes are extensions of the office. All the data required for conducting business will be communicated to and from between the employee’s portable computer and a file-store. The file-store itself may even be out-sourced, and so it need not physically belong to the company.

 Should physical office-space be needed for the odd face-to-face meeting, then it can be time-shared. On arrival, employees are given the key to any appropriate office or desk (the ‘hot desk’), which needn’t even be the same on each visit. What little paperwork they need, which is still not computerized, is brought in containers from a depository to their temporary desk, to be returned when they leave. There is no need for the physical location of the office to be fixed, or even owned by the company. The all-knowing company information system will have noted the exact location of each and every employee, and messages for her will be delivered directly, just in time, no matter where she is in the building, no matter where she is in the world. I say she, not because of political correctness, but because of the workplace (whatever that is) is becoming increasingly feminized. In Britain women already take up to 44 per cent of the jobs. Because of the changing nature of work, and the freedom delivered by home-working, the Henley Centre predicts (Ghazi and Jones, 28 September 1997) that women will take on 80 per cent of all new jobs being created in the next decade.

With innovations such as the virtual office, the paradigm ‘land is wealth’ is being subverted by the impact of telecommunications. Companies will simply desert a factory or office if the demands of workers are excessive – as Timex did when it abandoned its Dundee site (Rougvie, 15 October 1993): in with the helicopters, take out all the valuable equipment, ignore the demonstrators and leave the local authority with useless property. Today, knowledge workers and their intellectual property. are the wealth of a country or organization. in the Information Age, the value of offices and factories, with a few exceptions, will enter free fall, as demand for space will become will become a small fraction of the supply. There are going to be very bad times ahead for the owners of offices blocks. The exceptions are properties located in economic hot-spots, which will be considered in chapter 6.

New barbarian organizations do not get tied into long–term office leases. They know there are going to be bargains galore around the corner. they will hire office space on very short time scales- perhaps even for just a few hours. Since the office or desk is where they plug into the network, it can be anywhere, even shared with other companies. ‘Just-in-timeshares’ information system will keep track of everything. We are already seeing the first signs of this trend with hotels, railway stations and airports supplying temporary office space. It is already a common enough practice for the business community to have coined the word ‘hotelling’ for it. But why pay rent at all? Why not hold your meetings in the lobby of the best hotel in town, and all for as little as the price of afternoon tea? Why not meet at Starbucks?

Reprinted with permission of Kogan Ltd.

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