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The Changing Face of Work (and Play)

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the proliferation of mobile phones, PDAs, BlackBerry devices, and the like was blurring the line between consumer and enterprise purchase and application of technology. After all, very few people have a mobile phone for home use and another for business use. A lot of folks put BlackBerry devices to work on their corporate email without the intervention of an enterprise IT department. And while there are some major enterprise deployments of Palm and PocketPC devices, the majority of the millions of PDAs in use today were sold one by one to people who understood that they would make easier the task of managing the data of their daily lives. The point of that Aug. 4 column was that marketers and IT professionals alike would need to adjust to the changing role of the individual in the technology marketplace. The individual acts as both “consumer,” buying technology for personal use, and as “enterprise customer,” buying and often recommending technology for use at work.

As I thought about this issue further, I realized that something else was happening here, something that signals a significant change in the way we work and play. The tech industry is fond of talking about “always available, always on” networks -- referring, presumably, to servers, routers, PCs, and devices. In reality, the ubiquitous network is a reflection and requirement of the individuals who have become the always-on nodes at the end of every connection: Always On People.

Always On People are changing the nature of the workday, not so much by extending its hours, but by blending the workday with the personal day. Forget the 9-to-5 workday (we all know it's a fallacy anyway). Work will happen when it needs to happen -- early morning, 9 to 5, late evening, weekends, the middle of the night. It's the nature of a global information economy. Personal play and responsibilities will happen when they need to happen, too. Take the kids to school and stay for show-and-tell. Schedule a dentist appointment mid-afternoon. Spend Thursday mornings helping an elderly parent. Certainly, work schedules will need accommodating, and so, too, will vacations, errands, kids, and partners. There's no time clock. The only watch you're on is your own.

Always On People are changing the nature of the workplace. Because you can be connected and productive from almost anywhere, the traditional office will become a meeting place and provide social structure. You may go to an office and do work from an office, but you may well also do work from the corner table at Starbucks, the front seat of your car, the family room of your home, the Red Carpet Room at the airport, or Aisle 6 of the Safeway. When work is about communicating, the locus of work is at the ends of the connection, which for many purposes can be anywhere.

In time, Always On People will change the nature of the working career. Knowledge jobs train workers to be more pliable and to apply that training in a variety of potentially very different ways. In time, it will be rare for someone to begin a post-collegiate career as a management trainee and work her way up to CEO and retire with a gold watch over a span of 45 years. In time, a new graduate will spend 10 or 15 years learning the ropes in a variety of jobs. Maybe he starts a company, then, or applies that learning to an entirely new area. Another decade rolls by, and he takes a year or two off, then comes back into the workforce in a brand-new way. In the future, knowledge workers will have serial careers, related, perhaps, but distinct.
Myriad other changes will flow as Always On People change the nature of work and play. Corporate HR policies will be rewritten. Retirement will be redefined. The concept of a risumi will change. Everything from corporate vacation policy to tax law and social security will be revisited. And all this change is driven by technology -- by the seeping of technology from computer rooms to desktops to the palm of your hand. It's big stuff to think about, and I invite your input. How is being Always On changed the way you work and play? Drop me a note at

Are you Always On? Take this week's Three Question Survey and tell us how your work and play patterns are changing. You'll find the survey at .

Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld's DEMO Conferences,Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years.Shipley has extensive experience in online publishing, having developed online content and communities on every major platform, including AOL and the Web. Before oining IDG, Shipley established a consulting practice to help Silicon Valley technology companies define their media strategies. Shipley is a frequent speaker at technology industry forums, and acts as an advisor toseveral startup ventures.

The annual DEMO and DEMOmobile conferences focus on emerging technologies and new products, which are hand-selected by executive producer Chris Shipley from across the spectrum of the personal technology marketplace. TheDEMO conference has earned its reputation as the singular event that consistently identifies tomorrow's cutting-edge technologies. DEMO has served as a launch pad for companies such as Palm, E*Trade, Handspring, and U.S. Robotics, helping them to secure venture funding, establish critical business relationships, and influence early adopters. DEMO is held in February each year and features approximately 60 new companies, products and technologies. The next DEMO conference is DEMOmobile September 17-19. For more information please visit
The DEMO community also benefits from the award winning DEMOletter. A weekly newsletter designed to reach the people who are creating companies, building products and launching new ideas, DEMOletter provides smart insight and analysis of entrepreneurial business issues. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: Chris Shipley can be reached at

This column was reprinted with permission of Network World Inc. IDG Executive Forums, a division of Network World, Inc., is an information resource company dedicated to serving executives in the high-technology marketplace. Most widely known for producing the high-tech industry's premiere executive conferences and newsletters, the company provides the industry analysis, information, insights, and networking opportunities its customers need to excel in the fastest-paced marketplace in the world. The company's products include AGENDA., DEMO., DEMOmobile., DIGITAL SPECTRUM(tm), VORTEX, DEMOletter., and VORTEX Digest. All registeredtrademarks are owned by IDG. More information can be found at http://

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The opinions offered by columnists on the Wisconsin Technology Network represent the writers personal perspective and not the editorial perspective of the Wisconsin Technology Network. The Wisconsin Technology Network is open to opinions and discussions, and debates from all parties that wish to contact us at

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