The world we live in today is far beyond the imagination of people at the beginning of this century. Who would realise the scene of today, for instance, that the first PCs were only introduced in Europe at the beginning of the 1980s? In 1996 there are 72 PCs per 100 office workers in Europe, in the USA is 104! And already 24.5 million of Europe’s 143 million households have personal computers at home. (Anon, 1997)
Telephone penetration, which was 87% in 1990, has gone up to 96%. Today, in Europe, already more than 9 million of those users have ISDN facilities, a number that is expected to grow to 24 million at the end of 1999. The first digital mobile phones were available in Europe in 1993. Today there are almost 18 million subscribers in Europe, and over 41 million worldwide in more than 70 countries, and this is expected to grow to 200 million users at the end of the millennium. (Anon, 1999b) How does this link in to the changes in the way we live and work? Information technology no longer requires a shop to go shopping, or a workplace to work. It creates new forms of work and shopping. Society’s adoption of information technology also changes expectations about where and how to work and shop, and how government policies advance or hinder the transition to the Information Age. (Anon, 1998b)
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Changing expectations about these issues place the home in a new role. In other words, information technology allows one to expect a higher quality of life centred on the home, and the home’s role is greatly expanded. It now must be an activity centre where works and shopping coexist within the shelter. Increasingly, the home is also a technology platform. (Anon, 1998b)
Information technology will influence homebuyers by changing their expectations about how the home improves the quality of life; The PC and the Internet are replacing the automobile as factors influencing life-style. In a wired world personal mobility takes on a new meaning and generates new expectations. (Haag et al, 1998)
Work in a Wired World. A hallmark of the Information Age is organisational change (Geoffrey, 1996). Information technology restructures the command and control organisation into a flatter, networked system of relationships based on teams, and core and contingent employees. Home building is a good example of what corporate America is seeking to achieve the developer, general contractor and subcontractor model. The parties come together on a project then needed” to fulfil a specific goal. Upon completion the relationship dissolves until a new project. Organisational continuity resides with the developer’s core team. California’s role in setting trends also has profound implications for housing. Information technology, by allowing jobs to follow the people, creates the networked organisation (Anon, 1999a) The movement to an Alternative Workplace (“AW”) strategy by large corporations embodies this technological leverage. (Mahlon, 1998)
30 million to 40 million people are either telecommuting or home-based workers (Anon, 1997), and California leads the way. Wired workers represent 57% of California workers. They have a strong preference for flexible work schedules and 30 % would prefer to telecommute all the time (Anon, 1998b). The number of employees communicating with their offices by computer and fax is 20% higher than the national average. In cities like Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, and Santa Rosa the number of employees is 46 -73% higher than the national average. (Hausman, 1998)
The AW movement recognises many employees no longer need the degree of supervision traditional managers. They can perform their jobs in a largely self-directed manner. AW requires information literacy. The movement also knows many business tasks do not require the aggregation of employees at a central location and AW is necessity to retain highly motivated people. (AW, 1998)
AW increases employee productivity (Anon, 1997). Conversely, productive employees expect AW amenities. One intangible benefit of AW is the value employees’ place on increased personal time and control. Commuting to the office is seen as an unproductive, morale sapping, debilitating ritual whose time has passed. Increasingly employers will encourage more time spent at telecommuting centres or in the home-office for many knowledge workers.
Over the next several years various forms of online buying will entice consumers to change their shopping habits and make the home the shopping centre for everyday products branded goods and restocking items. This, however, does not change the preference of recreational and speciality shopping outside the home. (Kare-Silver, 1998)
The majority of workers in the past have been located in offices, shops and factories. In the information age, teleworking emerged to replace the traditional style. Stanworth (1998) defined teleworking as someone who works at a place other than where the results of work are needed using information and communication technologies.