There’s been plenty of media coverage and discussion lately on how companies are reacting to recent economic challenges – including skyrocketing gas prices and tumbling profits. My former colleague Keith Burton of Insidedge, a firm that specializes in internal communications and change management, suggests in this post that high gas prices, coupled with the advent of new technology, may be driving fundamental changes in the workplace. One example: the introduction of the four-day workweek, along with a major push towards telecommuting and transient workers – tethered by the Web rather than a desk.

I agree with Keith that what we’re seeing is not a temporary adjustment, but the advent of a new trend towards more flexible, decentralized corporate environments that rely more on technology and social media tools for productivity than physical offices and mandated working hours. With the new economics of global travel, it’s possible the days of the archetypal “road warrior” are gone for good. Though the jury is still out on how these changes will impact productivity and morale, I think it will be positive. The autonomy inherent in the new model affirms a higher level of trust and accountability for workers, and that should ultimately drive employee engagement – particularly with the new generation of workers joining the ranks. They expect nothing less from their employers.

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