Business

'Cubicle Dinosaurs'

By Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, ABC

Wednesday, October 03, 2012    

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Before you get mis-led into thinking that a cubicle dinosaur is that sorry curmudgeon you have as a boss, or that shiftless co-worker who you would like to make extinct, let me explain myself very quickly. Within a few short years there are a few means of communication that we currently use around the office, that will soon go the way of the great T-Rex. Most of this will happen because of rapid technological changes that will push us to abandon some of the tools that we thought made our lives easier. It is these objects that we will most certainly learn to live without.

According to a LinkedIn survey of seven thousand people in eighteen countries, the fax machine will be among those relics that will disappear by 2017. It seems like just a few short years ago that this said facsimile machine was the newest addition to the office suite. With its sleek, shiny body it occupied pride of office space, magically sending and receiving fax messages that heretofore were couriered or mailed to and from our offices at great expense and time. What a wonder it was then, emitting a series of high-pitched squeals, hisses and screams as it spat out reams and reams of important communication from all parts of the globe. It surely had us all awe-struck.

However as it turns out the science behind this piece of equipment had been around more than a century. Explained simply on the internet, the fax machine involved, the sender placing an original on an electronic scanning bed where an electric "eye" looked at the paper and recorded the image there, whether it be a complicated "picture" or simple text. The scanner then digitized the image, turning it into a series of 1s and 0s that it could transmit over phone lines. Though still important, the fax machine has somewhat lost its shiny appeal and its number one position in most modern offices. Nowadays, you can now send your faxes over the internet very easily using e-mail fax services. I have tried it and it works and it is easier and cheaper (less paper use) than the fax machine. I still love 'Mr. Fax-it' though, he is solid and a constant presence that you can now use to scan, copy and multi-task. Nevertheless, within the next few years it is very likely that the facsimile machine will disappear from our offices. Perhaps, screaming and hissing as he goes.

Next on the list of fossil office fauna is the rolodex. The rolodex was invented by Arnold Neustadter and Hildaur Neilsen in the late 1950s to be a handy to-reach-for list of business contacts. How many of us still have that unwieldy, over-sized mass of index cards? The more cards we had the more people we thought we knew, even if we would occasionally top it up with the contact details of relatives or friends long gone who we knew we would never want to get in touch with this side of Hades. To the office Gen-yers, born in the 1980s, the rolodex is an anachronism, yesterday's news and as old as the first version of the I-Phone. Back in the day, this rolling index of contact cards was a office must-have and often filled too with names and addresses of persons we knew who have passed over to the other side of either the employment line where the grass is greener or, well, to the other side. Today, everyone and his mother reaches for their mobile phone, scrolling through the list of phone numbers. To add insult to Mr. Rolodex's injury, there are now phones with an app that enables you to call the contact's name and it is instantly dialed. Move over Sir Rolodex, you served us well. In fact, you will come in as a helpful back-up when in the boisterous, confusion of life our mobile phones fail us.

According to the LinkedIn survey desk phones will soon be part and parcel of our office past. This, I am sure would be a great nightmare for some of our work-mates whose sole purpose seem to be to come to work to visit the office phones and benefit from unlimited free talk time. When their personal phone calls are completed it seems as if they somehow lose interest in their work. Perhaps in a few years time, more employers will use the mobile phones as their point of customer and employee contact, after all everyone has a mobile phone and closed user groups will make its usage less expensive than the land lines.

The final piece of cubicle equipment that will perhaps soon fade away is the office clock. This clock that tells on us, is at one and the same time, our friend and enemy, glaring at us knowingly when we sneak into work a few minutes late and giving us the all clear to make our great escape come 4:30 p.m. Very soon, the clock on the office wall will no longer be our master as we re-locate, as has half-the work world, behind flexible work hours and telecommuting. A study by the consulting firm Deloitte found that even though salary is still on top, work flexibility-when, where and how you work-is an increasingly prominent consideration. In a compensation survey of 1,400 CFO's in 2009, 46per cent replied that telecommuting is second only to salary as the best way to attract top talent and 33per cent said that telecommuting was the top draw. Time will tell how much longer our cubicle dinosaurs will have with us.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with

RO Communications Jamaica, specializing in business communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: yvonne@rocommunications.com. Visit her website at www.rocommunications.com and post your comments.

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