In 2004, I was teaching at a University in Connecticut. The subject was globalization. In that class, I predicted that based on the rapid development taking place in countries like China and India, we would see $100 oil within 5 years. (If only I'd put my money where my mouth was...but that's another story...)
Several weeks ago, prior to the oil industry experts announcing the same, I predicted we'd see $200 oil within the next 5 years. Maybe I'll be right. Maybe I'll be wrong. But if it comes to pass my hope is that with all the difficulty and disruption that will undoubtedly cause, it will also offer real opportunity for improved quality of life - and not just for the oil companies. I hope that $200 oil will finally make alternate work scenarios not only affordable but desirable for most employers. I hope that with the high cost of transportation and heating/cooling, etc., companies will finally see that technology is cheaper than office space. And that employees, freed from an often torturous daily commute, can be even more productive and engaged working remotely.
Because the truth is that while personal relationships and team work will always be important, we can all learn how to be more effective in managing these things, even when we are not in the same location every day. In fact, it will become just like it is right now for those of us who have international teams.
Throughout my career, I have had teams that I worked with every day or every week but only saw in person a couple times a year. It's not as easy, especially with junior folks you are trying to mentor or when you are first starting to work together, but it can be highly effective in many instances and indeed it can liberating for senior folks - allowing or forcing (depending on the person) the individual to make more of their own decisions and to be more accountable for the results.
As my husband will attest, I am not a big technology buff. But, even I LOVE the personal freedom and power that comes from the ability to do work whenever and wherever I please. Like right now, as I'm sitting at the Wilmette community center, waiting for my daughter to finish her first ballet class, and writing this blog.
So if $200 oil is inevitable, I say let's at least be sure we get some personal benefits along with the obvious difficulties.
By Perry Yeatman, SVP Corporate Affairs, Kraft Foods & co-author of the new award-winning book, Get Ahead by Going Abroad.