THE BLOG
09/13/2013 01:02 pm ET | Updated Nov 13, 2013

The Changing Nature of Work (and What That Means for You)

It's about flexibility, and then some. The paradigm shift is that distinct definitions and rigid boundaries are blurring and fading... what does that really mean? Most importantly, what does it mean for you?

The practicalities of society's dramatic changes over the last half century are heralding, or perhaps begging for, the updating and evolution of employment models. However, the technological advances are generating even more disruption for the workplace norms.

The freedom and choices that near-ubiquitous wireless access and a plethora of smart mobile devices bring is impactful and significant:

  • Work is morphing from a place into an activity, as so much can be done without being tethered to a specific location;
  • With less rigidity in the structure, workflow can be more natural and spontaneous, changing the use of and dynamics within offices;
  • Time boundaries are blurring as smart devices carry instant and pervasive social connections and communities into working environments, as well as bringing continued connectivity to office work into home and leisure spaces past traditional office hours;
  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is emerging as people develop their individual habits and preferences, and have different devices of choice that assist or enhance their creativity and or productivity.
But, recognizing and celebrating flexibility to relieve some strain in the system and enable employees to pursue ambitions across their life activities is but one piece of the puzzle.

The interesting question and challenge is the pace at which the evolution is happening.

The Millennials are already 'there' philosophically. They are unfettered by the legacy habits, perceptions and ingrained, accepted norms that limit earlier groups and generations. Many Baby Boomers are there too, as they seek to maintain some corporate involvement while looking to enjoy the golf course, grandchildren, travel and more.

However, real, but not all physical, barriers exist, and they are significant. Some are born of culture or tradition; others relate more to practical issues and concerns, such as security. Your company may react very differently to each of these elements, particularly based on its culture, structure and likely its age, and will resist or embrace them accordingly.

Observing practical problems as hindrances, like security, I am confident that these are being, or can be, viewed as opportunities, which many businesses and entrepreneurs are in the process of dealing with. As for culture and tradition, these can change significantly, depending on what the leadership of an organization or entity decides to embrace or benefit from.

"Face time" is already mutating from a physical, in-person occurrence to a virtual meeting interaction, (FaceTime). Some companies are adopting multiple options of workplace flexibility as they recognize the clear advantages to be gained -- real estate efficiencies, improved cash flow and risk management and employer engagement and retention, which will become increasingly critical with the shortage of knowledge workers that is forecast.

How about you?

How have your work habits been changing over the last few years? What might you be enjoying or resisting and why? Which of the elements above is intimidating or thrilling to you?

Fundamentally, the pace of change also comes down to how each one of us individually responds and adapts to the new aspects of work -- as the emphasis shifts to whom you work for and what you do, not 'where' you work. Work is becoming more personal as well as more remote, with a different work and social flow that is less defined, less structured and more interwoven.

You will need to decide where and when you want and need to brainstorm, collaborate, interact and accomplish your business tasks and, similarly, how you manage your social self. The so-called 'work-life' equation or management of life activities becomes even more about personal responsibility, requiring greater personal involvement and discipline.

Different job types are also evolving differently. Outcome-oriented jobs are most easily transitioned to highly-flexible models, as they are naturally and regularly measured. Examples are sales roles and those that are or can be organized into discrete quantifiable packages. Others are harder to 'flexify,' and will evolve based on personal performances, trust and vision. You can evaluate how best your current or desired position can be made more flexible and how you can evolve your role to take most advantage of all these changes.

Some of these adaptations will require some thought and even real effort from you. The huge personal benefit of all these changes is to have more control over your life and how you live it. The (personal) challenge, which can feel or be reasonably significant, is proactively to work out what you really want for your career and your life in general. It is a very exciting prospect... perhaps daunting in part as well, and often, most easily tackled in incremental steps.

One step at a time, engage and enjoy the workplace developments. Then, you can benefit from all that the new dynamics are bringing.

The future is proactive.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.