Office working & productivity in 1985 & now

21st October 2015, just a normal day for many but for fans of Back to the Future (II), we have now reached the future! But where are the hover boards and the laser disks? Interestingly, we’re not quite as futuristic as Doc Brown and Marty Mcfly thought we would be back in 1985, but here are some of the things that have changed since the 80s.

The workplace is arguably where the changes can be witnessed most, specifically in regards to technology as although some homes owned computers back then, the divide between personal and work life wasn’t as blurred as it is now, and neither was the incorporation of technology so fluid throughout our daily life and the devices available. We use technology now to research decisions, make decisions and share our decisions; we live life on the web… (But we still do only drive cars that despite still not taking flight, they are in the beginnings of being able to drive themselves, and are powered by hydrogen and not stolen plutonium from Libyan rebels).

In the 1980s, the workplace was dare we say, chunkier? Phones were anchored to desks with a single phone line; mobile phones (if you were lucky enough to have one) were the size and weight of bricks and were simply just used for calling; computers were boxes that took up a lot of room and could only do basic word processing and data entry using a green typewriter font. Everything was paper based which meant business communication happened over fax or post; filing cabinets lined the walls and paper spilled out of desk drawers and covered surfaces; things were paid for in cash or cheque, and if it wasn’t in the Yellow Pages, it didn’t exist. Offices were also very much male dominated, and if women were employed, it was likely to be part-time and they were unlikely to hold positions requiring too much responsibility.

Fast forward thirty years and the modern work environment is a place of diversity involving an assortment of employees of differing gender, race, age and culture and is no longer constrained to a room or floor in a building; it’s everywhere and anywhere. Home working is becoming more and more the norm and the boundaries of the typical 9 – 5pm has expanded to ‘open all hours’. The author of this blog doesn’t remember the 1980s, but she does vaguely remember the internet first coming into fruition (Encarta anyone?), now the internet powers everything. We’re a cashless society and all our work documentation is stored in the cloud and all our business contacts, customers and prospects held within (Dynamics) CRM; we communicate across email, Skype, instant messaging and social media; we no longer need desk phones, face-to-face meetings, desktop computers or even pens as we work almost exclusively electronic (which Back to the Future did predict with the petition to save the clock tower being on a tablet). Our work travels with us wherever we go and employees face little constraint (except for when the Wi-Fi goes down) and arguably, can now work more productively, making the use of all available time in the day if they need it.

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