Virtual Office Walls
By Kimberley on Apr 28, 2006
On a recent flight from New York to San Jose, I sat next to a frequent traveller and his laptop.
He worked for one of the bigger financial institutions' Real Estate department.   He was based in New York City, but was on his way to San Francisco, on business, as he did regularly.
For the next several hours, we would sit side by side in our roomy bulkhead seats, him on the aisle, me at the window.   In front of us was the solid wall dividing Business Class from Economy Class.
Our seats shared a single power port, which my neighbor had claimed for his laptop.   My own laptop's battery was drained, so my choices for activites were limited.   Watch a crappy movie on a dinky screen hanging from the ceiling over the aisle, read the onboard magazines (again), look out the window at a blanket of clouds, snooze, or....
40% of my view of the world at the time consisted of this man and his laptop.   So, every now and then, bored to tears, I looked....
The work going on beside me involved spreadsheets detailing parking fines, names, addresses, fine amounts, FAX's showing details and signatures of megabuck real estate transactions, reading and writing of intercompany emails, and more.
Now, here's the funny part!   My neighbor eventually realised I was looking at the laptop.   His polite reaction was quite elegant: This is confidential.   I'd appreciate if you wouldn't look.
And with that, I, generally one to be good citizen, nodded and turned away, staring out the window at the monotonous high level fog outside ....
.... for about 5 minutes.   Then I got to thinking.   This man was an example of someone who is used to working remote.   His office is wherever he is.   He is a shining example of the future of the office workspace.
But, can one expect the virtual office to also come with virtual office walls?   One day, will we all be saying, "Please don't look. This data is confidential" while we work in public places?
Is this the vision of the future?   I sure hope not.   Is this how our corporations want us to conduct business?   I hope not.
If my banker needs to view my personal details whilst on an airplane, I hope he has the good sense to work in the toilet where (I'm assuming) there are no prying eyes!