In just a little over a decade, the corporate office has transformed from being the de facto location where work is done into just one of several venues where one can choose to work. Anyone starting a new job today faces a very different set of work "rules" from someone who started work five years ago. Change is swift. And technology has truly disrupted how we work. At the risk of massive generalization, we've condensed the various ways work has changed and discovered ten succinct work rules which should aid anyone trying to navigate the modern workplace. Welcome to the 21st century!


1. Remote is the New Office

The old: The office used to be a single physical location where people would travel to, in order to meet face to face, work together, and even have informal talks around a real watercooler. It was a holdover from the Industrial Age when all work was done on the factory floor, assembling widgets by hand. If you weren't physically present, you were unemployed.

Sounds like: "Let's all head to the Michelangelo conference room for the all-hands in five minutes!"

The new: What does it mean to work remotely? Today, while the "office" might still be a physical location for certain industries, in some companies it doesn't exist at all. The office may now refer to any number of remote workers in home offices (or shared work spaces), who see one another more regularly on video chats than in real life. Or it's a combination of both physical and virtual work environments. It all depends on your company's working-from-home guidelines.

For many knowledge workers, remote work is now becoming the standard while office locations become meeting spaces where people convene only when they need to work together in person. This makes sense because hiring remote workers opens your company to a wider pool of talent (anyone with an Internet connection) at less overhead cost (no office space needed).

Sounds like: "Everyone who's in the office today, our meeting is in conference room A and the rest use the Zoom link!"


2. BYOD is the New Desktop

The old: Knowledge work used to be done on beige desktop computers that were on your desk in the office. Work could not be taken home easily. Laptops were few and far between — typically for executives. And entire IT workforces were hired to care for, and maintain, this fleet of cookie cutter machines.

Sounds like: "I'll start working on it the minute I get to my computer in the morning."

The new: Today, it's Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). 44% of workers check or use their mobile devices for work more than 20x a day, and 70% believe they'll use it even more in the future. Workers now comfortably work on their own laptops or mobile devices using apps easily obtainable in public app stores, and connecting to work data that lives in the cloud. This is a generally accepted practice in technology companies.

This means employees can work anywhere since their devices are always on them. However, this has created a very pressing need for each worker to protect their work-life balance because "always on you" can sometimes be mistaken as "always available."

Sounds like: "I'll work on it when I'm on the train, OK? I'll ping you then."



3. Results are the New Metric

The old: Workers used to punch in time cards to start and end their workday — another remnant from the long-gone Industrial Age when hours on an assembly line directly correlated with producing value for the company. While this is still a reality for employees in specific industries (e.g. manufacturing, health care, and others), the new breed of knowledge workers have no need to measure hours.

Sounds like: "I can't wait till it's five-thirsty so I can go home."

The new: Instead, the new metric is output and outcomes. What has the worker accomplished during his work day? And how has the work created value for the company? If the outcome is of high value, it no longer matters how many hours of work were done. What counts more is that a project is moving forward and goals are met.

Sounds like: "I got my quota done a week early, so I'd like to take some PTO."


4. Data, Not Intuition, is the New Validation

The old: Business decisions used to be based solely on the finely-honed instincts of executives with years of experience (and competitive intel). Those leaders would leverage both public and private information alongside intuition to lead an organization.

Sounds like: "You've got to trust my gut instinct on this decision."

The new: While the above remains true, there is now the added element of big data — where every click is measured and every interaction graded. Data-driven decisions are now a reality for every manager —particularly when a decision impacts your company's brand, product, or audience. These days, everything from creating a more concise landing page to streamlining a manufacturing process can be aided and validated by data. Just make sure you're measuring the right data.

Sounds like: "I've got the numbers to prove that this decision is the right one."


5. Velocity, Not Uniqueness, is the New Differentiator

The old: In the past, an inventor could come up with a unique idea, build a product and a company around that idea, and prosper. A lot more emphasis was given to creating a unique concept. Or even to perfecting the product so that it came out of the gate polished and final.

Sounds like: "We need to have a unique concept!"

The new: These days however, with everyone having the same easy access to massive amounts of data, a more important factor is velocity — the actual speed at which you execute your idea. When a feasible business idea is in hand (it doesn't even have to be unique), quick execution is of paramount importance in order to leave competitors in the dust. This is the lesson of Eric Ries' Lean Startup methodology: instead of delaying your release, you build a minimum viable product that works, then improve upon it. You have to be fast (and hopefully first) to win; you don't have to be perfect.

Sounds like: "We need to get this out before Competitor X releases their version!"


Next week, we'll publish part two of this series, [UPDATE: Here's part two!] and we'll list the remaining five work rules that tackle the new collaboration and the new culture. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for our weekly newsletter: