We previously finished by talking about the type of office most of us have spent our careers in and the office where many probably are still working. But what can we expect in the near future? It might be a place where many are already at work with the new web. It’s probably going to be decentralized using networking technologies to communicate cohesively. Companies will have to be more agile and more attuned to a more competitive and dynamic marketplace coming from all corners of the world.

Employees will form virtual teams for problem solving. There will be even more focus on customers and competitive strategies with leaner, less hierarchical management in structure and decision-making authority. There will be more team-based collaboration to provide all the various new skills that will be required in developing new products and solving the new needs of the marketplace. Communication will be vital between team members, which may even include specialists that are outside of the corporation.

Changes in communication technologies have been revolutionary from the days of typewritten memos with multiple onionskin copies giving way almost overnight to e-mail. Closely guarded company files can now be accessed by employees spending more time outside of the office with new smart phones and iPad technologies, putting unprecedented power in the hands of individuals far from the home office.

Tools that may still confound many of the older generations are being used readily by the new generations. Blogs, chat rooms, peer-to-peer networks (Facebook, Linkedin) and even personal broadcasting are allowing individuals to collaborate more productively. Employees can even act globally today connecting with customers, suppliers and partners, adding value to the firm’s ability to operate quickly. The Net Generation has grown up with these technologies as part of their birthright.

Smart companies are using the social networks in many different ways. Set up a Facebook account for your company, and through the many contacts generated you can do market research for new products. Many companies now have official Twitter handles and Facebook pages for their brands. On these pages, the CEO and other top executives can join in the conversations personally adding another level of contact. Technical personnel can deal with customer techs in their Linkedin accounts.

But there are also many possible negatives to be aware of when employing these networks. We’ll discuss these next time.