By Carolyn Dolezal, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive, Technology Industry Practice SmithBucklin

We are entering a new era, which requires us to refine our ice-breaker questions.  Many of us have developed a go-to list of ice-breaker questions when attending networking events, conferences, cocktail parties, and holiday gatherings.  These questions allow us to cast a broad enough conversational net so we can snag a response and start a dialogue.

At a recent Dreaming Session discussing the future of work, I overheard just such a discussion.  The question asked of a millennial attendee was “where do you work?”

Even five years ago, that question used to generate a fairly standard response such as “I work for (Name of Company) in their (Location) office as a (Title).”  In a traditional work arrangement, there is a specific place that’s considered “the workplace.”  There is an office building with a specific work area designated for the employee, and most members of the team are co-located in the area where the work gets done.

In the ice-breaker session I observed, when asked, “Where do you work?” the respondent paused for a second before replying.  He is an entrepreneur with his team of three scattered across two continents.  His colleagues are friends from college and they continue to work together on emerging technologies.  He responded to the question in terms of his local (home) office, then quickly shifted to enthusiastically describing their current major project.

Future of work mobile workplace

In today’s world of work, we see more distributed teams who “meet” in virtual conference rooms, hosting conference calls spanning multiple time zones.  Employees may come to the physical office on designated days to an assigned office, or share hoteling work space.  Employees telecommute; working from a home office, from a variety of destinations on the road, or perhaps in shared office space at a supplier or customer location because that proximity is important to get work done.

Some participants in the Dreaming Session indicated they preferred the office setting, because of the more comfortable environment, better infrastructure and information access, and opportunity to meet with colleagues without the distractions and interruptions experienced in other (home) settings. Other participants had a strong preference for a virtual office because the nature of their work, the location of their team members and travel schedules required a fluid environment.  “I am the workplace” said one participant, reflecting the true nature of how his knowledge work gets done.

The Dreaming Session was an eye-opener.  It encouraged broad thinking on the topic of “where do you work?” to include “how do you want to work?”  What does that answer look like for you?

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The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Carolyn Dolezal is Executive Vice President and Chief Executive, Technology Industry Practice and participated in the Xerox Future of Work Dreaming Session in June 2012.