Is the physical office an endangered species? It’s a fair question considering the new virtual collaboration trends that encourage employees to function outside traditional professional workspaces. If we can now work, hold meetings, and attend conferences and workshops anywhere at any time, why do we even need a physical workspace?
This question is more important now than ever.
Are we all going mobile?
The hyper-mobile professional emerged out of major technical and social revolutions that have resulted from the advent of mobile technology (notebook computers, tablets, cloud computing and other innovations) and collaborative solutions for working remotely. Employees can now work from anywhere.
This trend encourages new types of collaboration, particularly telecommuting. Why waste time driving to the office when you all you need to do is turn on a computer? Redefining what “in office working hours” really means may help companies reap the advantages of such mobility.
– Flexibility: employees are more flexible and available when they can connect from the location of their choosing. The company is no longer at a disadvantage when staff are traveling abroad or telecommuting, because they can easily perform tasks that need to get done without physically being in the office – including brainstorming sessions, attending meetings and trainings.
– Freedom and Autonomy for Employees: mobility is also recognized as a way to enhance employee well-being. Employees can adjust their hours to better meet their own needs, avoid commuting and concentrate better when away from the noise and distraction of the workplace. This improvement in work-life balance leads, in turn, to improvements in work quality as well as increased business productivity.
– Equipment and Infrastructure Savings: if employees take advantage of working remotely more often, having a dedicated work space for each employee no longer seems so pertinent . Well-known companies such as IBM and LinkedIn are on the cutting edge of this trend.
What will the office of tomorrow look like?
Will mobility lead to the end of the office as we know it or, instead, to its disintegration? Will the office of tomorrow be in our homes or the corner restaurant, on trains, planes or automobiles? Will the office of the future be everywhere and nowhere at the same time?
The office cannot disappear completely as there will always be a need for one-on-one communication. A company is not just a physical location, but also a place to work in close physical and creative exchange with colleagues. Eliminating the office would also eliminate in-person interactions between employees, which can be key for innovation.
Who can predict the result of this revolutionary transformation of the traditional office? Perhaps in coming decades we will see leaner companies with headquarters that are nothing more than empty showrooms. Or perhaps the office will become a shared workspace that welcomes mobile employees looking for more structure.
Perhaps there will be hybrid spaces, custom designed to fill a specific need. And in these new spaces, collaboration itself might be reinvented.