The Changing Nature of Work Redefining ‘The Office’

The very nature of what we do as work is changing, and this impacts where we do it/ the kinds of spaces and places needed to facilitate effective work.

This is a fascinating article from BBC Business that explores the impact of ‘anywhere working’;

BBC Business Article – Office of the Future

One reality is that, especially in bigger cities there are two forces contributing to the trends; the cost of commercial real estate and the problems of extending commuting time. The good news is that these ‘pain points’ may well motivate shifts to far more environmentally healthy and sustainable working arrangements.

The other healthy trend is that companies are keen to put expensive ‘field employees’ in situations where they spend the maximum amount of time in the field and the minimum amount of time ‘back at base’ (where they cannot contribute to the business). Even 15-20 years ago when I worked in Private Banking in UK this often meant client officers and account executives spending considerable time sitting trying to work with Dictaphones and paper folders in their cars. This was pretty uncomfortable, especially in the winter. One thing you would often be aware of the numbers of people working for various other companies who were all parking up wherever they could, doing the same things – supermarket carparks were very common – free, plenty of parking space in the week and accessible to and from major roads.

At the time, colleagues and I were very aware that this wasn’t a great way to be working. For one thing, each of us was very inefficiently moving around in a separate car alone (bad for cost and environment) and couldn’t really take advantage of public transport – no chance of working at a bus stop in a gale force wind, sleet and rain. It is true that we used to also miss the company of colleagues.

I remember some colleagues and I conjecturing that technology wouldn’t need to advance too far to support two alternatives that would be effective in such scenarios;

  1. Excess office space around the peripheries of towns and cities where companies would ‘rent’ desk space and time. When you needed to work you would move to the nearest such office where your company has space entitlement. You might carry your own laptop, tablet and other technology devices or you might even log on to a cloud based terminal in that office. There would be self-service catering facilities and the ‘loneliness’ aspect would be addressed. Also, as the people who came to these places would often be those living close by it would reintroduce a sense of community as the people living close to each other would work alongside each other, even though working for different employers.
  2. One or two desk pods situated at mall and supermarket carparks that could be rented by the hour. Kept safe, clean and secure with cctv etc.these would offer a heated/ air-conditioned, comfortable place to work between meetings and visits for business, enable people to touch base with the home office, complete emails etc. Again, the choice could be there between using ones own devices or renting a powerful cloud based machine with high speed internet. At the end of the time, the individual would close the machine down and no data would remain accessible at the local machine – all would be at the company server level.
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