Workplace of the future may not have an actual workplace


The trend toward an increasingly mobile and remote work force shows no sign of stopping as employees demand flexibility in where and when they do their jobs.

Fewer than one in three employees (32%) — and even fewer Millennial employees (27%) — spent all of their working hours this year in their organization’s physical office, a new survey from Staples reveals.

Think about that: Ten years ago those percentages would be inconceivable. But digital technology in the form of the internet, mobile devices, cloud computing, and more has extended the workplace to wherever an employee can connect to a network. Tools such as videoconferencing and remote collaboration, relatively novel — and inconsistent — a decade ago, now are commonplace as enterprises take advantage of more powerful networks and the cloud.

They’re also responding to employee demand. That Staples survey of enterprise employees in North America shows 43% of respondents consider the flexibility to work remotely as an absolute must.

“While the office is still home base, working remotely at least occasionally has gone from a nice-to-have, to an essential part of the workplace affecting everything from talent recruitment to productivity,” Staples said in announcing results of its annual workplace survey.

So where does it stop? Or does it stop? According to the Staples survey, 57% of respondents say working remotely removes distractions. If employees can be more productive working remotely, and if enterprises can save money by downsizing or even eliminating physical offices, why not go all the way?

Sure, there arguably are good reasons to preserve a main office or headquarters — talking to colleagues face to face and working side by side have their advantages, and it’s good to have a space for meeting clients, business partners, and prospective employees. In most cases, however, that hardly requires an entire building or even one floor.

Smaller companies have been going virtual for a while now, often because they can’t afford to buy, rent, or lease office space. But don’t be surprised if, over time, more larger enterprises take the plunge. The technology is there; it’s just a matter of whether it makes strategic (and financial) sense.

Does your company still have an office or shared workspace? And does it need one?


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