May 24, 2009 Phil

Do you really need to go into the office?

Skype, Twitter, Yammer, Slideshare, Linkedin, Wikis and many other social media tools are changing how we work. The traditional workspace is moving from a physical location in an office to a virtual space where people share information, ideas, conversations and knowledge online. The water cooler banter is happening on Twitter, the business presentation on Slideshare and the business networking on Linkedin. Our workplace is becoming global and our office spaces virtual.

What does this mean for the traditional office space? We all have busy lives and in larger cities the daily commute to  the office can eat up 3 hours that could be used in a much more productive manner. Sitting in traffic or on a subway can be more physically and mentally draining than work.  If given the choice, the majority of people would probably love to be able to work from their home or their favorite coffee shop. Progressive companies know this and are taking advantage of the benefits of the virtual office space.

More and more companies are trusting their employees to manage their own work schedules. Employers are turning their attention away from controlling work environments and measuring productivity based on the amount of hours an employee spends in the office.Their focus is shifting from visibility to accountability. The Internet is enabling the decentralized workplace. The financial, psychological and productivity benefits of the virtual office will provide innovators with a competitive advantage that their competitors will be forced to adopt.

Virtual space won’t work for everyone, but don’t get caught thinking you need a office to have a culture or to enable communication. It can exist online and manifest itself in person through meetings. These meetings can take place in public or shared  space. The days of satellite offices are coming to an end for a lot of companies. Unless there is a specific need for bricks and mortar most are choosing the virtual alternative.

Mitch Joel recently blogged on the 6 steps towards a new economy. He refers to the future employee as a “Digital Nomad” and notes that companies are going to face a real challenge in designing corporate offices for people who seldom sit at a desk. Today’s office will likely be transformed into a meeting hall for collaboration. People will congregate, share information and return to their virtual office at the end of an Internet connection somewhere in the world. The days of sitting in a cubicle under flourescent lights appear to be coming to an end.

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