I very easily could have named this post “The Office Environment As We Know It is Dead” – And wouldn’t that be fun? Today, to declare something “dead” is a great, catchy way to grab your attention, but as we’ve seen more in our lifetimes than any other technology isn’t a killer, but it is a game changer. As humans and workers we still are trying to accomplish many of the same goals as we did hundreds if not thousands of years ago: we want to provide for our families and develop tools that make providing easier so we have more time to spend with our families. Over the years whether it was a crude stone chisel, the wheel, the automobile, the telephone, the computer, or the internet our basic desire has never wavered: we want to do our jobs and we want to do them as efficiently as possible so we can turn our attention to living life and enjoying our home life. Oh, and even when we were cave-people we never wanted our cave-boss up in our business!
Never before has a group of people embraced this philosophy than today’s worker. The next generation of professional has an entirely different view of their work environment. Gone are the days of “work” manifesting itself in a location and physical form. The “office” is no longer about a place, but about connectivity, getting things done, and getting things done with the best talent. Our next generation of worker understands that really there’s no reason for everyone to travel into an office for most jobs. Our next generation of worker understands that with today’s telecommuting tools that they can work harder, faster, and better from any location that they choose. Gone are the interruptions, the office politics, staring at a computer monitor acting busy in order to eek out the last 15 minutes of the day. All that remains is getting more done, better, faster.
The change in office environment doesn’t only benefit employees. Employers are seeing reduction in overhead, flexible schedules, an ability to attract top talent regardless of geographic location, and attract that talent because talented people want to do their work on their terms. This is the new normal. This is what the new generation of worker expects. It’s no longer a perk, but the way we will all work in the very near future. It’s already the new normal for many of today’s top companies.
Now there are some things to consider when moving towards a culture that is virtual versus physical. One of the top companies here in Denver, Alpine Access, has a virtual culture with over 4,500 remote employees. Alpine Access realizes there are special considerations (great article in Entrepreneur Magazine here) such as security, equal access to technology, finding employees that fit a virtual culture, etc.
It’s no surprise that we find of the most important considerations when working with remote employees is to make sure everyone has access to collaboration tools. Workers like their autonomy but they don’t like to feel like they’re on an island. The ability to have access to their colleagues and management via unified collaboration tools, audio conferencing, and web conferencing allows workers to feel a part of the organization and get more done.
It’s amazing how far we’ve come. The days of work being all about the office, like in the TV show Mad Men, are not that far behind us. Yet, with today’s technology and collaboration tools the office environment of yesteryear is something our kids will ask us about with curiosity and bewilderment – sort of like they do today with CD’s and Walkman’s. There’s no doubt that the times are a changing…
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