In these times no one really seems to work in the office all week anymore. Part-time constructions as well as home office arrangements are very common. People need to be in different locations in order to do their jobs or the opposite is the case – the location doesn’t really matter anymore. For many jobs these days all you need is a laptop, a mobile phone and a WiFi connection. It’s as simple as that.
In order to save cost on rent for huge office spaces that are left half empty most of the week, many companies don’t calculate with a desk per employee anymore. Flexible work spaces that are shared by all employees working here and there from time to time are very common. The thought of having an own space that is “individually furnished” is not up to date anymore. By using laptops instead of desktop PCs there is actually no need of using the same desk every day. And the young working generation is not used to anything else but being flexible, so they start off with totally different thoughts on this anyway.
Office space? – Why?
It is only a very short path from working flexibly in different locations during the week to the question why we should at all sit in an office still. We are dealing with lots of infrastructural problems like rush hours, constant traffic jams, stuffed trains, subways and buses, bad linking between different public transport services, etc. Everyone tries to get to the office in the mornings and home at nights. In order to master the traffic challenges some companies tried to adapt working times or offer their employees a flexible schedule including home office days. This is a first step but does not really solve the problem.
There are other companies that have trouble in finding employees due to hard-to-find skill-sets or decentralized regions they are located in. There might be the perfect employee for them out there, but maybe not in the right place or maybe not able to make the typical working schedule. Maybe this person is a mother of a small child or a son of an elderly parent that needs help regularly. Maybe this person is the spouse of an expat living in another country or someone in a wheelchair not able to easily leave the house and do the daily commute to the office, but well able to use his/her brains for a company. So why stick to the old fashioned way of thinking that every job needs to be conducted in a company’s office?
These days a completely new kind of industry is growing when it comes to remote work opportunities. Professional Services companies are set up with not having any common space for employees at all. Mostly the company’s address is the home address of the founder and employees are situated in different places, sometimes even spread over the whole world. It provides the company with a very low cost structure and a lot of flexibility, especially when it comes to servicing different time zones. Employees get the opportunity of working according to their very own schedule while being able to manage a family or other challenges along the way. Their motivation for work is high, because often enough these are people who wouldn’t have the chance to work if the circumstances were different or people who just highly appreciate the trust of their employers in them.
Virtual teams as
a long-lasting alternative?
The first thought many people will have is that virtual teams cannot really connect with each other. That is not totally true. They can, but in another way. Of course they are not able to sit besides each other, but modern telecommunication technologies enable almost everything else. Daily team meetings can be conducted by telephone or video conference and quick exchange of information is usually done via phone, instant messaging or email. And of course not having an office does not mean that the team members never actually see each other. Most of the companies arrange team meetings, company events, conferences or team building weekends once a quarter or twice a year. And yes, that is expensive given the fact that everyone needs to travel and stay overnight. Compared to monthly office space rent this is still minor cost.
So what is the conclusion? For some companies it will be the way to go in the future. As soon as the company’s main workflows are supported by web-based systems and there is nothing physical needed to be produced, it is an interesting model. Physical presence does not necessarily improve productivity. It can help to have a team sitting together, but it is not a necessity in many cases. Very often it is dependent on the type of employee. Some are a lot more productive and focused while sitting in an office among colleagues, others are exactly not. Colleagues can be supportive as well as distracting to an individual. So finding the right people in order to set up such a virtual company is key. In the end, it is all about talent again!