In our last blog article, we discussed the term “new work” in general. We have seen that new work reunites many different phenomena which determine the work of the future. The workplace is one of them. In the workplace of the future, spaces are being reinvented, and within this context, the need for workers to actually work inside the company’s walls is questioned.
Individual workplaces belong to the past. Work zones are currently trending. Innovative companies focus increasingly on a wide range of working environments that adapt to the work activities of the employees. In addition to workspaces which are suitable for teamwork and cross-departmental encounters, there is a need for quiet retreats if one needs to concentrate. Meeting zones are suited for networking and to collect new ideas through informal discussions between employees. Moreover, recreational zones gain more importance, and sometimes there are even company-internal leisure and wellness offers. All of this sounds suspiciously of employer branding, and certainly has a lot to do with it. But the transformation of the workplace also aims to improve the employee’s productivity, creativity and health as much as possible.
The requirements for mobile work.
The mobility of the workplace was only made possible by digitalization. Mobile devices and technologies no longer bind us to a desk assigned to us. We do most of our work on a laptop, communicate by using mobile phones or write mails to our customers. Simply put, the workplace is now where our laptop is. Cloud services allow us access to our data everywhere. Software for communication, personnel management as well as task and project management allows us to maintain an overview even if our team is scattered to the four winds. Seen in this way, the only thing you need is a good network quality, and it gets literally possible to work wherever you want – and this is, of course, not limited to “wherever you want within the company”, but makes it possible to actually work outside the company.
About home office, co-working spaces and digital nomads.
But where to work, if not in the company? In the following, I will introduce some possibilities:
The best known is, of course, home office: For parents and people with a long way to work in particular, home office presents countless benefits. The reconciliation of family and working life gets more easy, and the tedious commuting can be avoided. In addition, working at home often equals working more concentrated, since your home offers more peace and quiet as a big office, where you get distracted more easily.
A somewhat newer invention are co-working spaces or pop-up offices. In these office premises you can rent individual workstations for certain periods, while benefiting from a professional infrastructure. Co-Working Spaces are open places which offer not only many work-necessities such as internet connection, printer or meeting rooms, but also the possibility to exchange experiences with like-minded people and do some networking. This is a wonderful opportunity to generate new ideas and to acquire new contacts and orders. Co-Working Spaces are now available in almost all major cities worldwide – in Switzerland, for example, in Berne, Zurich and Basel.
The phenomenon of so-called digital nomads goes even further. They belong to a new generation of workers (especially freelancers, but also employees) who do not want to be tied to a fixed living place, and even less to solid office premises in a company. They want to travel, expand their horizon, meet new people and experience new cultures. And all of this, while they are working? Digitalization makes it possible. Chiang Mai, Melbourne, Taipei, Brussels, Amsterdam, or rather a city on Bali? The place does not matter. The only thing the digital nomads need is a good WLAN connection. The office (laptop and mobile phone) is always with them – and can easily be transported in a backpack. By now there is a whole community of such work nomads which seems to grow exponentially. There is of course a need for the right tools if one wants to work like this – video calls get more important the less often you can gather for meetings and documents must be accessible literally everywhere on the world through secure cloud systems. Luckily, there are more and more apps and cloud-based software like Trello, Asana or Slack that allow to manage tasks, work processes and meetings in virtual space.
Added-value for companies?
These new concepts of the workplace all sound wonderful – at least if seen from the employee’s point of view. But can companies benefit from this, too? We say yes.
First, companies can find promising talents more easily by letting their employees work location-independent. After all, nothing motivates more than giving your employees the freedom to work where they feel most comfortable. And especially when it comes to talent, such goodies are an absolute plus. Flexible working structures also enable companies to recruit everywhere. And if you can work wherever you want, you have no reason to quit your job because of a change of location. In addition, flexible work structures lead to more creative, motivated and balanced employees: we all know it; to sit in front of the same desk in the same room every workday of the week can be gruelling. Furthermore, a lack of perspective and inflexible working-time models are among the main reasons for job dissatisfaction. To break out of this routine of the everyday work scenarios, a change of place –even if it is only in the café at the next corner – and new impressions can do miracles when it comes to creativity, but also to work satisfaction. Moreover, it does not have to be obstructive to the process if a part of the team is not on site. On the contrary. In her article concerning digital nomads, Katja Andes even argues that gaps in the documentation and unclear processes are less noticeable if a company works with a local team, than if a part of the team works location-independent. Weak points can be discovered and corrected more quickly, thus contributing to a better processor orientation in the company.
The end of the individual workplace?
But what about our personal desk that we have decorated lovingly with pictures of our family or a potted plant? Is it an endangered species, threatened by extinction? We do not think so.
Of course, mobile work is not suitable for all sectors and jobs. Rather, it is limited to so-called knowledge work. But even there, it is not everyone’s cup of tea to travel around the world, or to constantly change one’s workplace. Some people simply want and need the clear structures of a permanent workplace. And that’s perfectly fine, for this is precisely the real added-value for companies. By giving employees the choice in which environment they can work best, they become more productive, creative, and, above all, more loyal. However, a company needs a certain amount of courage for innovation, and of course it means an initial increase in work for the HR. This is not a change which will take place over night. Rather, it will have to be developed in cooperation with the company’s employees. An expenditure of time that will pay off in the future.