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Is the Office Redundant?

January 22, 2014

As the New Year fireworks echoed off the once iconic – soon to be redeveloped – Shell Centre next to the London Eye, we considered what 2014 might bring and what changes can we expect.

With wifi available in cafes and other, more comfortable places across the country, are our offices becoming redundant?

Wearable technology in the form of Beanie hats with in built speakers and microphones are just a click away http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bluetooth-Beanie-Headset-Stereo-Speakers/dp/B00GX9IAJA. 3D printers in the home may soon produce utensils, household gadgets, and even fashion on demand. Driverless cars are already a reality.

The Shell Centre, like many 20th Century office blocks, is no longer sufficiently light and airy enough to attract a modern corporate workforce. Instead the Shard, Heron Tower and Walkie Talkie are rising up to offer a desk to the bright young things embarking on a career in the city.

The trouble is, these glazed edifices are also largely empty. The same bright young things they are designed to attract are the digital generation. The generation who realise that technology goes where they go. The idea of having to sit in a specific seat to access their information is, frankly ridiculous.

This isn’t a new phenomena. Howard Schultz, the man behind Starbucks, talks about the coffee shop being ‘a third place’. Somewhere between home and work. A place where people can meet with colleagues or sit alone and concentrate free of distractions. Much like an office should be.

The concept of the ‘third place’ is now familiar to most of us and it’s evolving. Work hubs are springing up across the Home Counties. It’s not just start ups and the self employed that are using them – The Hot Office is reporting an increase in commuters sneaking in to put in a productive days work without having to endure a cramped train journey or stressful drive either side.

Most large employers allow their staff to work flexibly and it’s increasingly rare that every meeting attendee is physically present. Gotomeeting.com, Skype and Joinme.com are becoming an acceptable alternative to ‘showing up’.

Of the top 5 job types, only teachers are location dependent. Accountants, administrators and account managers are more able than ever before to carry out much of their work remotely – Potentially freeing up billions of fixed costs from employers balance sheets.

There are of course risks with this approach which if ignored could seriously jeopardise your business. Alongside the technology, we still need to work with, trust and be encouraged by people.  By all means embrace remote working but be sure to reinvest some of the money saved into communicating with, motivating and developing your people.  Just ask us how.

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