According to Forrester (Untethering Information Workers: Rethinking Workplace Location And Layout – July 2006) and industry demand, many organizations are on the move creating virtual work environments for mobile workers.
Many organizations are redefining the workplace beyond the typical employee desk, office storage and meeting rooms – the typical model as far back as I can remember. Today, companies are creating offices that contain meeting rooms and desk for office bound staff such as administrative and management persons. The meeting rooms consist of rich meeting spaces that contain video conferencing and collaboration tools that facilitate rich collaboration across the organization. Another interesting concept is the Starbucks concept whereby the office area has small islands of couching and chairs for informal discussions etc.

So why do organizations do this? There are several reasons for this such as:

  • Creating competitive cost models – globalization, industry consolidation has forced companies to reduce costs but at the same time grow. The only competitive way to do this is to reduce real-estate and provide for increased staff headcount
  • Supporting mobile staff such as sales and consultants – as a sales person once said to me “nobody in the office is buying!” Customers and deals don’t come to us, we go to them – we should almost always be on the road.
  • Creating environments that support growth and innovation – enabling employees in the same region to collaborate and enable staff in different regions to collaborate.
  • More time working less commuting – the average commute to work in the US is 51 minutes. If its possible, allow people recover the lost two hours for work or home life.

Not compelling enough? Here are some facts:

  • Hewlett-Packard, must cut a total of $230 million out of its budget by the end of Q2 2007 (Forrester 2006)
  • 25% of Telecom Italia’s “Info412” call center operations staff who telework spend 15% less time on calls and handle 3.3% more calls per hour than non-teleworkers (Forrester 2006)
  • IBM, estimates that 58,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided in 2005 by the 25,000 US-based IBMers who took advantage of the company’s work-from-home program (Forrester 2006)

So we now see the big picture but there must be road blocks?

  • Unions – unions see mobility as infringing upon home life.
  • IT – most IT shops are not ready to handle this sort of requirement and the demand.
  • Real estate – many companies are locked into long term leases.
  • Culture – many cultures just dont have the work ethic of North America.
Within the next ten years I expect that many companies will have virtual office programs and working mobile will be the norm. No longer will companies have desks for each employee – it just doesn’t make sense to. Refer to my photo library for a Mind Map of the virtual office components.