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VIRTUAL WORKING: DO OFFICES HAVE A PLACE IN THE FUTURE?

Author: Richard Snarey

Published date: 2020/01

Virtual

​Before the digital revolution, workers had to go into an office to use their tools and equipment as well as connect with colleagues. Not anymore! With today’s workforces more diverse than ever, coupled with the prevalence of digital collaboration tools, teams don’t have to be in the same building or even the same time zone as one another. 

In fact, more businesses are ditching the physical office altogether. Social media company Buffer permanently closed its San Francisco office in 2015 due to a distributed team spread around the world. It was decided that an office was an unnecessary expense and instead the company empowered its staff to work from home and only travel to meet each other a few times a year. 

Buffer isn’t the only one. Multi-national web development corporation, Automattic, has more than 900 staff who all work remotely, with the business having no fixed office presence. Leader of Automattic’s developer experience team Cate Huston said in a recent radio interview: “Talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is often not. Working this way means you can access that talent and also give opportunity.” 

So, is this the end? 

Not necessarily. Physical workplaces remain a crucial component to communicate culture, business strategy and improve overall business performance. Instead of ditching offices, today’s build and facilities management professionals are responsible for creating the physical frameworks and working environments that enable better business outcomes, productivity and satisfaction. 

Here are just some of the ways they are achieving this: 

  • Making The Most Of The Space. Collaborative workspaces and unassigned seating give employees autonomy and the ability to float in and out of the office. Additionally, it allows businesses to save money on space and resources. 

  • Breakout! Offices are creating a combination of zones that offer both traditional desk options with more laid-back spaces. This could range from large tables that enable employees to collaborate informally and socialise all of the way through to individual pods for those who prefer to work alone. 

  • Stay WELL. Some FMs are taking advantage of the WELL Building Standard Certification, which is a program that promotes office design that improves the mental and physical health of employees. Some modern offices include ‘extras’ including wellness rooms where employees can take a break or have a moment of peace and ’green’ spaces with plants and trees to give the feeling of nature and the outdoors. 

  • Downsize. It’s becoming more common for businesses to reduce the size of conference rooms given that remote working has slashed meeting numbers over the last decade. Instead, smaller rooms that fit a handful of people and include a TV screen and camera for virtual delegates are a modern and effective solution.

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