Bye Bye Offices For Knowledge Workers!

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert

A leading article in the Los Angeles Times described a dramatic office space development being undertaken for the headquarters of a major international real estate brokerage firm.  It reflects the converging changes in computer technology and communications that make employees less location dependent, especially traditional office knowledge workers.

For years, many business organizations have exploited teleworking from home, as well as “hoteling” individual office spaces,. However, this commitment to flexible and informal use of office space primarily just for people, rather than for premise-based information and communication equipment, is a major breakthrough for significantly reducing the costs of office rental space.

Many years ago, in the early days of interactive computer usage (interactive “time-sharing”), I had a conversation with a computing magazine editor about the need for having an office. The three top reason at that time were:

1.      Access to information stored in filing cabinets

2.      Access to people for easy contacts by phone and face-to-face meetings

3.     Access to secretarial services (dictation, typing, call screening, message taking, making meeting appointments, filing)

4.     To facilitate operational supervision and management of personnel who worked in those offices.

With today’s mobile and online technologies, all four justifications for premise-based offices can be modified as described in the article to allow for more selective, on-demand use of workspace, rather than a fixed commitment to any individual end users. It also requires adoption of the latest ways to store and retrieve information, communicate with people more flexibly, especially if they are not sitting a desk, and be able to track employee business activities regardless of where and when they are performed.

As a result of this shift in use of office space, the reduction in rental and capital expenditures costs is expected to be a significant 30%.

Other Operational Benefits

The less people have to come to an office to do their jobs, the less commuting that has to be done, and downtown L.A. has become a significant “hot spot” for traffic congestion and parking problems. Wasting an employee’s time with commuting during “rush hours” is a major concern for everyone involved.

People productivity will also increase for information workers who will now be forced to use mobile wireless devices for storing and accessing all their information needs online, as well as more flexibly and efficiently initiating and responding to contacts with people and automated business processes multi-modally.

Mobility has become a big driver for new communications and information access and aside from the challenge of access security and mobile device user interfaces, BYOD has been viewed as a separate issue from traditional office-based activities. This applies also to the role of “cloud” based services vs. premise-based software applications. With this move towards minimizing the use of office space by business users, we should see greater momentum in the direction of integrated, unified interactions between people, both inside and outside of an organization, and online business process applications.

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