Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The folly of waiting for the office of the future to boil

A number of factors are driving interest in virtual meetings and teaming at the moment - from the price of fuel to the carbon footprint of business travel. However, an alternative view point is the office of the future is driving us towards a more mobile and transient workforce anyway, so why not talk about the benefits that technology can provide regardless of the immediate trends - Capital One is a good well documented example and in this interview they explain the return on investment in terms of the efficient use of office space:

"My tour guide is Dan Mortensen, Capital One's senior vice president for corporate real estate.
MORTENSEN: One thing that you'll probably notice as you walk through is the place is occupied and busy. We actually have been able to take a space built for just over 600 work stations. And we actually have more than a thousand individuals assigned to this space. In fact, nearly 1,200 people are assigned to a space that's built for just over 600. One way to save on office space is to encourage employees to work at home, or in the field. When they do come in, mobile associates don't have a dedicated office. They take whatever space is available, or has been temporarily assigned to the associate's project team.

Its important to note the interplay between information technology and the design of Capital One's office spaces in this success story, as this article explains:

"Inaugurated in November 2006, the company's VoIP deployment -- known as My Phone, My Way -- provides employees a single phone number they can carry with them, thereby enhancing their mobility, says Robert Turner, senior vice president of enterprise technology operations at Capital One, and the project's lead. 'Our Future of Work implementation provides people with mobility options. They can work in any building and log in to their phone,' Turner says, adding that employees are equipped with a Cisco VoIP phone, a BlackBerry device, and a notebook PC."

However, I think many companies are going to get a shock if they think they can just "switch on" this kind of office of the future - not just the physical workspace elements, but also the supporting information technology infrastructure and more importantly the workplace culture change and skills needed for people to adopt. As this article in the Guardian comments:

"Remote working hasn't happened as speedily as a lot of pundits predicted it would years ago, probably because it involves an act of trust and a culture transplant that most companies can't easily cope with. Employees like the idea of working from home, but they are still reluctant to give up the status of a desk in the office that is a home away from home."

1 comment:

  1. It worked for Price Waterhouse 15 years ago!

    Consultants were just farmed out to clients to support, you would only get a (temporary) desk if you were 'on the beach', and only senior consultants got laptops. It was not terribly connected, but it seemed to work alright - I used the phone a lot more than I do now.

    Mind you, back then we only had Lotus Notes email and it took all afternoon to download emails over a modem because someone in accounts decided to send an email about 'cake in the corner office' to ALL consultants assigned to that floor, not realising most of us were offsite and didn't want to download the HUGE bitmap of a cake they had embedded in the email.


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