Image courtesy of Terry McCarthy (Workshop Cafe in San Francisco)

Find a Place to Work

Blogger: Rachel Park, Strategic Facilities Planning Principal | Princeton, NJ, USA
August 21, 2014

The trend in corporate real estate is the shrinking work environment. According to a study by CoreNet Global, the average workspace per person will be 100 square-feet (9.3 m²) by 2020. This includes your individual desk and chair, but also a portion of the amenities such as pantries, conference rooms, cafeteria and lobbies. This is a major change from 2010 when the average was 225 square-feet (20.9 m²) per person. How is this possible?

In this ever-shrinking work environment, corporations are encouraging their employees to work remotely by no longer assigning a seat to every employee. The goal is to increase efficiencies, reduce real estate costs and (hopefully) improve productivity. In order to implement a strategy that fosters employee mobility, companies have increased their investment in technology (including mobile devices), advanced their security paradigms, and developed mobility HR policies.

Trust is crucial. The success of a mobility policy depends as much on encouragement from leadership as it does on mobile tools, such as a laptop. You might be surprised at the number of employees who have neither. 

Recently, Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, had a different idea. Charged to turn around HP after years of losing market share to competitors, she put out a memo to staff requiring mobile employees to come back to the office. This was seen as quite controversial, but the shift in policy is working. Not long after, Yahoo implemented a similar policy.

According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, “The twist is that both HP and Yahoo are among hundreds of companies that over the past 20 or so years have tried to improve collaboration technology and adapt it to the Internet era. E-mail, Skype (MSFT), WebEx (CSCO), Lync, Box, and all the rest ought to have eliminated most of the practical barriers to working remotely. Yet we continue to be reminded that our trove of collaboration technology just doesn’t cut it. People tend to do more amazing things when they’re located among other people.”

The efficacy of HP and Yahoo’s policies proves that, at times, there is no substitute for face-to-face collaboration. However, for certain tasks—focused work that requires a high level of concentration, for example—working off-site can be a more effective environment than a “collaborative” open office. Mobility, therefore, is not a silver bullet for increasing employee productivity, but an option to be evaluated based on the employee and the task.

Mobility can be achieved in a number of ways. Most people associate mobility with telecommuting—working remotely the majority of the work week and coming to the office to an unassigned seat through a free address or hoteling reservation system.  Additionally, mobility includes working anywhere in your building or campus through the use of wifi and network plug and play technology.

If you want to find “alternative workplaces” beyond your kitchen table, here are three examples:

  1. Coffee shop. Workshop Café is a great alternative to Starbucks. “Workshop Cafe is both a great coffee shop and a workplace that scales to your needs. Designed with comfort, ergonomics, and amenities for work and pleasure, the full Workshop experience is just $2/hour, with no monthly commitment. Come in for a few minutes, stay all day, or hang out in the always-free outside patio and inside lounge areas.”
  2. Hotel lobby. Liquid Space is a reservation system with over 4,000 bookable spaces that helps people find the right workplace for them and reserve for the hour or the day. For example, Marriott now offers space in their lobbies called Workspace on demand, which can be booked on Liquid Space. (Hotels make up 10% of their building offerings.)
  3. Airport lounge. If you fly as much as me, it might be helpful to know some airport lounges have memberships, offering food, drinks and a place to work while waiting for a flight. No membership? Sit at the gate and hope to find an outlet and free Wi-Fi. Alternatively, there are many apps to find people while in the airport to either network with or find a friend, including Planely.com, Meetattheairport.com, Inviteforabite.com, and getwist.com

Even if you don’t have a mobility policy at work, try it and see what’s positive and negative for your work style.

Image courtesy of Terry McCarthy (Workshop Cafe in San Francisco)

Reader Comments (1)

I read an article a long while back about the human need for a "third place." I think the gist of it is that people--especially those living in rural or suburban settings, who spend most of their time at home, work, or driving in between--need a "third place" for their social health. People need to see and interact with other people outside the hierarchy of the office and the family. Mobile workers who take their work outside of the house might be able to benefit from that "third place" glow.

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