The concept of the "anywhere office" fits into the growing trend of the flexible work force and the idea of work being a thing you do, not a place you go. "For small and medium-sized business owners, the flexible work force can offer a tremendous upside, including access to a larger talent pool, ability to attract those requiring flexibility, increased efficiency by removing commutes, reduction in overhead costs of bricks and mortar, and an overall increase in productivity," says Nancy Martini, president and CEO of PI Worldwide, a provider of human resources solutions.
Enabling the anywhere office and reaping its potential rewards requires a combination of technology and culture, but the payoff is attractive enough that it appeals to all kinds of businesses. "Both large and small companies are attempting to reduce costs by encouraging employees to work remotely," says Angelo Kinicki, an expert in organizational culture who teaches in the management department at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business. "The trend requires that companies have an IT infrastructure to handle this functionality and employ people well-suited for this type of work role. It's not for everyone."
From a technology point of view, businesses embracing the anywhere office need to fully leverage the benefits of cloud computing, suggests Sam Chandler, CEO of Nitro, a provider of cloud-based collaboration tools. "Run as much of your software in the cloud as you can so your team can access content and services from anywhere and from any device," he urges. "You need current technology, too--don't skimp on quality, because that will be a major factor in how productive your distributed team is."
Morag Barrett, founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, an international human resources consulting and leadership development company, says this is achievable with a relatively modest technology investment. SkyeTeam has adopted the anywhere office with all global team members working from home by using a range of technologies to make collaboration seamless, including apps for sharing files, emails, and calendars, Skype, and telephone conferencing for meetings. "We are platform agnostic, which enables us to communicate and share information globally in support of our client projects," she says.
On the cultural front, the anywhere office requires a high degree of trust. Barrett suggests four key steps for creating an organizational culture that supports a flexible work force:
• Clear goals and expectations. Make sure it's understood what needs to be achieved, by when, and--importantly--by whom, so that everyone is clear on their role and how they will be held accountable.
• Effective communication. Keeping a dispersed team up-to-date is critical, so communicate all news, good or bad, across all mediums and channels.
• Meetings that matter. Pointless meetings hurt any team, but particularly remote ones, so have a clear purpose and goal for every meeting and an agenda that makes it clear to everyone what is expected; follow up with clear actions and next steps.
• Build a sense of team. Allow time for socializing, encourage people to share what is happening in their lives, and celebrate both their professional milestones and their personal ones.
• Why Flexible Workplaces Are Good for Business
• What Is Collaboration?