When I tell people that I work from wherever I want, whether it be home or a friend's office, I am generally met with a bit of scorn or a response that points out how "lucky" I am. Actually, I'm just getting to experience what millions of people are already living: the mobile office.
Office space has undergone marked changes in the past few decades, with wooden desks being replaced by customizable cubicle walls and desks, then shifting to many of the new open-office designs we see now. This evolution is continuing as businesses realize that mobile technology is keeping workers away from the office more than ever. Here are some of the ways we are seeing the change.
Look around your workplace. If most of your desks are empty for the majority of the day, you're likely wasting space. In 2015, businesses that still dedicate office space to each employee will begin questioning that practice as shared workspaces become more of a reality. In many instances, telecommuters can easily share a desk as long as an agreement is reached that they'll come into the office on different days of the week or at different times during a given workday.
There is a name for the trend of sharing a desk: "hot desking." In some offices, desk assignments are being removed completely, with employees allowed to select a workspace each day. These offices often combine such trendy features as standing desks, treadmill desks, or recliners and sofas to allow workers to find the setup most comfortable to their needs at a given time.
In my visits to startup offices (don't forget the garages) around Austin, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, I've seen all manner of various rooms that allow employees to accomplish any number of tasks, from private work, to conference calls. Many of these offices have an extra room with desks and couches where teams meet to accomplish tasks by themselves.
In 2015, more businesses than ever will be investing in shared office space. These options allow a small business to rent or lease space in a building that has other professionals who share amenities. Instead of one business being tasked with paying for break rooms, lobbies, and conference rooms, those areas can be shared with other businesses in the building to cut costs. In the case of an incubator, companies choose a similar "living situation," often with the incubator officials getting a percentage of the company while donating space, amenities, and advice.
Small businesses also sometimes realize the benefits of upgrading to executive suites, where amenities like professional reception services, mail handling, access to photocopiers and fax machines, and fully-stocked kitchen areas can be included. For a growing business, these perks can make all the difference, creating a professional presence for a growing client base while also keeping monthly costs low.
If your business finds the monthly cost of leased office space too budget-intrusive, co-working spaces may be the perfect option. Some businesses in established offices may even choose co-working spaces as an option for their traveling professionals. Co-working spaces are emerging across the world, providing desk space, access to professional amenities, and Wi-Fi access to professionals on a regular or as-needed basis. Instead of setting up a temporary office for the day at a caf, a traveler can contact the nearest co-working center and rent space for the day.
One of the best features of any co-working space is its access to support. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have access to classes, networking meetings, and other tools that wouldn't be available to them in a traditional office environment. Additionally, professionals always have a conference area for holding meetings with clients and business partners.
Work where you are.
Perhaps the most notable change this year is something that has already begun. Thanks to increasing reliance on mobile devices, professionals can seamlessly transition from home to meetings to the office, with clients and customers never realizing the change in location. Phones can easily be routed to worker cell phones and cloud-based software and file storage means documents can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection.
As the "work anywhere" trend continues to grow, professionals will have more freedom than ever. They'll no longer be chained to a desk eight hours a day, allowing them to be more productive and more reachable when they're needed. In time, this will most likely reshape the definition of the office to include any location where an Internet connection is available.