November 15, 2013 | Valerie Wong
There is no question that the office world is changing. With the rise in communications technologies, there have been many new trends which have reshaped the way we work. In many cases, it is no longer necessary for a worker to be physically present in an office to do their job. They can access the company's network remotely, and stay in touch with others through various communications tools. So what does the future hold for the traditional office?
How Technology Has Changed the Office World
Some are predicting that the virtual workplace will become the norm within the next ten years. The rapid growth in efficiency of office collaboration tools can be said to be responsible for this. Take a look at simple communications tools: while email has been used in offices for around 20 years and still has many uses, it isn't the most efficient way to communicate between team members, especially if real time communication is required between more than two people. Instant messaging tools, virtual meeting applications and desktop sharing programs have grown in popularity in the last couple of years and are now found in almost every office. They allow for easy and quick interaction between groups of employees.
The business phone system has also changed, with the advent of VoIP technology. Now, calls to someone's extension can be forwarded to virtually anywhere. Now, simply having a computer with a headset allows one to place and receive calls on a software phone, without needing any additional hardware.
Cloud storage technologies allow employees to securely share documents, no matter where they are found in the world. All of this makes it a lot easier for someone to do their job, even if they are thousands of miles away from their regular office.
Are Traditional Offices Really Going Extinct?
Even with the rise of new technologies that make telecommuting a lot easier and more accessible, it doesn't mean that companies everywhere are going to ditch their offices just yet. There are still situations in which meeting with someone face to face is better than doing so remotely, such as when negotiating a contract with a new client. There are also companies where the senior leadership prefers to hold real, physical meetings with everyone present.
What we might see, is that companies would still maintain workspaces for their staff, but that employees could telecommute part time and be physically present in the office the rest of the time when necessary. We have also seen a boost in popularity of co-working spaces. In this arrangement, the company would maintain a central office somewhere where they would have their main base of operations. But rather than coming to work at that location, most employees would rather go to a co-working center that is located closer to where they normally reside. The center is a place where different companies rent workspace for their respective employees and are equipped with modern facilities such as conference rooms, break rooms, kitchens, etc. This can be a very good solution for individuals who may not want to relocate, but wouldn't want to work from home for various reasons. It can eliminate many of the disadvantages of working from one's home, such as distractions, and creates a more professional environment where employees are more likely to stay focused on their work, and can be supervised by management staff more directly.
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