After Earth Day, Thinking About Life After Offices

As a coda to last week’s Earth Day, let’s take a virtual trip to Singapore, where a study by
Regus, a global provider of workplace solutions, has found that like nations all around the world, the small Asian city-state is painfully wasteful when it comes to everyday corporate activity. So out of whack is the way we work now, the report suggests, that we really need to define what work really is. (Note, however, that Regus is in the business of providing alternative workplace solutions.)

Singapore offices are left empty half the time, wasting energy and resources and straining corporate capital. Meeting rooms are booked up as work becomes more collaborative and demand for them increases. Stressful hours are spent in unproductive commuting, and the new breed of mobile worker struggles to find venues to fit their on-the-go needs. The agile working explosion, driven by ever-more sophisticated mobile technology and telephony, is radically reshaping the way we work. Workers travelling to a fixed place of work to be tied to a desk by the telephone and PC are slowly but surely becoming a dying breed.

That bit about the conference rooms rings true, doesn’t it? The study contends that in the future, corporations will view offices as a "last resort" while most workers become "agile" and get things done wherever and however they need to. One big stumbling block: convincing management that mobile workers are actually being productive and not slacking off somewhere.

Regus also suggests that what the world needs is more "third spaces," locations other than work or home where people can meet ad hoc, find a place to sit, and tap into WiFi to stay connected. We have plenty of coffee shops today, but does the future hold a different kind of locale, a sort of airline lounge type of place that’s comfortable, connected, and maybe even free? Can you see yourself being productive in such a place?

Don Willmott

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