This past couple of yers I have started working in environments where more and more technology is being used. It seems like every year the workplace is becoming more flexible and working from home is now the norm. With rents rising and workflows becoming more complex it makes sense that businesses are looking to create technologies which free their workers from being shackled to their desks.
To me this shift began in business school when we had various group projects. Every time I was involved in these every group without fail depended almost solely on Google docs. It allowed people to access the master document at any time from anywhere, even from your phone. You could see if other people were working on the same document and did not have to worry about coordinating who would have the document open at what time. Most of all, it allowed us to stop worrying about what version of the document was most current or what changes had been made since the last time it was viewed.
After graduation I discovered another great tool for managing a work space even when I was not in the office. This tool was the remote desktop. My current employer focuses a great deal on the virtual (remote) desktop. All employees have a company-issued laptop from which they can log into their machine. There is also the ability to log in remotely from your home laptop or even your phone or tablet. As long as you have internet access you can log in.
Virtual desktops are so convenient because they allow me to have a million things open at work, walk away and log in later from home with everything exactly how I left it at the office. With this ability, I never have to worry about transferring documents or closing out my time keeping sheet. Everything I am working on constantly can just be picked up a little at a time.
Not only is the virtual desktop convenient, but it can also be a lifesaver. If I have to leave work early for a doctor's appointment and the inevitable late night emergency email comes in, I can quickly log in, see what the issue is and correct it.
I am very curious to see how far these new technologies will begin to change the physical office space and whether the mobility will also transfer. Will large offices become more mobile and smaller to be closer to the workers? Will your space in the office become randomized? When you arrive at the office in the morning will a computer just randomly assign you to a seat, because it does not really matter where you are in the office as long as you have an internet connection?
I have a feeling that nesting at the office will become less common. More likely people will start to view their physical space as something temporary. Will that mean that pictures of family members and framed degrees will start to disappear along with all of the paper that used to clutter our offices?
Let me know if you have experienced this shift. Do you think it is a good or a scary change?
Derek, I really enjoyed reading this. In one of my classes last year, we watched a video that included a walk-through of a formerly busy corporate office in the IT industry. The videographer walked down the hallways, peering into each office. It had become a ghost town. While the doors were still open, everyone was working remotely. I can imagine soon, if not already, that building was probably no longer something the company needed to lease.
It's amazing how much has changed in such a short period of time. I left corporate America in 2003, due to a department-wide layoff. At that time, people were clamoring for office space. Now, less than 15 years later, it seems like more and more ghost towns are probably appearing.
I really appreciate your description of the remote computer access. As someone who works primarily from home, but also from two other locations, I am familiar with having to stop in the middle of something, shut down, and figure out later what I was doing - often from my iPhone, not my computer. The situation you described, with remote access from anywhere, sounds ideal - even for a solopreneur like me.