For those of us old enough to remember when the fax machine was as cutting edge as it got, it can sometimes be a struggle to digest what has happened to our working environment in the past generation.
The typing pool, dusty files and ominous grey cabinets were a threat to the wellbeing of those who dared go near them, but were very much the staple diet of a nostalgic time, which is really not so long ago.
However, the dawning of the internet and technological change has meant the office that we once knew has changed beyond all recognition in the space of a couple of decades, with the main point being that we don’t actually need the office on the scale we once did or, in many cases, we don’t need it at all!
Back, for instance, at the start of the 90s office work meant being in a swivel chair doing a task at your desk from 9 –5, and while this remains the way a lot of us still work, the trend is changing, and it’s changing fast.
The shift to a world less reliant on people being housed in one place is due to technology, pollution, infrastructure and the demands of a new generation of workers.
Space management software firm CloudBooking has been one of the companies at the forefront of this change and its chief executive, Gerry Brennan, predicts there is no sign of technological advancements slowing down.
“The way we connect with others through technology has altered the way we do business for good,” he said. “There will always be a need for face-to-face contact, but that is not as necessary as once it was.
“By utilising the latest technology, a web-based programme for example, means that employees can log on, and carry out a whole host of tasks online, such as video conferencing, room booking, hot-desk booking, hospitality and visitor management, so all tasks can be carried out at home, in the park, wherever, thus negating the need for an office in many circumstances.”
Mr Brennan, who practices what he preaches with employees working remotely all over the British Isles, says cloud-based services are now so advanced that it means we can happily talk to someone in Colorado, while sitting at home in the midlands discussing our thoughts on a hot-desking facility for a business in Ottawa.
“It is often said, and it’s true, that advances in technology have made the world a much smaller place,” he added.
Dealing with leading banks and well-known multinationals, Mr Brennan is well placed in his assertion that progressive employers are now allowing their workforce to operate remotely for at least some of the time, and it makes sense too.
His view is backed by research from Stanford University in the US, which has shown that remote workers are 13% more productive and take fewer sick days than their commuting colleagues.
He adds that hot-desking, where employees no longer have an assigned desk, while having been widely embraced in recent years can be a positive if it’s done in the right way.
“This has to be seen from much more than the perspective of saving on desk space,” he says. “A hot-desker, instead of being seen as an employee without their own desk, should instead be seen as an employee able to work from any desk. It can add to creativity and innovation, much overlooked incentives in today’s competitive marketplace.
“Simply placing staff next to colleagues from other departments can give a whole new perspective where fresh ideas begin to emerge,” he claimed.
In conclusion, he says the new office world offers fluidity.
“The old way, which sadly too many still follow, was far too rigid,” he says. “Being in a certain place at a certain time with barely any flexibility, often for no good reason, is not good practice,” he said..
With employees at his organisation working as far north as the Highlands and as far south as London, he says technology means being crammed in the South East paying an astronomical sum for a studio apartment can be replaced with the prospect of no commute and views over the countryside.
“Done efficiently, this working revolution is a ‘win-win’ for all of us with happier and more productive workforces, plus freeing business from one of its biggest overheads – the office.”
Having been part of the business since it was formed at the start of the 21st century, Mr Brennan says his glimpse into the future is a vision of a working world where large corporations are less dependent on costly office buildings and most employees will either hot-desk or work remotely.
“According to pretty much all the statistics, there are expected to be way over a billion people in today’s global workforce who will work remotely in some capacity in the next 20 years,” he added. “This trend will grow, representing new challenges for both business and employee.”
In addition, as the shift towards agile workforces grows, he also expected fewer international business travellers clocking up the air miles.
“The way we do work is certainly changing forever and certainly for the better,” he said.
“In 100 years time you can be certain we will look back at the old office model and wonder why it took so long to change. Embracing modern technology now makes so much sense for so many.”
Gerry Brennan, CEO, CloudBooking
CloudBooking has been designing custom-built space management software for more than 14 years and has many large corporate clients including Lloyds Banking Group and Halifax. It leads the market in cutting-edge technological advancements to improve the way we work today.