What Happened to the Office? What Happened to the Office?

By Phil Gibbs on June 28, 2011

Sometimes change moves at a sloooow pace. Sometimes it starts slowly and then accelerates. And then it feels like the change happened overnight–at warp speed. You know, like the recording artist who experiences overnight success after singing in dives for 20 years.

I get the feeling that is what is happening with how we work. All of a sudden there is a massive wave of change. Now it seems like everyone—entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporate warriors–has become a mobile worker. Armed with smart phones, tablets and laptops, they are working from home, coffee shops, cars, hotel lobbies and wherever they can find.

So what happened to the office? Do people still use them? Are they rapidly becoming relics like the typewriter that used to sit in the office, or the fax machine for that matter? The term “office” is ingrained in our language—“I’ve got to go to the office.” However, in many organizations, the office serves little practical use. In fact we talk about “going to the office” because we are rarely there. Don’t believe it—just do a quick check of virtually any building and you will see how many offices sit empty most of the time. The cynic might say the only real use for the office is to tell where the occupant fits in the hierarchy.

So, how is the change working out? Have the newly mobile workers found places that function well for getting work done and meeting with colleagues and clients? The home office works well for some things but not for meeting with clients, and often there are interruptions—like the dog barking during an important call. The casual environment and energy of coffee shops can be appealing, but they are often crowded and loud.

For an analysis of “third place” options, check out Andrea Pirrotti’s blog post starting with, surely not, McDonalds. McDonalds: the next great 3rd Place. Hmm…

A lot is being written about where we are beginning to work and live. One of the most intriguing examples is an excerpt from the book Aerotropolis, published in the June Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine. In this article, the search for the new place to work moves to the “fourth place.” The Corporate Latter

The change is happening so fast, some of us didn’t even know we had the option of a “third place,” much less a “fourth place.”

TAGS: Home OfficeMobile WorkersOfficeOrganizationThird Place

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