Throughout the last years I have been working closely with corporations, suppliers and vendors on Software As A Service (SaaS red.) and cloud computing. As the IT industry often looks at the technology, I have experienced a radical changing behavior at the offices I visited. We are not only changing on the technology side – but also the way we work.
During the 1960s John Shiflett, had great momentum with his new “action office”, giving birth to the cubical office. For privacy, focus and productivity – employees were arranged in small enclosed one-man configurable cubicals. The mantra was, that employees became more productive, the less noise their experienced and the more you screened them in. Knowledge was shared by meetings and memos. The everyday work was to work, document and re-cap of the work done. Security, paper copies and memos was kept tight in cabinets in each cubical and a central archive.
During the late 1980s/early 1990s this changed, and the open workspace was back. Employees now had to move out of the cubicals, into the open space or 4-10 people offices. Every employee should have their own table and be able to take personal belongings to the office. With a tendency towards using more hours at the office, the new mantra was to personify the workplace; to let people move private and work tighter together. The open office was to utilize common sharing, dialogue and overview of what was going on. We impersonated the desk we orchestrated with 7-9 hours a day; bringing personal belongings and pictures of the family to the desk.
Security was built into the IT – authentication and authorization and with virtual network (VPN) based security. Key badges and security checkpoints. You COULD get to the office from home, but you probably needed a security token and accessing the office from a hotel room was nearly impossible by the constraints.
From the 1960s we have building walls in many terms. Walls on cubicals, walls on behavior and firewalls to contain security and keep people out. Walls were places to ensure people were happy and socially able to recognize their working environment with a feeling of personal connection. We still used tons of paper (and still do!), and nearly 35% of all e-mails were printed by the millennium for record keeping.
To be frank, the only place we broke down walls, were the acres of woods we were cutting down. The reason is quit understandable. We had room to keep paper lying around.
Working without walls
Innovation through cloud computing and SaaS have moved the technology into a secure environment. We no longer need firewalls to secure sensitive information, as the abstraction of cloud computing are doing this for us. Secure layers (SSL) are helping us sign, and protect communication and disabling the need of VPNs.
I call the period we are entering, working without walls. Let me explain.
When architects and design agencies are designing office space today, they focus on the shared office, more meeting rooms – and few or not any offices. The mobile workplace is a fact, and with an average 10-17% of employees outside the office, you simple save plenty of office space and thereby cooling, heating, cleaning etc. among the operations costs. Mobility together with cloud services like Office 365, Online CRM and communication tools like Lync and Live Meeting, is giving us an opportunity to save paper, and keep the world green. Studies have shown that people print nearly 70-80% less, if they are working at a branch office, or with a roaming workplace. On a yearly scale, this is one tree per employee – worldwide.
Changing the culture
But what about my personal connection to the office? As the personal connection to the office is a very important satisfaction indicator in employee studies. But this indicator becomes gradually less important as people are giving an option to work by flexibility. One day you may work from home. Another day you may sit together with the teams, colleagues or even departments. The last day, you even sit at a partner or customer – still connected to the company services.
The culture is shifting from connection towards flexibility and with this, knowledge sharing become a driving force. Productivity is increase! Memos are left for archiving, as you balance your knowledge in teams and the hubs that contain the knowledge. Cloud services archive threads of conversations and the documents you work on. The new work style has a tremendous impact on productivity.
Although we have not seen any studies on the results, I personal believe the saving in future will be reason for companies to select a cloud solution – a factor few people look at in the purchase of IT services.
I hope companies will embrace a new style of working, and have the courage to change. Cloud services are great to facilitate this change, but if the culture is going to embrace the true values of connected services and devices; you might as well try changing the office or letting go of the personalized office desk.