Is the traditional office a thing of the past?

October 25, 2017

 

The traditional office: a place where employees congregate Monday through Friday for  40+ hours per week to produce work for a company.

But what’s the benefit to everyone congregating under one roof five days a week, spending much of their living and breathing life within the same four walls? Is the traditional office really the best way to conduct business in the most meaningful and efficient way? It’s typically touted as the best way for certain types of business. With the rise of the freelance economy, that may no longer be the case.

Whether your company is comprised of freelancers or not, the reality is that by 2020, it is estimated that more than 40% of the American workforce (60 million people), will be freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. How will these people work with your full-time salaried staff and where will they work? Will they be required to show face time in the office or will a co-working space for them to collaborate with others suffice?

The rise of coworking

The traditional work environment is quickly changing. The rapid rise in coworking, defined as “the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge,” has started to change the way we work.

For example, there are locations in HRM (for example, Workspace Atlantic with a Bedford location, and Dartmouth’s SHFT Work) offer coworking spaces with “rock solid super-fast internet and a quiet work environment”. That can be a great step up from the local coffee shop, which can be noisy not to mention distracting if you know a lot of the regular customers. SHFT offers a range of costs, from $5/hour to “try it out” to weekly rates that include discounted coffee.

Another similar concept with a socially conscious twist is the Center for Social Innovation (CSI), which first started in Toronto and now has a space in New York. CSI brings together companies and non-profit organizations that have a social mission tied to their work. The CSI New York location just recently opened an extension to their space, a Women’s Lab, dedicated specifically to organizations whose primary focus is women.

What if I already have an office?

What is the benefit of using a co-working space when a company already has an existing physical office of their own?

Most resources would advise that employers should consider investing in memberships at places like these in addition to their own office. They claim it can fuel innovation, new connections, creativity, new business collaboration, and involvement in after-hours networking events. It’s a relatively small investment for potentially large returns.

But I like my home office.

As an entrepreneur working from home, one of the reasons I chose to work from home is that I LOVE working from home. However, the idea of a coworking space offers other benefits – mainly a social one. Without the standard office water cooler, there can be days (okay, maybe even several days) where if it wasn’t for walking the dog or taking the kids to piano lessons, I might not actually leave the neighborhood. For someone accustomed to having regular conversations with grownups who aren’t my husband, it’s kind of a bizarre realization.

Coworking offers not only an improved social aspect but a business networking opportunity too – which is extremely important to any entrepreneur.

Remote workers

It’s probably funny to consider a work-from-home entrepreneur doing remote work, but I spent a few weeks last summer working remotely while my son attended a summer camp in Halifax. The city is less than an hour’s drive from home, a long enough commute that I chose to stay in the city during the day while my son was in camp. This created an interesting conundrum for me, as “mobile office” does not always translate into “easily portable”. I also had no real idea what public spaces would be suitable for a work environment.

I tried several libraries and coffee shops, as well as a beautiful art gallery. Halifax has some wonderful libraries (the new Central Library is an obvious choice, despite the rather expensive parking). However, I had limited success – the quiet of the libraries was great, but makes client calls difficult. Whispering to a potential client doesn’t exactly generate trust, and nobody likes the shouty cell-phone talker at the library. I also don’t trust public internet for work, and using my mobile hotspot for the whole day drained a lot of battery (and data!)

Less Sedentary

The irony of my own situation is that working from home makes me less sedentary. My “remote working” experience actually made me more sedentary. Once I’d set up my workstation, I felt obliged to stay physically close to it. My mobile, active breaks were definitely fewer than when working at home.

Otherwise, the flexibility of coworking increases your ability to get up and be active while still working.

Office Environment

I also worked for several days out of one of Halifax’s newest art galleries, 14 Bells Fine Art, a small space run by a friend. This was easily the most successful remote workspace for me, and certainly the most gorgeous. (Who wouldn’t want to work in a gallery surrounded by beautiful artwork?) As a bonus it also allowed for some personal conversation with my friend.

I was very productive in some ways, but other work had to be tabled until I returned to my home office. Any sensitive or confidential information areas such as bookkeeping or handling client records were just not possible for me. I look forward to trying one or two coworking spaces next time the opportunity arises.