Could we be saying goodbye to the office environment this year?
A New Year brings new opportunities, and a chance to reflect on our ambitions for the coming months. For millions of people across the UK, life would be far better without the expensive, stressful and unproductive rush hour commute. It seems increasingly archaic in this digital age to force employees to squeeze onto overcrowded and unreliable trains, or endure traffic congestion and parking issues, just so they can be in a specific location between 9am and 5pm.
The rush hour rat race seems even more unnecessary when you consider the options available to the modern home worker. To begin with, the advent of high-speed internet has enabled most of us to stay on point wherever we happen to be, such as checking emails on the train and Skype conferencing with head office while visiting far-flung corporate outposts. It’s not much of a stretch to extend this always-connected communications model to an employee’s home address. The BlackBerry may have started a trend for people never completely leaving the office behind, but webmail and Exchange Servers have helped to liberate us in other ways.
If the internet has enabled employees to stay in touch at all hours, today’s software is allowing them to do so efficiently. This is particularly true with cloud storage permitting live-editing of colleagues’ work, and the tracking of changes in everything from databases to presentations. Cloud hosting is tipped to be one of this year’s breakthrough trends throughout the UK’s workplaces, as the ability to remotely log into anything from Adobe PageMaker to Outlook brings the office – or Office – to you. No longer is it necessary to sit at a specific terminal to use specific software, and desktop mirroring provides similar convenience for companies who don’t yet have their head in the cloud.
The diminishing size of computers – and their burgeoning potency – should enable more and more people to be productive outwith the office. Even modest laptops have the processing power to cope with anything short of DTP design, while tablets offer portability that would have been unthinkable five years ago. You couldn’t run a company from an iPad, but you can certainly manage it from home two days a week. Devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro combine laptop practicality with tablet portability, and there are few things that the super-lightweight Apple Macbook Air can’t accomplish. The only other elements required in a modern home office are a desk and stable broadband connection, rather than the bookshelves and space-hungry desktops of yesteryear. Being able to create home offices in smaller spaces is increasing the percentage of employees who can feasibly do so.
Employers are also beginning to recognise that remote working can benefit themselves as well. That expensive grade A office space can be downsized if fewer people are working in them in favour of smaller premises for meetings and client visits. Staff will feel more loyal if they’re trusted to work remotely, which reduces recruitment and selection costs, as well as the overtime incurred when someone has to manage a departed colleague’s workload. That loyalty can also inspire greater productivity, particularly if some of the time previously spent commuting is refocused on work activities. With efficiency being the watchword for many companies this year, such arguments begin to feel quite compelling.
With appropriate supervision and effective workload allocation, there are many careers where working from home should now be given favourable consideration by employers. As the UK’s rollout of high-speed broadband continues, more and more people may be enduring their last-ever January of wintry commutes to and from the office…
For guidance on how to create the perfect home office check out this blog post.